By: Erica Kortepeter-Ragan
Today I am doing something different – I am sharing an essay by my friend, Erica Kortepeter-Ragan.
Erica Kortepeter-Ragan is passionate about the causes of women of the past and present. She wrote this article in response to the recent public comments of President Trump that perpetuate the myth of a suburban housewife who sits at home without anything else to do but wear aprons and bake pies.
Erica’s grandmother was an original suburban housewife and even then did not “fit” this mold. In reality, she was a true “Rosie the Riveter,” who helped in the war cause, then worked as a bookkeeper and had hired women from her neighborhood to cook, clean and help raise her children in the gap time between work and home, much as women do today.
Erica is a New York State ESL Teacher and Author of the One-Act Play Conversations in Mary’s Home, about the life of Susan B. Anthony. The play was last performed at the Annual Volunteer Dinner for the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House located in Rochester, NY.
Thanks for sharing your opinion piece here on Mom Home Guide, Erica!
I actually became a “Suburban Housewife” today. Let me explain. I did not have to be at work (clue right there that I am not really a suburban housewife from the get-go), so I thought I would test it out.
I slept in a little, but not too much because I unfortunately just couldn’t sleep. Too bad. Too many things to do and to think about. (Are “true” housewives supposed to think?)
My husband had to get to his job and once he was up, there went my own rest. Sad…I didn’t make him breakfast, but I guess if I were really such a housewife I would have done so. Actually, I often make breakfast for him and ALL the family when we are BOTH working, so go figure.
After I had my OWN breakfast, I sorted out laundry that had been piling up in the bedroom for days. Actually, if I am honest, I technically started the housewife role yesterday when I finally tackled the linen closet. A little bit of a head start. Now IT had not been sorted for years! (Add in smiling emoji with two tears.)
We now have divided rows again of at least semi-neatly folded towels, sheets, pillowcases etc., and I was able to take out some items that could be given away or turned into rags – for more cleaning in the future? Marie Kondo would be proud. (And if I am being TOTALLY honest, I really didn’t DO the laundry, my husband did, so, YUP, not fitting the role.)
With the closet complete, towels and other linens in place and most of all of the laundry put away I turned to helping my son. Nope, didn’t make him breakfast either. Sigh, I guess life is just too modern. He had slept until noon and was out the door with friends to eat a burger for lunch at a local hamburger place. Note — the time was NOON when I finished all of the above.
That left me and the dog. I put the dog out. Our broom is his mortal enemy and it is one reason why I don’t pull it out more often…not because I work or anything since I am really NOT a suburban housewife.
On to the sweeping and dust mopping. Under all of the beds, hall and down the stairs. Because cleaning is not one of my innate talents, I had to read on the Internet a while back that the best way to clean a home is from the top down, so after the rooms, I swept and dusted it all down the stairs. That took about two more hours. Oh, and of course I swept the areas without rugs on the main floor.
I did have to eat again, but only grazed a little for lunch before I got back to my tasks. I had way too much to do. I got carried away with the sweeping and took the sweeping outdoors to the porch. The dog was not happy, so he got to go back inside for a little while.
Next was the vacuuming. I vacuumed all of the main floor of the house, the dog exiled again outdoors. The vacuum is another one of his enemies. Actually no one really likes the vacuum so it’s good I was on my own today because maybe that is what is best about being a suburban housewife. Nothing to do but clean the house? And then no one to complain about how loud the vacuum is. I should have worn earplugs though to protect my own ears. There is no such thing as a quiet vacuum.
It’s 5 p.m. – did I neglect to mention that I had to be on a Zoom meeting for over an hour to visit with an elderly parent? On the official housewife list or not? I don’t know. Must be, because when home, a housewife is by default the caregiver of all, old or young, even for those not in one’s own family.
Soon my husband will be home, but how did I neglect to make dinner? I actually forgot. I have been so busy. Also, I never got to the bathrooms or beyond a cursory sweep of the kitchen floor. What about all the counters, “real” mopping and “real” cleaning with chemicals that I hate and am allergic to?
Didn’t Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” have it all together down to the perfume and lipstick when her husband came home from work? I am running out of time. I should have thought of a slow cooker meal earlier in the day. Maybe I am more like Mary Richards on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” – but wait, she was a single woman and working. (Confusing, same actress.)
In fact, I’m not sure there is such a person as a suburban housewife. Maybe sometime in history there was someone’s image of one. I still doubt that there is really a “true” one out there, now or in any era?
Maybe I am trying to emulate someone that really doesn’t exist in 2020. After all, someone who is truly a suburban housewife would have to have enough money to stay at home and take care of the house, husband and children, oh, and dog at her leisure. A life of leisure.
Unfortunately I’m not sure any woman has really experienced a life of leisure even in the era it was supposed to have been. Wasn’t it the 1950’s when women supposedly had pies cooling daily on their windowsills and wore aprons all day? Sorry Laura, you are just a TV character. Much loved, maybe, amusing, but totally unrealistic even in your time and certainly not in 2020. I did enjoy my one day of, well – -not really leisure though.