Years ago, when my kids were little, I did typical mom things like cook meals, do everyone's laundry, and half-ass clean the house (I was never much of a housekeeper). Since I didn't have a mom while growing up, I got those ideas of maternal responsibility from the TV reruns I watched as a child like "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Leave it to Beaver." I did my best to emulate the mother-figures in those shows, but felt like a failure when I could barely manage to fit in a shower, let alone wear pearls and high heels while tending to everyone else's needs.
The truth was, being an adult maid for my family was hard, and it left me feeling resentful. June Cleaver and Aunt Bee never once seemed frazzled by the demands of their families, but I was.
To remedy the situation, I taught my sons the fine art of chores. Since they were four, they've had responsibilities around the house that grew as they did. Aside from cooking dinner, which is still my burden to bear, my sons, husband and I share all the housework and, even better, everyone does their own laundry.
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Our "everyone pulls their own weight" system has worked for us, but now that my sons are older, with one in college and the other just weeks away from his 17th birthday, I may have some lingering guilt that I didn't raise my family with the full-on June Cleaver experience. Although I've worked for most of their lives, I still had to wonder what things would have been like if I had been able to be a super mom.
That's when the idea hit me.
For a week, I could pretend to be June Cleaver and give my husband and kids the deluxe housewife and stay-at-home mom treatment. I'd cook, I'd clean, and to top it all off, I'd do it in my prettiest dresses while wearing high heels. My husband and sons hadn't a clue. The truth was, neither did I.
What started off as such a good plan soon became my biggest regret. Here's what really happens when someone as unskilled in housework as I am became Susie Homemaker for almost a week.
I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. because I needed time to get up, get dressed and pretty, and then quickly make breakfast before my husband headed off to work at 5:30 a.m.
What actually happened was I somehow disabled my alarm and went right back to sleep, not even waking when my husband left for the day. Since I'm all or nothing, today was clearly not the start of my experiment.
Day 1.1 (The Do-Over)
I managed to wake up at 5 a.m. and knew I wouldn't have enough time to get dressed up AND put makeup on while also making my family pancakes. Who the f*** decided June Cleaver-types were supposed to do all that before sunrise anyway? #SuperAnnoyedRightNow
Instead I threw on my pearls and stumbled into the kitchen, bleary-eyed. At least I made an effort. I managed to put an apron on, but realized after tying it that it was backwards, so had to figure out the extremely difficult process for putting it on the right way. Note to self: drink coffee before putting on apron next time.
As I was whisking pancake ingredients together, my husband breezed through the kitchen announcing an early day and left before a single pancake had been poured.
Again, I failed. He had already packed his own lunch the night before, so I had basically nothing to offer him.
By the time the kids were up, they were happy-ish about the pancakes. My youngest was concerned they were "too high in carbs and sugar" and only ate half of one. My oldest grabbed two, no plate, and carried them like a caveman back to his bedroom to munch while dressing for school.
Neither of the kids wanted me to pack them a lunch, so I sat at the table and, all by myself, ate a pancake.
Once the house was empty, I hurried to finish up any work I had for the day. When I was done, it was chore time. I half-heartedly wiped down all the hard surfaces with a cloth I found near my husband's computer. I hate cleaning.
A few more chores took up the rest of the afternoon. I may have gone extra slow while doing them. At 4 p.m. I realized I didn't thaw any meat for dinner so I reheated frozen fish sticks and called it a meal. By the time my sons and husband came home, I still hadn't put a dress on or makeup, and was starting to smell.
After dinner I dutifully packed my husband and youngest son's lunches. My oldest would be home the next day (no classes) so I would have to worry about feeding him later.
My day officially over, I brushed my teeth (still didn't shower) and climbed into bed.
This morning I woke up extra motivated at 3:30 a.m. I quietly showered and did my makeup without my husband waking up.
In the kitchen, dressed to play the part, I scrambled eggs, made toast and crisped bacon in annoyingly tight pumps that pinched my feet. My husband came out of the room at 5:15 a.m., incredibly confused.
"What are you doing, woman?" he asked.
I smiled and replied, "I just wanted to make sure you guys had food in your stomachs before your day starts."
