Friday, December 3, 2010

How I Came to Accept my Lot in Life or So This is How I Got Here!

Many years ago, as I was writing an email at my computer, I received a message from an ex-classmate from High School who wanted to add me to her Messenger contact list.  I accepted, even though we hadn’t really spoken since graduating almost eight years prior and we were never close to begin with.  But time passes, and things most certainly have changed for both of us.  She was now a single mother, and I was married and a few months shy of becoming a mother myself.  Finding myself somewhat nostalgic for simpler days gone by, I accepted her request and we suddenly struck up a conversation.  She had heard that I was expecting and wanted to congratulate me and ask me how I was.  So, needless to say, we soon settled into an animated conversation as we shared our common experiences.

And then came the dreaded question.  Everyone asked it.  I groaned inwardly whenever they did.  “So,” it begins, “what do you do for a living...”    The reaction I get to my reply is woefully the same.  It’s an innocent question, and utterly valid to ask.  Clearly, it validates the person you are speaking to as well as opens up the conversation to various different areas of exploration and discussion...  Well, at least usually that’s the case...  But for me, it seems to do quite the opposite, ending all promise of stimulating conversation quite abruptly.  And invariably, I find myself taking a deep breath before answering, “I am a housewife.”

Now before uttering this unspeakable crime to feminism, my mind usually races, trying to remember any other activity I might be participating in that might sooth the impact of divulging such a submissive and flat out boring lot in life.  I panic as I try to make excuses.  But as my mind grasps at thin air, I find myself having to admit to the plain, solitary truth.  I am indeed a housewife.  And you can almost hear the disappointment, even disdain at times, in their voices.  “Oh, I see,” as they turn their noses up at me and feel mightily superior.  Some come right out and say it.  “My, that must be boring!”  And others at least feign some interest in my profession.  “But what do you do all day?”

Now I used to be puzzled at this question.  What do I do all day?  What do they honestly think I do all day?  Who do they think does the cleaning...?  And the shopping...?  And the cooking...?  And the picking up of towels and dirty socks from the floor, and the making of the bed, and the washing and ironing of the clothes?  Ugh, the list is endless!  The cultural custom in the country where I lived at the time is to have a maid do all these annoyingly mind-numbing chores.  But when my husband and I decided to marry, we sat down to talk about our marital expectations.  And it was simple.  He wanted a full-time wife and I wanted to be a full-time mom when the time came along.  Having reached this decision, I hence relinquished my cultural right to a maid.  I believed it was an utter contradiction in terms.  It was like owning a company but letting your secretary run it for you.  I couldn’t justify my position as a housewife if someone else ran my household for me.  But when I shared my decision with most people, they sort of looked at me, as if horrified at the thought of having to dedicate their time to their homes and their loved ones.  “But you won’t have time to do anything!” they would gasp.

Soon enough, however, I began to comprehend the strange paradox in the cultural acceptance of housewifery.  As a housewife, most people will automatically assume that I am a lazy freeloader with nothing better to do but spend my days shopping at my poor hard-working spouse’s expense.  This is because, as a housewife, people automatically assume that I have a full-time maid who takes care of pesky daily chores, from cooking and right down to practically raising any children in the household.  This would naturally leave me with nothing to do but have my nails done and do lunch with the girls.  This theory would then explain the violently negative image of being a housewife that I came up against.

This was the reaction my friend to whom I was chatting with on the computer had when she took in my response regarding my chosen profession.  Of course, she politely refrained from articulating such comments.  And I was aware of this because when I promptly explained to her that I didn’t rely on a full-time maid, you could suddenly hear the relief in her reply.  I seemed to have suddenly reclaimed my status as a productive member of society. 

