Please be sure to read the explanation at the bottom of this post; otherwise, I’ll have every single stay-at-home mom mad at me, and that’s not my intention!! Peace and an Oreo dipped in milk, Amy
I have always envied housewives.
Each morning, pulling crisp aprons
from drawers under counters crowded
with kids’ art awaiting a place on the fridge.
Willing the bacon to crisp, flipping
hotcakes on a Revere-ware skillet.
Had I but known that it only took
one drunken prom night spree in
the back of his souped-up Chevrolet,
just blooming at the shotgun wedding…
I, too, could include myself in the
year-round bliss of Tupperware parties;
summer months spent gazing out the
window watching our neighborhood’s
rowdy, mud-caked munchkins until
Fall. Then, one by one, my own brood
would thrill to new lunchboxes and
come home smelling of crayons and
some other kid’s egg salad sandwich…
I wish I’d realized that to spurn those
high-school advances of Jimmy Parker
was like shredding my ticket to ride;
I would not feel so darned ignorant now.
Housewives get all the real news from
their husbands, entertainment from TV.
They subtract their own little extras from
the shopping list to stick to the budget,
and the only balls they need are made of
cotton, to wipe off Noxzema each night.
But here in this smoke-filled piano bar,
as another twenty drops in my tip jar, I
abandon the sting of this jealousy and
face reality: I’m stuck traveling to cities
like Hamilton, Bermuda, wearing a daring
cut-down-to-there number, making my
way in the world. Always on the move,
waiting for the crowd to feed me their
electricity through our mutual umbilical
cord of jazz, wisecracks, and dry martinis.
If I were a housewife, I would be pampered,
cared for, and I’d only have to spread my legs
once in a while and put up with the sting of
unschooled sex. I might wonder about the
uncertain lives of girls like me, who constantly
have to update their passports, who buy their
own jewelry from this year’s collection, who
hustle their way through airports to catch a
plane to the next destination, the next show…
If only I were a housewife, I’d be lucky.
© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
*IMPORTANT NOTE: I hold the greatest respect for mothers who are able to stay at home with their children; in fact, I consider it the most noble of pursuits. The “housewives” moniker is insulting to me as a feminist, because I believe staying at home is a viable CHOICE among many choices. But a prompt is a prompt, and since the poem presumes that all stay-at-home moms do is sit on their asses eating bonbons, sucking up booze, and watching soaps, I will accept all criticism. Please know that, after my years as a single working mother, I was indeed envious of moms who could be with their kids after school.
For Trifecta, “tongue in cheek,” and The Sunday Whirl: Housewives, Months, Year, Ignorant, Subtracting, Sting, Rind, Balls, Fall, Drawers, Spurn, Electricity.
July 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm
I’ll try not to take offense – LOL! I was a single working mother for almost 15 years and have seen the broad range of spectrum you’ve displayed in your poem. Traveling is stressful and so is being with your children more than 2 hours a day. In short there are no options that encompass pure bliss.
I cracked a smile at your line about aprons. Although I hung up my jet-setting and have been a housewife now for the past 5 years (thanks to the most wonderful man in the world) I own only one apron. If you see me in it I’m slinging clay or applying oil to canvas – who needs an apron to cook store bought cookies. ::snicker::
July 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm
hooweee~you certainly know how to paint a picture, my friend 🙂 As always such vivid words, draw me in and I can smell the crayons, the martinis and hear your wonderful voice.
July 13, 2012 at 11:17 pm
All life is stressful, no matter the choices. Very cleverly detailed. K.
July 14, 2012 at 9:20 am
I have drawers of aprons, although none of them are crisp. I often wear an apron all day because I’m testing recipes, kneading bread, gardening, scrubbing foul toilets or bathtubs, and I don’t want to ruin my everyday, cheap, supermarket-branded clothing that I wear quite happily. I have worked at home, without pay, for a very long time. I am not the least bit ashamed or unfulfilled from doing so. I’m glad that you added the note to your post, Amy.
July 15, 2012 at 12:17 am
Goodonya Amy. You tell ’em. I tend to put on my apron too late, when the clothes are already stuck about with blobs of bread dough and the like!
July 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm
I like the tone of the article.
Kelly Garriott Waite (@kgwaite)
July 17, 2012 at 7:51 am
As a stay at home mom, I am most certainly not offended. We can’t tiptoe through these prompts. Your descriptions are amazing – the balls for the Noxema (I still remember the smell of that!); the crayon smell; and best of all the smell of someone else’s egg salad sandwich. The point of this piece is not to pick at stay at homes, it’s to show that all-too-familiar “grass is always greener” feeling. And you do it very, very well. Congrats.
