I should say that my narrow-minded views were based on images of TV housewives – women like Carol Brady who lived in a mythical land called Suburbia and wielded super-human powers. They could solve a family crisis, help with homework and prepare a delicious meal in less than thirty minutes. They were also always white. To a black girl from the inner city, the concept couldn’t be any more foreign. I grew up with a single, working mother and aspired to be more like Clair Huxtable than June Cleaver. In my dreams, I always thought I would be a successful wife/mother/businesswoman.
I was on my way to making my dream a reality. I had just been promoted, I was engaged to a wonderful man, and we were expecting our first child. But I barely had time to enjoy my good fortune before I was struck with a devastating blow. After almost fifteen years in a job I loved to hate, I was laid off. My identity had been stripped.
Once my daughter was born, I was ready to pick up my career where I left off. Instead, I was competing with recent college grads for a handful of open positions. While my husband and I saw our daughter as a blessing, hiring managers saw her as a burden. One potential employer actually wrote “new mom” in her notes during an interview. Needless to say, I never heard from her again.
After months of a fruitless job search, my husband suggested the unthinkable: “Why not just stay home with the baby until things get better?” I was admittedly terrified of handing my daughter over to a complete stranger, but how would I be able to stay home every day without losing my mind? And how would we survive in one of the most expensive cities in the country on one income? I decided to swallow my pride and tackle my new position with the same fervor I had invested in all of my years in sales. If I was going to be a housewife, I would be the best. Without a 9-to-5 I would do things that would put Martha Stewart to shame.
However, I didn’t take into account the fact that my infant daughter had not read any of the books I’d used to develop my plan. She could care less if I had dinner ready by 6:00 or if my husband had clean socks to wear to work. In just a few months, she learned that she could get anything she wanted by screaming at the top of her lungs. How could someone who weighed less than ten pounds be so sinister? The job that should come most naturally seemed impossible.
I was convinced that being the perfect housewife was like touching your nose with your tongue: something that only a few freakishly weird people could do. After a lot of sulking, it dawned on me that I’d never be happy as long as I pressured myself to be perfect. I had finally been blessed with the family I’d always dreamed of, and even though things weren’t exactly as I’d envisioned, our love was undeniable. I promised myself that I would start taking the time to appreciate the little things like my daughter’s smile or my husband going back for seconds at dinnertime.
In order to preserve my sanity, I knew I had to turn the stereotype of the good housewife on its perfectly polished head. With the help of my supportive husband, I am learning to celebrate my accomplishments and not compare myself to others. I’m realizing that no one will kill me for a little dust on the floor if it gives me more time to play with my daughter. It’s ok to order take-out once in a while so my husband and I can catch up. The loss of my income has caused us to make lots of sacrifices, but we now appreciate what we have even more. I’m learning that being the perfect housewife can mean whatever you want, and I’m thankful that to my family it doesn’t mean vacuuming in heels.
After almost 15 years in the television industry, Angela Johnson is starting over as a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. In the very little free time she has, she enjoys practicing yoga and baking. She writes about her adventures in motherhood at 1bklynmom.blogspot.com.