Having become accustomed to such negative reactions, I actually no longer felt the need to justify my position as passionately as I had in the past.  I didn’t feel the need to remind curious bystanders that I had already spent years earning a living and years buried in books to achieve a degree— both of which are things normally associated with liberated, enlightened and independent females in our modern day and age.  I was by no means an idiot with no better options in my life and I had little desire to fool myself that I could simultaneously manage a career and a husband and a home and eventually a family.  I didn’t see the need to set myself up for disappointment when the time inevitably came that I would have to abandon one or the other to lead a life of quality, dedicated to those things that were truly important to me.  So I made a simple choice.  I chose not to initiate a career I would eventually have to give up.  I decided instead to embark on the most difficult of callings; one that doesn’t offer tangible bonuses or perks.  There are no paid vacations, no weekends, no possibility for promotion or career advancement, or even medical or dental plans.  No prior training was available, other than on the job, therefore no fancy title to hang on the wall, either.  And the last place my name or face would grace was the cover of Forbes or Newsweek.  I would remain anonymous, even under appreciated.  I would become a housewife.

But the confidence and wisdom I have now in knowing to choose my battles wisely was not something I could rely on when I was engaged to be married.  Everyone was interested in knowing what I would be doing for a living once I was married, and when I stood by my decision to stay at home, I can truly say I was only met with negativity.  I remember one incident where my husband had taken me out to a restaurant with a few of his friends who were also acquaintances of mine.  Conversation soon drifted to the sparkler on my finger and the subject of marriage and the role of women in that particular institution.  As soon as I declared I planned to be a stay-at-home wife, I was bombarded with frowns and clucking of disapproval.  One of the women across from me at the table deliberately turned to whoever was next to her to comment on how boring women become when they become housewives and how few conversational topics they are able to participate in due to the lack of intellectual stimulation in their personal lives.  All of the women at the table agreed heartily.  I felt the harsh sting of her words.  They remain with me today.  But I sometimes gloat in the quiet satisfaction of knowing how that same woman married not long after I did and decided to quit her job and become a housewife herself.  As she would let most people know at every chance she got, she was most content with her new lifestyle choice.  I am also delighted to report that my intellectual capacity diminished only due to the exhausting strain of pregnancy on my body.  I expect a full recovery once my child has graduated from college.  It won’t be long now…

Having stood up for my domestic rights, however, I have to admit, it is a lonely life.  Sometimes even boring.  But then so is being buried under paperwork and phone calls in a cubicle on the 25th floor of corporate hell.  So are microwaved leftovers in front of the television after a long hard day at work and no one to come home to.  And so are evenings out on the weekends with your girlfriends complaining how there are no good men and how so-and-so got married the other week and isn’t she lucky.  Now that’s not only lonely, but downright dull as mud.

Which brings me to an epiphany I had sitting outside on our apartment’s balcony, relaxing before heaving my swollen pregnant belly into bed to get a well-deserved early night’s sleep.  As I sat there with my bare feet dangling through the bars, I looked down at the street where, outside the opposite apartment building, my neighbours were obviously getting ready for a night out.  The front door to the apartment was open and from the car parked out front emerged a young woman who appeared to be just about my age.  She had long, blonde hair that fell loose to her waist, and she was dressed in hip-hugging jeans and a tight black top with slits open on each side to reveal a well-toned midriff.  She bounded up the front steps to the door, shouting and motioning her friends to hurry up.  Obviously they had places to go and cocktails to get through. 

Now, it might’ve had something to do with my impending motherhood and its respective hormone fluctuations, but suddenly a knot welled up in my throat and tears came to my eyes.  As I choked up, all I could think about was how I would never look like that girl ever again.  I would never bound up the stairs and yell at friends to hurry up, carefree and impatient with energy, like that girl.  Neither would men look at me ever again in the way that she would so probably be admired at the clubs and bars they would stop at that night.  I was married.  I would be a mother.  I would soon have leaking breasts and a sagging midriff to hide— too tired and harried to even bother changing out of my pajamas before the day was over and it was time to get back into bed in the evening.  And if anyone were to ask, as if to add insult to injury, I was also a housewife.  Oh woe and curs├ęd be me.

