When people learn I don't know how to cook or clean properly, they invariably assume my mother never taught me.
Don’t blame my mother. It’s not her fault. She did her best to try to teach me how to cook, clean and be useful around the house. But I did my best to ignore her.
Even though it was the 1970s, my mom typified the perfect 50s mom. She had dinner on the table promptly at Six p.m. every night, cleaned our split-level suburban house, sewed, ironed, vacuumed, did laundry, designed and sewed original Halloween outfits, helped build cardboard dioramas for school projects, regularly threw cocktail and dinner parties, and still managed to greet my father with a smile and a martini when he walked in the door.
Me, I wanted to do something with my life.
I didn't understand how anyone with half a brain could be satisfied performing such menial, mindless tasks. Even at ten, I considered myself a liberated woman. I wasn’t going to chain myself to the stove like my mom. If I didn’t learn how to cook, clean or sew – or type, for that matter – I reasoned that there was no way I would end up as a housewife (or a secretary).
A psychoanalyst might conclude that my “issues” with housekeeping stem from my ultra-stable childhood. Clearly, growing up in a loving, two-parent suburban household with a stay-at-home mother and a financially successful father was too much of a strain on me.
I was an A student. I had friends. I had ambition. But I was terrified of potholders, thimbles, and everything in between.
While I possess common sense in other areas of my life, for some reason, I seem to lose all reason when it came to cooking and cleaning. Once, as a kid, I got the ingenious idea of drying my Barbie doll’s clothes on my desk lamp and started an electrical fire.
Another time, my older brother and I “roasted” marshmallows in the toaster using forks. Luckily, neither of us was electrocuted and the Fire Department arrived in record time.
When I ripped a pair of jeans during my sophomore year of high school, my mom volunteered to teach me how to sew a patch on. I refused – and instead, used a stapler to get the job done.
“Well, it’s a look,” my mother sighed. “Very Young Frankenstein.”
Not surprisingly, my mom eventually stopped asking me if I wanted to help her cook and clean. Nevertheless, she continued to entrust me with the task of setting the table for dinner – presumably, because she had faith that I couldn’t break the silverware.
Only now do I realize the errors of my ways. I see now I was wrong to dismiss all of the work she did as "nothing." As a mom with a home of my own, I can now truly appreciate all that my mom did to make our household run so smoothly (corny, but true). She took her responsibilities quite seriously and she was very good at what she did.
Why was it exactly that I didn’t let my mom teach me a few things about housework? If being domestic will grant me independence and self-sufficiency, then I’m all for it.
Maybe mom will consider giving me a few lessons after all. I promise to be a more attentive student.