July 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm
I’m reminded of a comment made (frequently) by my mother, who was separated from my father when I entered the 7th grade. She’d say, “I never married a house, don’t you dare call me a housewife!” My mother was almost always there for me when I came home from school – she was a trained teacher but was only able to work as a supply teacher when she moved to Canada from New York (she didn’t want to raise her child – me – in the U.S.). When she began working full-time, after the separation, and we were living in a small two-bedroom slum near the railway tracks, the idyllic idea of “housewifery” was the furthest thing from either of our minds – but – she still managed to make life wonderful for me … and I learned how to cook 101 things with ground beef for dinner by the time I was in grade 8 (If I wasn’t a composer I’d love to be a Chef!)
I agree with your comment at the end, but would add the following: the work that women do at home, raising children and everything else, not only requires physical stamina it requires a tremendous amount of resilience, independence, and intelligence – children (babies) don’t come with handbooks. It’s very easy to continue to undervalue the work of women in the workplace when we so casually dismiss what they do at home. If we genuinely respected this work as something vital to our lives (for those living with these particular women) we should seriously consider how they should be compensated (beyond the obvious). Furthermore, “housewives” MUST have pension funds – especially since there is such a high divorce rate amongst developed nations. Without a pension these women often feel financially enslaved, incapable of escaping a relationship that may be toxic or even deadly.
Okay … end rant … sorry Amy … really nice work.
July 17, 2012 at 10:33 pm
`mutual umbilical cord of jazz’ – My definition of heaven, if you include a beach in there somewhere. Fabulous poem, Amy.
July 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm
Biting and confronting and beautiful! The voice expels a dramatic monologue demanding attention! Love the lines:
“waiting for the crowd to feed me their
July 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm
Just realised that my comment is not the nic on dVerse! This is my real one!
July 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm
As a mom who has been blessed to be able to “stay at home” with our five kids (aged 10 thru 16), I have to say that I took zero offense to your post…in fact, it made me laugh, think and re-read a bit.
I have always been annoyed at the “stay at home” part because, let me tell you, it is such a lie as I rarely ever get to STAY home. With church events, two kids in sports and another fully involved in her school’s drama program AND all the “chores” I do when they are in school (or at home, summer…ugh), I love the days when there is actually nothing that has to be done and I can never officially “get dressed” and just enjoy our house.
That being said, I feel so very honored to get to spend time with our kids – getting to know them as they change from little people to mini adults…learning what makes them laugh, cry and think. Yes, there are days when I long to lock myself in a padded room with a sign that says “You have a father – ask him!”…but I wouldn’t change the choice we made years ago.
PS – I LOVE the smell of crayons!!
July 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm
I think you did quite well with the prompt. I smile, laughed, and shook my head throughout the whole piece. honestly, if I didn’t know it was “tongue in cheek” I probably would have read it that way anyhow–maybe that says more about me and my view of housewives than the intent of the piece. it was an enjoyable read.
July 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm
One could look at this poem from many different perspectives. I don’t like the word ‘housewife’ myself. I don’t think it give the respect due to women who stay home with their children. I do happen to think it is probably better that women work out of the home though as an example to their children. But, again, it is something one cannot generalize about. I was glad when my mom was home when I got home from school; and since I was a teacher I was home very soon after my own children got home and we shared the same vacations. There is no right answer that fits all. I enjoyed your poem, Amy!
July 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm
smiles….i def have great respect for those that tend the house…its a beast of a lot of work…with T working during the day, i do a lot of the house work stuff..even prep meals before i go to work…it came across as tongue in cheek surely…smiles.
July 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm
I fully caught the tongue-in-cheek tone of this. Excellent. It flows so well and paints such a distinct picture of the stereotype.
July 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm
I thought you poem put real distinct images in my head of what I would see in a 50’s era advertisement geared toward the “housewife”. Excellently done!
The Gal Herself
July 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm
Love this! Especially the scent of crayons and egg salad. I wish I knew a little more about our heroine’s repertoire (I meant the music, not the sophisticated sex). She sounds like a fascinating woman.
Sherry Blue Sky
July 19, 2012 at 1:12 am
I enjoyed this, Amy, and it reminded me, too, of life in the 50’s. We’ve come a long hard way from those times, thankfully. But women still seem to be doing most of the work in most homes. Brian, you are a Super Star for doing housework and cooking.
July 19, 2012 at 11:41 am
brilliant, brilliant…I have been a stay- at -home but keep -the- shop- in -the- next -building- going…while longing to get back to my jazz singing…oh but the fella has come in from teaching for his lunch..and why oh why is it not on the table waiting???? ooops I was only serving in the cafe that I run as well as looking after all of you …and my oh my when can I ever get to sing?!! hmmm still crazy after all of these years!