But the more I yearned at that particular moment to be in the shoes of that girl, and the more I envied her figure and her lifestyle, I remembered the days when I was so much like her-- and I actually felt sorry for her.  Those days had been filled with consuming as much alcohol as was humanly possible and obsessing over each man who entered my life or obsessing even more pathetically over the lack thereof.  Our youthful days had been filled with wondering whether we would ever find true love or inner peace or stability.  Similarly, our days had been also filled with self-doubt and insecurity. 

So, yes, I am indeed married and unavailable, and perhaps mildly (okay… a lot) less attractive than I used to be— but I am married to a beautiful man who loves me enough to want to have children with me and who will hold my hand on my deathbed, who will miss me when I am gone.  And yes, I will be a mother with sagging breasts— but mother nonetheless to a tiny miracle, someone I would happily lay down my life for should the time ever call for it.  And if anyone is to ask again, I am for those reasons thrilled to bits to be a housewife.  I am truly blessed with what few have and what so many truly desire.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still here, dammit...

Pregnancy is in the air.  Friends are expecting any day now and I find myself discussing with disturbing frequency the social impact of MTV's '16 and Pregnant' in varied social situations.  And after moving past the embarrassment of admitting our addiction, someone invariably asks the question of the show's accountability.  Does it enlighten or does it encourage?  I personally wish it were grittier.  I want to see spit up and the diapers that stink to high heaven.  I want to hear the brain-searing colicky cries of an infant at 2 in the morning when you've only had three hours sleep in the last 48 hours.  And then I realized that you can never ever prepare yourself until you're smack dab in the thick of it.  At which point you are either suicidal, or homicidal, or a combination of both.  I found myself at such crossroads many a time during my daughter's first year.  And second...  Maybe third, too. 

It began at the very moment of her birth.  Gritting my teeth against the overwhelming pain, I had but one mission once I reached the pushing stage, and that was to get the creature that was inside me causing this relentless pain out of my body.  I had spent the last two hours of active labour without so much as a Tylenol and had endured hell-inducing Pytocin and the insult of having my water broken for me, causing every single fiber in my being to strain to its breaking point.  I had reached a point where my brain could no longer process the pain and had decided it was not even real and that I should just get up and leave because the pain had reached levels ridiculous to the logical mind.  I panted to my husband that I was no longer able to do this.  There was no way.  I was done.  He told me to breathe.  Incredibly, I had no desire to curse him out or punch him in response, simply because that would require effort that was otherwise spent.  And just like that, my whole body began to contract.  Some primitive recess of my mind informed me it was time to push and I lifted my head from my pillow long enough to inform the doctor that I was ready.  He promptly told me I was nuts, I was barely at 5cm the last time he checked.  I insisted as politely as one can in the throes of labour that if he wanted to keep his nuts, he best check me again.  And lo and behold, guess who was right.

I was wheeled to the delivery room where after 45 minutes of pushing, the most amazing thing occurred.  I felt a sudden slithering whoosh inside me, an emptying of sorts... and there it was.  All I could do was stare, mouth agape, at this creature that had just vacated my body.  I was simply incredulous, and there was an instant and terribly foreshadowing disconnect.  There simply was no way something this size could have exited my body.  It wasn't mine.  My doctor must've sensed my denial (or simply taken one look at my face which I'm sure was a sight) because he immediately held up my bloody baby, who was still attached to its umbilical cord to me, and made me touch her.  I obliged, tentatively holding out a  finger to touch her hand.  She grasped my finger as if for dear life and then she was whisked away to be looked over and cleaned up.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Although I felt no connection, I was unbelievably aware of the responsibility bestowed on me.  There was no denying that responsibility, but it was the need to protect and care for her that came from a responsible human being, rather than the bonding that comes from instinct, that was at work.

