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The Housewife Gene

As if things aren't particularly hectic for me right now, I had company over the last two Sundays. First, it was my mother-in-law who was visiting from Scottsdale. Since it's a rare occasion that we get to have her over to our house, I decided to cook dinner. And by cook dinner, I mean I actually cooked a full meal instead of ordering in for the 57th time this year. For two reasons. One: I wanted to show my appreciation for everything my in-laws have done for us. (Read: Suck up.) There are way too many things to list here, but let's just say they broke the mold when they made my husband's parents -- I am so lucky to have in-laws as lovely as them. And two: I wanted to show her I can cook dinner. It occurred to me -- actually, it occurred to my mother, which is even worse -- that I hadn't ever cooked dinner for my MIL before (since they live in Arizona most of the year, I think I should get a pass for this one), so this would be my perfect opportunity to prove that her son didn't marry a total slacker in the kitchen. I actually am a pretty good cook when I make time to be, thanks to my mother and grandmother, both of whom are/were very savvy in the kitchen. Everything I know how to cook I learned from watching them. (Thanks, guys!)

With a little guidance from my mom, I whipped up broiled salmon, asparagus, potatoes baked in kosher salt (delicious, by the way), and a colorful salad I made from scratch. And I have to say, dinner was rather good -- I think my MIL liked it too. But I must admit, from the point of going to the grocery store at noon on Sunday (nothing like the last minute, I know) to cleaning up after dinner around 8 p.m., it was a long day and I was exhausted afterward.

We played host again yesterday -- but this time it was for my immediate family (mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law and their three kids). We had a lox-and-bagels style brunch at our place, followed by lots of playtime for Preston whose face must hurt from smiling so much in the company of his adoring cousins. There was guitar-playing, some basketball throwing and even Barkley the dog seemed to have a nice time. Though there wasn't any actual cooking this time, save for the scrambled eggs my sister-in-law cooked, it was a lot of work setting a table for nine and making sure the adults had hot coffee, the kids had buttered bagels, and that Barkley didn't lick our five-year-old niece Emma to death (or tears, which happened six times). But I won't lie: My mom and sister-in-law did a lot of the heavy lifting preparing the brunch and cleaning it up, with me on assist duty. Because someone had to feed Preston while this was going on -- and that someone was me.

It was such a lovely day with the family, but I'm not going to pretend it didn't wear me out. By the time Preston was ready to go down for his second nap and the family had trickled out, I was left with a broken chair (thanks to Jay) and a migraine headache that lasted the entire afternoon.

Don't get me wrong, I love having company over -- and I think I'm pretty good at playing host, even if it does make me a little nuts in the process. But as much as I like using the fancy cheese knives from time to time, I don't do these things with the dexterity of an old pro -- since for me, playing house is more of a show than a regular act. I suppose if I did it more often, it would come a little more naturally to me.

But hosting is one thing; making a nice house is quite another. Despite my mother's honest attempts, I've come to the conclusion -- especially since having Preston -- that I'm really not cut out to house-wife.

Yup, that's right, I think I'm missing the housewife gene. You don't have to be a housewife to have it -- there are plenty of working moms who also make good housewives and I wish I was one of them. My mom's a card-carrying working housewife. She was a 30-year veteran of the TV business before retiring a few years ago -- her work schedule was more demanding than mine -- yet she still managed to put a home-cooked meal on the table every night. And there was never so much as a single dirty dish left in the sink, nor a load of laundry that went undone. She worked my entire life, yet still managed to show up for PTA meetings and take me to my classes on weekends. Somehow, in the chaos of her demanding career, she didn't let her wifely duties suffer either. She's an example of a full-time working mom with the housewife gene.

Thank god I've got my career going for me, because if I lost my job tomorrow, not even my husband would hire me to be his housewife. The nanny has that job in the bag.

Here, in no particular order, are the reasons why I think I'm missing the housewife gene:


  1. I go grocery shopping maybe once a month (maybe!), not counting small trips to the grocery story in which I only pick up one bag's worth of food -- the Single Girl's Grocery Trip -- consisting of Original Lays potato chips, hummus, baby carrots, angel hair pasta, marinara sauce in a jar, cereal, rye bread, muenster cheese, maybe a couple of Lean Cuisines, and definitely a couple bottles of wine. Sometimes I throw some frozen chicken breasts into the mix, as well as veggies, and fruit that usually spoils before we eat it.

  2. I hardly do laundry anymore, now that I have a nanny who's willing to do it during her Mon-Wed-Fri shift, and a cleaning lady who's supposed to do it on Thursdays. I almost always leave it for them, unless I have a pair of jeans I need to wash for the next day.

  3. My husband cleans the baby's bottles by hand -- even though he knows the nanny will do them during her shift. (This demonstrates even he has the housewife gene.)

  4. My nanny makes our bed for us three days a week, but I only make it when we have company, even though -- frankly -- I like it so much more when it's made. One would wonder why I don't just make it more often, right? (Exhibit A, missing the gene.)

  5. Ditto for straightening up other rooms of the house, which I do on an as-needed basis. It drives my husband nuts. He doesn't like the charade.

  6. More times than not, the only drinks in our house are bottled water and wine. This is a holdover from when I was single. Bad habits are hard to break...


Would you call yourself a good housewife? If so, what makes you a good housewife? Or where do you fall short?

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