"Oh babe," he said shaking his head, "I wish I could, but I have to run this morning with my Marines. If I eat, it'll slow me down. I can take some to go, but I'll have to eat it later."
I packed him a to-go breakfast and never broke character. Basically, I plastered a smile across my face and acted really happy about everything, even if I wasn't.
My youngest, health-conscious son woke up shortly after and accepted the breakfast thankfully. At least not everyone in my house was a monster.
After he left, and while my oldest slept the day away (college life), I finished my daily work on the computer. Once I was done, and my oldest was awake, I fed him and then asked him kindly to take a few pictures while I did housework.
"Why?" he asked.
"I figured it would be funny to document the occasion," I said.
"Why are you dressed all weird like that?" he asked.
"I just wanted to look nice today," I said. Then I faked hurt feelings and he dropped it. Manipulation for the win!
I vacuumed, did the laundry (not just my own) and washed the dishes before making steaks and baked potatoes for dinner. By 5 p.m. I was exhausted, and this mama wanted a drink. Doing it all was so hard and my feet hurt like hell.
My husband didn't come home until nearly 9 p.m. (military life) but I left a plate for him and packed lunches for the next day for everyone. I was out cold by 8:15 p.m.
I managed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. but didn't have the energy to do my hair. Oh, well.
Today I cheated and set out bowls with packets of oatmeal in them. But, to make it look like I cared, I also filled up the water-boiling thingy my husband uses for his tea and put spoons (no napkins though) out, too.
Then, I sat down and had a cup of coffee and wondered WTF I was doing to myself. I was incredibly tired and neither my sons nor my husband seemed any more relieved or appreciative of my efforts. But, a deal is a deal, and I wasn't going to quit just yet.
After sending the family off to school and work with oat-filled bellies, I tackled my own work and then did the job I loathe more than anything: I cleaned the bathrooms. I couldn't remember the last time I'd stood with a sponge before a urine-stained toilet, and every inch of me felt dirty.
I did some light housework (everything was mostly clean) and then made a spaghetti dinner. I forgot to take a single picture until 6 p.m. when I reached in the freezer for a nip of alcohol to warm my cold, bitter soul. I'm not an alcoholic, but I'll be honest—booze helped.
My husband, before bed, made all the tired cleaning and cooking worth it.
"You've been doing a lot lately, I just wanted to thank you," he said.
Acknowledgment is a helluva drug, and he gave me the dose I needed to go at it another day.
I officially slid on my last dress, and while zipping it up, I knew this was going to be the last day. How fitting that it was all black, the color of mourning.
Initially, I planned on doing this experiment for a whole week, but I'll be dead honest: there wasn't a chance in hell I could keep the charade up. I was exhausted.
In the kitchen, I whipped up our household favorite, breakfast burritos filled with fried potatoes, bacon, scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, sharp cheddar cheese and avocado. I sent everyone off with a smile and a few excuses as to why I was wearing a black cocktail dress that also kind of looked like funeral attire (I lied that I had an early meeting), and set about knocking the day's tasks out.
I vacuumed the floors one more time (we really need to invest in a Roomba), dusted, did the dishes and made the decision that dinner would be take out. When my husband came home, I had just sent my oldest to the restaurant to pick up our dinner, and he snapped a picture of me where he found me, asleep on our back patio.
After we ate, I told my family about what I'd been doing and, as I expected, they laughed.
"I knew something was up," my oldest replied. "I mean, who wears dresses to cook breakfast?"
I couldn't have been more proud of him than I was in that moment.
"Um, do you think you could do the dishes tonight?" my youngest asked. "I've got, uh, studying to do."
"Nope, I've got them," my husband replied. My hero! Even though he knew our son was kidding, he did the dishes that night and rubbed my feet as a bonus.
So here I am, four days of house cleaning and cooking later, to say that moms (and dads) who do this every day, just because, deserve our respect. It isn't easy waking up before everyone, cooking and cleaning and spending so much time planning around everyone else's lives. In fact, it actually sucks.
Being Susie Homemaker is a true labor of love. Whoever says stay at home parents have it easy obviously haven't walked a day in their heels. Trust me, it's harder than they let on.