Occupation: Housewife/ Homemaker/ Merlot drinking stay-at-home middle aged mother with nasty shopping habit/ Homemaker
I should be enjoying my holidays at the cottage but a recent run-in with a popcorn kernel has sent me to the emergency dental clinic in a nearby town. As I sit in the waiting room, hopped up on Advil and finding myself vaguely entertained by my tongue as it gets intimate with the hole that used to house my tooth, I work on completing the New Patient Information form the receptionist has handed me.
Address: and Phone Number: are straightforward enough but I can’t help but stumble when I get to Age: and Occupation:.
“Well, yes, technically I am a 46 year-old homemaker,” I want to explain to the chipper, young receptionist, “but I’m so much smarter, funnier and more fashionable than that.”
I glance at my cottage attire – brown rubber flip-flops the dog cut her puppy teeth on, baggy black bathing suit with elastic fraying around the left leg opening and faded terry-cloth shorts and t-shirt that I generously describe as my “cover-up”. Well, I’m smarter and funnier.
I toy with the idea of putting down “Home wrecker” as my occupation. It carries way more cachet and if I’m ever called on it, I can always claim it was a Freudian slip.
Neither the age nor the occupation question would bother me all that much if the form demanded I answer just one or the other. I can happily imagine myself as a pert, young housewife a la Mary Tyler Moore in her Laura Petrie days. And I’d have no problem introducing myself as Dr. Karen Hamilton, 46 year-old brain surgeon or 46 year-old Nobel Prize recipient, Karen Hamilton.
But put them together – 46 year-old (read, middle-aged) homemaker – and the image that comes to mind ranks up there with dirty dishwasher or gravy congealing on a plate after unwisely responding in the affirmative to the question, “Do you want gravy with those fries?” We know these entities are among us but we’d rather not spend too much time dwelling on them.
Ironically, in our not so distant history, it was a fine and noble thing to describe oneself as a homemaker. My 1960’s youth was spent watching many a game show with contestants who proudly declared themselves to be homemakers. (“Well Monty, I’m a homemaker from California and I’ll take Door Number Three!!!”)
Of course, considering that most of those women either became addicted to tranquilizers or flew the coop in favour of burning their bras or campaigning for local office as soon as they had their consciousness raised, it does cast some doubt on just how fine and noble a calling theirs really was.
But today’s middle-aged homemakers are different than that.
For one thing, many of us don’t actually do housework. There is a segment of the homemaker population that is not only fortunate enough to have the money to stay home, but can also afford to have, well, homemakers. This elite group busy themselves instead with such engaging pursuits as Xtreme wine decanting, attending fund raising events and brightening the day of less fortunate women by regaling the minimum-wage workers at the mani/pedi salons with stories from the aforementioned fund raisers.
Then there are the “traditionals”.
No tossing a Betty Crocker bundt into the oven for these gals. This breed of homemakers would make the Galloping Gourmet giddy ‘up right out of town in embarrassment with the delectable fare they serve their families every night. That their homes are spotless goes without saying. For that matter, so are their husbands, their children and their SUV’s and mini-vans. These are confident women who are successful regardless what they set their hand to. Currently, it’s homemaking.
Finally, there are the rest of us who do our best despite our lack of money and talent. We know the wisdom attached to the phrase, “Good enough!” when it comes to cleaning our homes. Our cooking skills may not be on par with the likes of Martha Stewart but at least we haven’t served time in a federal prison. And is it such a bad thing when Friday afternoon finds us chatting in the backyard hot tub with our fellow homemakers, deftly tossing rubber ducks at the kitchen window to summon our children to bring us another bottle of wine? At least we’re home with the kids.
No, 46 year-old homemaker just doesn’t convey who and what I really am.
Like most of my friends, I feel the same way inside as I did twenty odd years ago. In many ways, my friends and I are better than we were back then. We’re sexier, more savvy and in better shape than ever. We have way more confidence and are finally starting to embrace life with a “take no prisoners” kind of flare.
I ponder all of this as I wait my turn. Maybe it’s the Advil kicking in but after a while I start to feel proud and defiant. Let the world see us as homemakers, middle-aged, and invisible but we know who we really are and we’re not going to let some out-dated stereotypes stand in our way.
I complete the New Patient Information form with a flourish, just as the dentist calls me in. As I get settled in the chair, he peruses the form. “So Mrs. Hamilton, I see here that you’re 46 and a . . . stripper?”