Enter post-partum depression.  Screw the baby blues.  Baby blues are cute and can be fixed with some chocolate.  Depression is a bitch, and as bitches go, she's sneaky.  Sometimes I know I'm in the middle of it.  Bright days are grey and grey days are greyer.  And sometimes I don't know she was around until she's gone.  Friendships are impossible and I'm a failure before my feet have even hit the ground in the morning.   Suddenly I look around and realize my isolation and I already know who is to blame.  So as sleep deprivation led to hallucinations and breastfeeding led to bleeding nipples and fainting spells, somewhere along the line, I knew I was ready to snap.  Sixteen and pregnant, my ass.  I was barely 26 and was as emotionally useful as I was at 15 getting drunk on Night Train.  Eight months into motherhood and I was still sitting in my garage after parking the car crying my eyes out because someone honked their horn at me on the way home.  I would follow my husband's advice to get some exercise, but sit outside the door in my tennis shoes and cry for 30 minutes instead, then saunter back in and pretend to have broken a sweat.  I finally mustered up the courage to voice my concerns to my ob/gyn, but got sent home with vitamin supplements instead.  Vitamins that I never took because I didn't have the heart to help myself. 

And then the suicidal thoughts began.  I wanted out.  But at the same time I could not bare the thought of leaving my infant daughter behind.  My mind ran circles around the issue over and over again.  Day in and day out.  And then the horrifying visions that would interrupt my thought circuit of causing not only harm to myself but to my daughter began.  If I had to go, then the most logical step would be to take her with me.  I was horrified at the detail of these vivid images and horrified at the anonymity.  These were not my conscious thoughts.  These were random and intrusive, and I had no ownership.  I was terrified to admit anything to anyone and I surrendered to the paranoid thought that my baby would be taken away from me and that we would lose our visa that allowed us to live in the United States.  My husband would leave me.  And I would have to admit to being a crazy person... 

Enter Facebook, that technological buffer zone when reality is too much to stomach so early in the morning... I had a cyber safety net-- a pseudo-support system.  And enter Yaz and its comforting cocktail of constant and measured hormones stabilizing even the most tightly wound and sensitive.  And allow room for Time and Patience.  They show up fashionably late, but they make a hell of a difference!

So, I am happy to report that I am still a crazy person.  Seven years later and here we all are, relatively intact.  I might still feel a bit lost at times but mostly I think I will direct my frustration at MTV who tries to capture the unpleasant side of motherhood and fails a tad short.  I entered motherhood at a socially acceptable age, quit smoking, quit drinking, and read through Dr. Spock and every other parenting book and website I could get my hands on.  I ate right, adhered to my bed rest when prescribed, and thanked God every single day for a successful round of IVF despite having lost two of my babies.  And yet, I made it through the other side of crazy despite all of that, and I just don't see that journey on TV.  It's a journey most of us don't want to talk about, but I want to bet a lot of us have been there.  We are Mothers and we are Housewives and navigation gets a little muddled at times.  Sometimes it's not about "How did I get here?!", but more about the fact that we are still here...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Love, marriage, and your furniture...

It has occurred to me that marriage is like a sofa.  Hang on.  Stick with me.  I have an amusing point... I think.  You see, when you own your first piece of furniture, it has a lot to do with ego and with status.  You want it to reflect all the qualities you want the world to perceive in you.  It is a symbol that you a) have enough money to purchase real furniture (not a futon or a beanbag), b) have a place of permanent or even semi-permanent abode that necessitates the use of purpose specific carpentry and upholstery, and c) you have enough pretense to believe you have any actual personal style that should be represented three dimensionally by said carpentry and upholstery. 

So we browse, devouring stacks of Country Living, Urban Living, Anything-we-can-find Living, ravenous to find a voice that dictates what kind of Living we should be aspiring to be living.  Then we begin flirting.  We flirt with patterns, solids, colours, textures, proportion, configurations.  We hem.  We haw.  We consider colour palettes and schemes.  We triumphantly narrow it down to a sofa that we deem worthy but is ultimately way out of our budget and, frankly, way out of our style league.  I'm being very blunt.  Of course I'd love to have a male model (or four) by my side and live that jet-setting, pink champagne kind of life.  But let's face it.  I never get around to getting my roots done, my legs are in constant need of a shave, and I have IBS.  Oh, and champagne tastes like cat pee.  I'm not cut out to be a jet-setter.  Let's keep our heads out of the clouds.  So back to choosing an appropriate sofa... to suit our lifestyle and reality...