July 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm
In the 1960s-early 1970s, the feminism (mostly white) women publicized often put down the no-choice-house-wife. Women who had never been privileged or pampered didn’t understand this “intellectual” argument–to them, having a real choice would have been a true move forward, and milk-for-the -baby took priority over other self-oriented motives. Until we learned, the movement was quite white, and often the “communal” type of response depended on women with some kind of independent income–even restaurants you might have known back then. I’ve never read about this, but I was there. Anyone else remember this lack of diversity?
July 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm
You paint it the way you want to paint it….I think it stands with note or not as relevant thought process even if it offends some. I like the completeness of the image portrayed and the starkness of the difference in life paths. Great piece of writing.
July 20, 2012 at 9:54 am
I think you poem really got to grips with many choices that women must make in their lifetimes, and I appreciate the thought that went into each stanza.
Kay, Alberta, Canada
July 20, 2012 at 10:18 am
I remember the 1950s when newspaper advertisements (and maybe TV commercials, too, but we didn’t have TV in our area yet) showed cute housewives proudly showing off their new stoves, vacuum cleaners, washing machines (still the wringer kind). Men tried to make “housewifery” look glamorous so women wouldn’t complain about it. And I remember the 1960s when I knew I wanted a career, and knew women could have careers. But the first time I got married, even though I had a full-time job, I did the cute-housewife thing with apron and ironing board, too. Those old ads really worked. “This is what you’re supposed to do,” so I did it. Needless to say, that marriage didn’t last very long.
July 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm
Your well written poem eloquently portrays the inner conflict and turmoil which single moms must face every day. While I can’t comment from the perspective of a stay at home mom, I thought your subject’s feelings of envy seemed reasonable, given her challenging situation and her lack of having actually experienced the stay at home mom’s lifestyle. We all wear blinders in the way we view other people’s situations.
July 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm
are you really a piano player?
are there really housewives like that?
July 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm
Housewives have a rival in the kitchen these days – house-husbands! There are a growing number of professional ladies who hold relatively better positions than their husbands. What they do? They switch roles!
Guess what? They slog like the traditional h/wives, cleaning and cooking and none the wiser. Stronger arms and more stable in emergencies they are better equipped it seems. I don’t think they would take offense reading your verse. Wonderful write, Amy!
July 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm
Great sharp details in this piece! The crisp apron made me laugh.
July 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm
I once was a ‘kind’ of housewife and it’s not all that it is cracked up to be. LOL 🙂
July 25, 2012 at 12:11 am
I like your poem and got a chuckle from your disclaimer at the end. I’ve never been able to stay at home with the kids (younger son is going into first grade.) This was hardest when they were preschool age. However, after a long holiday weekend, I was never happier to pack my lunch and take myself to work (it’s easier :))
July 25, 2012 at 11:10 pm
I’m beginning to understand the whole “married to your house” concept, as I’ve been “between jobs” for some time now. Certainly, it’s a blessing in disguise, having these years with my son, but it is easily the most emotionally trying career I’ve had yet and the salary is atrocious! Cheers to you for your tongue in cheek, and yet rather deadly accurate in some ways, poetry.
July 26, 2012 at 10:15 am
Amy, I think this poem just might put you in contention at Trifecta. I love where you took these words. For seven years, I stayed home. It was a lovely life that I miss, and yes, busy every day. The gift was watching Thyra grow from birth to six…every single day. You evoked the spirit of my mom’s generation for me with tupperware parties and bridge. Although mom worked her way through most of my upbringing. In more ways than one! LoL
LOVE this piece,
July 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm
Actually and ironically, I think you capture an attitude extremely well here. There IS an attitude that stay at home Moms have it easy. And it’s plausible to imagine a character who wants nothing more than to be with her kids as feeling that kind of envy.
July 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm
I really enjoyed the poem like cadence to this piece and the bright imagery of the idealized 1950’s version of the greener side of the fence. Your imagery is amazing. I love the ‘crisp aprons from drawers under counters crowded with kids’ art’ and the ‘sting of unschooled sex’.
You’ve described a mostly enviable life, one that most stay at home moms would desire. Nice work.
We’re so glad you decided to play along with us for this special challenge. Please bring your words back for some of our weekly prompts.
August 4, 2012 at 11:55 am
What a nice poem. Apt descriptions. I was a stay-at-home mom for a short period of time, then I worked and as some have said, working was easier. Although my ex-husband expected dinner on the table when he got home from work which was impossible since I got home after him LOL!
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