Thursday, July 31, 2008

Betty Friedan and Me

Today, every time I sat my writer's ass down in my writer's chair to work, Demon Baby beckoned me. What did he need? The list was endless:

Pull up my pants
Get me orange juice
Make me noodles
You didn't make them right, make 'em again
Wipe my butt
Pretend I am a dog and pet me in my doghouse
Wipe my butt (this is my official job since no one else in the house is interested in toilet training)
More juice
Play "boat and pirate"
Change your iPod to the Clash
Kiss me
No, don't kiss me, because you have cooties and are gross
Get me cheese (the cheese fetish this kid has is alarming)

You get the idea.

And I am reminded of Betty Friedan:

"It is urgent,” she said, “to understand how the very condition of being a housewife can create a sense of emptiness, non-existence, nothingness in women. There are aspects of the housewife role that make it almost impossible for a woman of adult intelligence to retain a sense of human identity, the firm core of self or ‘I’ without which a human being, man or woman, is not truly alive. For women of ability, in America today, I am convinced there is something about the housewife state itself that is dangerous.”

Now, I am not--narrowly speaking--a housewife. In fact, in some ways, I am something even more exhausting. I am a full-time writer, supporting my family as I work from home, with no child care help and very little support, with four children, doing all those empty chores . . . while trying to preserve a sense of me.

And into this world Demon Baby was born.

It is difficult, even with this blog, to convey the very idea that not FIVE minutes can go by without something crashing, without him needing ME. And I cannot tell you how often I hear Betty Friedan whispering in my ear. Mocking me, maybe. "Your IQ? Twenty books published? A butt wiper?"

So it has been that Buddhism and service has been my salvation. The very idea that the ACT of love, of sacrifice, is a religious or spiritual ritual in and of itself.

I do it imperfectly. I really do. But I strive to see this altar of my Demon Baby as something beautiful. The idea that I was here when he took his first breath in this world. And one day, perhaps, he will be by my bedside as I take my last, but somehow, the cosmic umbilical cord remains. He is mine, and I am his, and we are forever linked.

Don't get me wrong . . . Freidan spoke of something very real. She spoke of the mind-numbing reality of running a household.

But I guess, today, as I watch my Demon Baby sleep . . . I see something more, something different.

I see love.


The Anti-Wife said...

What a lovely post.

Robin said...

That post was so sweet. I especially liked the way Demon Baby repeatedly asked you to wipe his butt. It brought back a lot of memories.
Once, Alex was really constipated and screaming on the toilet. Laxatives weren't working. Adam and I argued about who was going to do the dirty deed, and I lost because my fingers are way smaller. So, I stuck my finger up his butt, and disimpacted him. Luckily, he has no memory of this. (Or maybe it just comes out in his nightmares.)

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Anti-wife:
Thanks. I felt weird about posting it, because I wondered if people would realize where I am coming from. But it's my blog, so WTF.


Erica Orloff said...

LOL! Oh, the things we go through.

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Oh dear, Robin, yuck! I'm so glad I haven't had to do that one. But I have dealt with a blocked toilet after a child did a massive whoopsy.
I totally understand the empty housewife syndrome and even when children are present, there is a certain vacancy in the heart where one's own fulfilment is concerned. It has always confused me because I was brought up to believe that children filled that void. They fill a certain void but not all of it. At least for me.

Erica Orloff said...

I agree. It fills a place in my heart destined for children (for me) but doesn't fill ALL the places in my heart.

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, thank you for this post. I've struggled to explain to my husband why sitting at home all day is mentally difficult, and I think this might help. Especially the quote.

Erica Orloff said...

I am glad it is helpful--much of her work really perfectly verbalizes the struggle, I think. I also think that Abraham Maslow's talk of "self-actualization"--it's a real thing, us striving for fulfillment and what does that mean for each of us.

Believe me, I admire someone who finds total fulfillment in the home, so it's not a "mommy war" thing with me. Life is about choices. But mentally, my mind is constantly seeking education--reading, writing, and so on. And the reality is the home can consume so much of my energy that I would RATHER be doing on something else. Even my kids--I would RATHER be going to museums with them, not doing laundry. But at some point, frankly, we run out of clean underwear. ;-)

Melanie Avila said...

I sometimes think it'd be easier if I had a child. At least then I'd feel like I have more of a purpose for being home all day. As it is I feel like I'm wasting my college education and the years I spent building my career.

I'm working on developing more freelance, so that may help.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Melanie:
Sometimes, I think what's needed is a HUGE paradigm shift. Like what is "wasted" time? Is it all capitalist in nature? What about a day spent staring at the clouds and finding shapes in them with my kids, or gardening, or seeing a sunset? You know? So much of what I feel is the burden of guilt I sometimes carry . . . is the result of somehow finding meaning in the things of capitalism and not of spirit.

laughingwolf said...

been there, done that... luckily, my youngest is now 23, and he needs me very infrequently ;)

[sorry, been away... now, having fallen, thursday, irregular at visiting]

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Laughing Wolf:
Nice to "see" you.

I will be 60 before this one leaves the nest! LOL!

laughingwolf said...

they say 70 is the new 40, so by the time you get there, 100 will be ;)

Erica Orloff said...

Laughing wolf!


laughingwolf said...

;) hee hee

laughingwolf said...

come get your award....

Realmcovet said...

Wow!! Okay, I know this is an old post sort of, but my friend Katie (Kthulhu Ftagn!) who is an avid fan of this blog linked me here on a post she wrote today. You speak so profoundly, and I hope you know that posts from years ago are still affecting others today. You are special stuff and you spoke some very fundamental truths to a close friend of mine not only to me, but a close friend as well. Thank you for your words of wisdom. :)

Realmcovet said...

Oh man. I need to take my herbal supplements regularly! I just read the last of that comment I just posted and all I can do is shrug in indifference. Ah well. What's done is done. :D Frakkin bi-polar does that to a person y'know? Mind running so fast it goes on constant repeat. Oik!

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