The dating phase begins.  We go to the stores and let our butts sink into a few.  We hem.  We haw.  And finally commit.  Vows and cash exchanged, we are united for better or for worse.  And so begins the honeymoon phase.  Some old-schoolers prefer to use a tried-and-true method of protection by way of a heavy coating of plastic.  Others choose to enjoy their new acquisition, throwing themselves onto it with wild abandon.  All the same, we treat it with the utmost care and adoration.  Cushions are fluffed and pillows are placed just so.  We've projected our heart and soul onto this inanimate object, laying bare, for all to judge, our personal aesthetics and our credit limit.

And then life happens.  And before you know it, we no longer bother to take off our shoes when we lie on it.  Popcorn and other assorted edible and inedible items start to accumulate between the cushions.  A coffee stain.  Baby spit up.  Soup (don't ask).  The once venerated sofa becomes just another item in the room.  Until one day, in a rare moment of lucidity, we take stock of our life's inventory.  And suddenly decide that the family couch could use some re-upholstering.  I, for one, prefer not to throw out old furniture.  There's nothing a little sandpaper and wood stain can't polish up.  (That's not to say that it is sometimes necessary to just chuck it out and start all over again.  I know of one particular chair that had been soaked in cat pee one too many times.  That's one stink you just can't re-upholster into oblivion.)

So I promised at the beginning of this journey through metaphors and symbolism that I would have an amusing point.  Well... at the very least amusing... So marriage.  Furniture.  Can't hurt to break out a little Pledge now and again, I suppose.  Because in life, there's bound to be a little coffee... a little spit up... and a little soup.  And sometimes, even, a little cat pee.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Laundry leads to alcoholism

It's Day 5 of my Operation Laundry campaign and I need a drink already.  You may think I exaggerate a bit.  You know, a little something to justify the need to be a "stay-at-home mom".  A little bit of "if I went to work outside the home, the universe would implode and then who would supply you with clean underwear, hmm?".  But about six days ago, a small mountain of clean laundry lay in the middle of our TV room, on the floor, staring at me.  Yes, it stared.  In fact, it was one sock short of coming to life and opening its wrinkled, multi-coloured jaws to gobble me up.  I stared back.  Back in everyone's closets, laundry  baskets overflowed with roughly two weeks of dirty laundry, spilling over onto the floor.  My Laundry Monster had back-up.  Little henchmen lurking in the dark recesses of our closets.  But my Laundry Monster was in no rush to move.  It was biding its time, waiting for me to crack.  That day came six days ago. 

Now I'll come clean in saying that the Laundry Monster is my own bastard child.  I conceived it.  I provided the nourishment it needed for its growth and development.  I brought it into the world, painfully after many days of labour.  And now in a bid to defend itself, clinging to its own instinct to survive, it means to defeat me.  I mean to whup its butt.  I woke up that morning with only one thing on my mind.  It was on.

However, it was a game of strategy.  I couldn't just barge in and brazenly attack it head on.  No.  This had to be subtle, humane but lethal.  So I nonchalantly began with the two baskets of ironing that were loitering in my laundry room.  One piece after another, I plowed ahead.  One basket down, one to go.  Day 2 heralded my plan to divide and conquer.  I creeped surreptitiously into the darkened closets... Whites were separated from blacks, and these from delicates.  Oh the humanity.  But I showed no mercy as my day revolved around the mind-numbing task of moving wet loads to the dryer, and dry loads to sorted into ready-to-fold and need-to-be-ironed piles.  Folded piles were then delivered to their final resting places.  Day 3 meant more ironing, and dingy towels dying to be put out of their misery.  I obliged.  Day 4, ironing.  And today, Day 5.  Damn those men's shirts.  Damn them to hell.

But there is light at the end of my miserable plight to return to my throne of domestic diva extraordinaire.  Seven shirts and three pairs of pants sit awaiting their fate at the bottom of my ironing basket.  Yes.  You heard right.  The bottom.  And it's in sight.  Who knew hitting bottom would be such a sight for sore eyes.

