I am coming to the end of a long period of under-employment, which is good news for my household. Around here, a working Mommy is a happy Mommy, and a happy Mommy actually enjoys keeping house.
Though I’ve worked as an acting teacher and dialect coach for various theaters this summer, I haven’t been on stage since February. For me, going that long without a show is like crossing the Sahara in flip flops: blistering. In more ways than one.
Let’s skip the professional blisters for now and focus on the domestic ones. Without stimulating work to pull me away from home, my housework loses its urgency. It’s always there, and I always have time for it, so it never gets done, or it gets done begrudgingly. I love hearth and home, but I don’t love vacuuming.
Now, though, with acting work on the near horizon, I suddenly have energy for housework and cooking. Saturday night I made a delicious dinner of grilled chicken, corn on the cob, and tomatoes fresh from the garden – a southern feast that should by rights have ended with peach ice cream or blueberry cobbler, or both. (Alas, I wasn’t feeling that domestic.)
I am motivated to cook dinner and tidy up the house because my domicile is about to be restored to its rightful purpose: workshop, studio, creative cocoon, home for character study and line learning, blessed retreat after long days of rehearsal. Artistic home base.
The transformation is already underway. My daughter and her best friend are furiously preparing for Dragon Con, so the dining room table is covered with patterns, fabric, paint, stencils, serger, and sewing machine. When I sit there to study my script, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a fantastical tailor’s shop, or an altar to the gods of cosplay. Meals have moved to the back porch. Thank goodness for mild weather.
This is our home. For me, as for most people I suppose, the impulse to keep house is bound up with the lifestyle that house is meant to nurture. As long as I’m maintaining my home as a haven for creative work, the tasks get done. But the minute I start playing Suzy Homemaker, keeping house for duty’s sake, I’m doomed. I will sabotage myself at every turn, because the role does not fit me the way it fit, say, my mother (emotional baggage, anyone?).
Still, I’m conflicted. I want a nice house, yet I resist having one. I love to look at the pictures in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, but I am wary of those Better Homes. I fear entrapment in a personal hell of gracious (but empty) living. I even resent the title. Better Homes than whose? Mine? Really? By what standard?
I’ve realized that I want a beautiful home, a home that nurtures all who live in it, a home that welcomes visitors and fosters lively conversation. But I don’t want the creation of that home to be my life’s work, as it was for so many women in the past. I keep coming back to a sense of entwined priorities, where the work I do outside the home invigorates my home life, and vice versa.
In other words, I gotta get out of this place and into a theater, or I will surely die. And that won’t help anyone. Dead women don’t keep house.