Half a century on, it strikes me there’s not much difference between the modern woman and a 50s housewife.
My husband walks in from work and routinely finds me whipping something up in the kitchen (usually a blog entry, sometimes a corporate workshop, occasionally a chapter for the vampire-free young adult sci-fi romance – today, this comparative exposition about modern women being like 50s housewives).
Dinner is waiting.
I have freshened up for his arrival home. Yes, I have. When I hear his key in the door, I hope there’s a top flapping on the clothes airer beside me that’s not covered in regurgitated S26 Gold. If there is, I throw it on and fling the dirty one across the room into the washing basket (or near it, on the floor, hopefully where he won’t trip over it).
By the time he makes it down the hallway, I am a sight to behold.
Do I put my face on, first thing in the morning? No need – I’m permanently logged in. After flicking the kettle on, I’m all over the internet like a rash. Facebook, LinkedIn, email, my blog, my website, the baby forum, the news, the online magazines I write for – you name it, it’s open in my browser before you can say ‘I was talking about makeup.’
I’m a step ahead there – often waking up with makeup already on (if I went somewhere important yesterday). The tweens allowed my makeup remover to be engulfed by the black hole that we call the second bathroom, so I routinely arise with half of yesterday’s face on my person and the other half on the pillow case.
The baby smiles at me regardless of how I look at 5am (as he did at 2am and, if we’re unlucky, 11pm before that). Digging the older kids out of bed, I reclaim the laundry from the dog, pack everyone off to school and work in two different states (we live on the border, so school terms never match) and I get on with the business of running the household.
More accurately, I get on with running the business from the household, shuffling it with a part-time public sector position and some freelance writing. The ballet run puts a spanner in the work, as does the netball run and indeed, this week, the feral cat run. (We returned from holiday to find an abandoned cat and her two wild kittens on our doorstep, hired a trap and convinced a team of seven brave souls ranging in age from four to thirty-seven to lure the undomesticated animals from a garden that, once you’re crawling around in its undergrowth, seems closely modelled on a Patagonian jungle. We’d have used machetes but we were scared we’d lop a head off – either human or feline – neither option desirable).
With all of this going on, the house is kept exactly as my husband expects it to be. This is particularly true since the cleaning lady won a job as a physiotherapist’s receptionist after I paid her $90 to coach her in job-interview skills while she waved the duster around like a magic wand that has lost its magic. We’re sinking a la the Titanic, the whole house listing East under the weight of six people’s washing, strung up in relative states of damp on the large family of clothes airers that has taken up residence in our meals area.
The children are seen and not heard – plugged in as they often are to their iPods (except when they’re heard asking my husband what’s for dinner, which they do nearly every night since he banned me from approaching the cooking appliances after a nasty incident with the wok).
I like to enquire as to how his day as been, but there’s not much point because we emailed back and forth about it earlier. I ask how the unaccounted for twenty minutes went. They went unremarkably. I tell him about the cats. (I’d bring him the newspaper, but it’s out of date by dinner time so it’s easier if he just checks online later.)
After dinner, he retires to the lounge room. If it’s not some species of parent information night (as it seems to be most nights, even though we only have two kids in school) I flop on the couch beside him in a fetching ensemble of track pants and the cleanest top I can find, put my feet up and notice I could do with a pedicure. Feet just seem so far away in the grand scheme of things.
When I’ve kissed the children goodnight and confiscated all electronic devices like a security guard at the airport, we watch one of our favourite shows, or part thereof, before succumbing to the exhaustion that’s been building since the baby’s dawn feed. I crawl into the bedroom and fluff up the pillows (after I pick them up off the floor).
Tomorrow is another day, and I know my place. It’s up the front of a corporate seminar interstate, then straight from the airport to a parent interview (not to be confused with a parent info night). I’ve ceased to worry about putting the audience to sleep in these seminars – it’s a triumph if I deliver the content with two eyes open.
Which reminds me (speaking of motor skills); the baby has a physiotherapy appointment that he doesn’t need. I lost track of time and thought he was a month older than he is, so he’s probably not as delayed as we suspected but I’m too embarrassed to admit this at the clinic.
Besides, for a woman who does her level best to keep the home from burning, I mean ‘home fires burning’, it’s any port in a storm when it comes to adult company. Otherwise I’ll wind up as feral as the surrendered cats.
Think back to when you were growing up. How different is your life from the life that your mum led?