So I think that a stiff drink is perfectly acceptable given the circumstances.  Anybody who has gone through Laundry Hell and lived to tell the tale would agree with me...  Cheers.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recession Chic

Dear Mr. Recession,

I find myself in an oversized sweatshirt, cropped sweatpants a few shades shy of white, and wannabe Ugg from Target.  It's getting cold.  I'd rather be back in bed, but a daughter needs taking to school and a husband needs taking to his real estate license course-- activites not conducive to hiding under the covers with a clear conscience. 

Yes, this is what you, Mr. Recession, have reduced our dreams to.  But I just laugh in your face.  So I have a child in a public school system.  National ranking says it's not a bad one.  Now, I do admit, one's uppity ego demands private.  (We don't go around looking down our noses, of course.  But ask yourself this, if you had a million or two, would you really stay where you are?  Be honest, now.)  So I have a husband who is desperate for an income and is burning the midnight oil and elbow-greasing some ol' WD-40 on the neurons in order to get a real estate license.  Yeah, being self-employed ain't cutting it anymore.  But wait till the housing market picks up, baby.  Guess who'll be buying you a drink then, Mr. Recession.  I still resent, however, that you would choose to pick on a small defenseless housewife who used to make a meager supplemental income (in that meager attempt we make to feel like a productive member of society once more)... until her place of employment decided to shut its doors...  That wasn't very nice.

So here I am, Mr. Recession, in all my defeated housewife glory in the midst of a recession... at the supermarket.  I bring a list.  Apparently, over half of all purchases made at a supermarket are unplanned and put to poor use, thereby wasting money.  I, on the other hand, take a list... and get so distracted and lost in thought that I forget half of the things actually on the list...  How's that for saving a buck?  But today is a success.  I'm like a junkie out searching street corners, looking to score.  Buy 1 Get 1 Free is my crack.  I've honed my skills to such finesse that I know to overlook the slick packaging of national brands and zero-in on the cheaper store brands like a lion will stalk the weakest of the herd on the serengeti.  My math skills may be crap, but the per ounce pricing next to the unit price is like the stench of blood in the water to a great white shark.  I prowl those aisles like I'm ownin' it.  Price reduced?  Time to stock up, baby!  I've got my store card and I know how to use it...

And I don't believe in coupons.  Not unless they're for a decent restaurant, and no, by that I don't mean Zaxby's where you can order deep-fried brown on a bed of brown with brown mystery dipping sauce and a side of brown.  Oh, and a 24 oz. refillable sugar shock to your insulin levels...  You know, just in case you needed something brown to wash all that brown down with.  Blech.  Mr. Recession, I apologize for my use of foul language, but I do believe in cooking from scratch.  And most of the coupons you find are for prepackaged food items that can easily be made at home from scratch or pooled from different sources, or for junk food that our waistlines really could do without.  Don't get me started on Lunchables or Uncrustables.   Individual bags of chips?  I buy a big $2.00 bag and whip out some baggies.  Don't have time for making individual sandwiches everyday?  I get freaky with my freezer.  It does all kinds of good.  Much easier to swing by a Chik-Fil-A every weeknight?  My slowcooker's loins are achy for me.  Have a hankering for some cookies to go with your afternoon tea?  There's some flour and sugar in my pantry thinking of inviting me over for a menage a trois.  Bring it on, Mr. Recession.  And bring your own apron.

Don't get me wrong.  I bought disposable diapers for my baby, and I alone am cause for the financial success of the paper towel industry.  I do not compost (yet), and I use deoderant... not cornstarch or the occasional lemon.  And I buy the 4 oz. package of basil instead of growing my own.  (In my defense, I do make my own pestos.)  I am making an effort, though.

But let me see if I've got it right.  It seems to me that what you're trying to tell us is that we've forgotten how to get back to basics. I appreciate the reminder, Mr. Recession, I just wish you'd quit bashing me over the head with it.  Because now I'm heading home, having walked past the Starbucks counter even though every FIBER in my being wanted me to stop for a tall half-caff vanilla soy latte.  I'm heading home to brew up a cup of Folger's Half-Caff with a splash of Silk's Very Vanilla Soymilk, no sugar needed.  And a batch of homemade scones with butter and blackberry jam.  Because, Mr. Recession, you may take the privilege of more than one car, educational options for my child, financial peace of mind for my husband, reduce my annual physicals to every other year and dentist visits to once a decade (not that I mind not going to the dentist... I choose not to floss and it's nobody's business but mine)...  You may even take my house and force me to downsize.  I am tickled pink because all that does is cut down on cleaning duties!  And it may smart a little that my closet is a few seasons behind what's current... But you may not have my faith in God or my coffee and most certainly not my scones.  Good day, sir.

Kind Regards,
Kiss My Butt

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 1

I am a housewife, yes.  I never set out to be one.  Very few of us do.  But this where we end up, wondering how we got here and where on earth are we going exactly.  This over laundry and dinner and temper tantrums.  Housewifery is indeed a noble instutition and one that should be venerated much more than it actually is.  Men seem to think, "Well, my mother did it and was happy... Why is my wife complaining about it so much?"  Why do we complain so much?  Is it that much harder than the alternative? 

One, we are not our mothers or our husband's mothers, but sometimes feel we must be (many a woman I know will refer to her husband as her "other" child).  Second of all, we find ourselves in a very unique time in history.  We have the gift of higher education and the opportunity to succeed in the workplace in a way unprecedented.  We enter universities and hold not only degrees, but Masters' and PhD's.  We envision careers and leaving our mark in the world, making a difference, and "being somebody".  We have the right to express ourselves and our opinions. 

We are enlightened and liberated and hold ourselves to an extraordinary standard.  This thanks to self-help books, shows, and magazines convincing us we can do it all with the right mantra under our belt. We are expected to look like supermodels, so we diet constantly, fall short miserably, spend our time in gym clothes (note I do not say we actually go to the gym even though we are attired for it), and simply end up in the plastic surgeon's office uttering the words 'breast augmentation' and 'mommy makeover'.  Heck, it turns out even our vaginas need a stitch or two!  I'm not aware of this ever being an issue not too many generations back...  But now technology is such that there is a lotion or a procedure for any aesthetic ailment one can conjure up. 

And, boy, can we conjure up an ailment or two!  Because not only must we look good, we gotta feel good, too!  So gone are the days when we would just sweep our darkest feelings and innermost turmoil under the rug; now we must label our demons and scrub them out with therapy and chemicals.  There's a happy pill out there for you too!  Because we not only must reach for the stars, we're reaching for nirvana, baby!  And woe is she who cannot keep her cortisol in check.  So now it takes a village of psychoterapists to raise a child and reason with the child and empower the child... when a good old fashioned "because I'm your mother and because I told you so" would have sufficed in days gone by.  Now we are terrified of scarring our children for life if we do not have the right methods or techniques or nervous system depressants for disciplining them...

And part of reaching nirvana is being saintly.  When one is saintly, one is selfless.  Nowadays that means 'volunteer work'.  At your child's school, at church, a community based organization...  The modern housewife  must volunteer her time to someone at some point.  Apparently we have too much of that on our hands... 

Thanks, Hollywood for my self-image issues, and Oprah for convincing me there must be a better me somewhere in me, and thanks Martha for sweeping the cobwebs from my eyes and conveying the importance of an organized and spotless pantry...  Please excuse me, I must now work in some gym time, some personal grooming time (hair, nails, make-up, clothes and appropriate accessories), dedication to my children's homework, diet, emotional and physical health, extracurricular activities (and the list goes on), breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the family, time dedicated to friends (otherwise I run the risk of being ex-communicated by my peers) and their activities and issues, housekeeping, my marriage and how to keep it from going stale...  All before sunset today... Of course I have time to volunteer my time...  It actually seems to be burning a hole... in my head...