It can be hard to reconcile my outward image with my inner turmoil these days. I sigh and cry out, weeping and gnashing my teeth as I read the news. My heart is heavy over it all. Everything from the lack of paid family leave to the fact that climate change is an actual thing. The explicit racism that seems to be taking over. The recent rash of natural disasters, the failure of our justice system, and the lack of laws for reasonable gun control. And at the head of it, most frustrating of all, that man in the White House (He Who Shall Not Be Named).
I cheer on our female leaders, soak up their theology, buy their books, laugh at the late-night shows, subscribe to the New York Times. I want to raise my young kids to know of the injustice in the world, to work for change, to talk and ask questions and be anything they want to be. I write and I read and I discuss and I work to understand the things I don't.
And I’m a housewife.
It may be a phrase reminiscent of the ’50s, but it’s true. Call it what you will: homemaker (yeesh, even more of a relic), stay-at-home mom, SAHM for us millennials. I cook, clean, fold laundry, match socks, and put away toys. I even enjoy some of these things. (Gasp!) I bake my own bread, cloth diaper those little bottoms, and host neighborhood playdates.
There’s a tension inside of me lately. If you peek in from the outside, everything about my life screams basic stay-at-home mom. One income, a house in the suburbs, three kids, a minivan; a woman who spends her days at playdates, running errands, cleaning house, and with our neighbors. Surrounded by people who, due to circumstance, mostly live and look just like us. This stands in stark contrast to my inner feminist, the one who devours the news and analyzes it each night with my husband or over (local, craft) beers on the weekend with my cousin.
Though maybe not such a stark contrast. I am the same person, both feminist and housewife, after all. These things are not mutually exclusive. They only seem like opposing views because society tends to box us in that way. As though I can’t be a feminist just because I am also a housewife.
My beer-loving cousin is a teacher—middle school social studies— and politically active. He's white, straight, and male. He told me that for the first time in his 15-year teaching career he let his students know who he was voting for before the last presidential election. As a teacher in a large metro area, his classes are a mixed bag of backgrounds and socioeconomic status. Many are Somali immigrants, mostly Muslim, possibly illegal. It was unthinkable to him that his students could think for a second that he supported a man who ran on a platform of kicking their families out of the country. Just because of who my cousin is, what he looks like, what could possibly be wrongly perceived from the outside.
So much grates on me for the very same reason. White, middle class, privileged. It feels that so much of me could be perceived one way when in fact I feel exactly the opposite.
If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find hints of rebellion in me. I’ve never owned an iron, for one. (Such a rebel.) Neither the kids nor I possess any clothing that requires ironing. Tyson works a flexible schedule from home, mostly in sweatpants, no traditional suit-and-tie 9-5 job here. (And the dry cleaner takes over those pesky ironing duties the few times a year he does wear a dress shirt.) While I handle most of the child and household-related tasks due to the fact that I do stay home, he is quick to take over everything from dishes to diaper duty on the evenings and weekends. This summer we attended our local Pride festival, joining in the fun of the family-friendly area, where my children played games and colored pictures and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary besides the fact that everyone was wearing so many bright colors. My e-reader is filled with book titles that educate with humor or scream for change (or both): Jesus Feminist, Of Mess and Moxie, Hillbilly Elegy, The Unwinding, Love Warrior, Just Mercy.
I’m an iced-coffee drinking, JCrew wearing, Target shopping, fall-loving basic girl who also has a heart that screams for change. Who has wild thoughts in her head of running for office (I would hate it), writing a book (maybe), and taking her kids to protest marches (much more plausible).
I don’t know what to do with this tension, except sit in it. The best I can do right now is educate myself, to read about my own privilege and the abounding injustice in this world, raise my kids, and work on living a life based on love and understanding. I continue to work on teaching and practicing empathy, compassion, discernment. Each afternoon, snack time finds me at the kitchen table with all three kids, reading aloud from our storybook Bible, answering their questions and talking it through, about the radical Savior who stood up to the leaders, sat with the sinners, and came along in love just in time to rescue us all.
I cringe sometimes, thinking how we must look from the outside, this neat and tidy “perfect” little family in our cheerful blue suburban home. I often feel like anything but. Still, my traditional stay-at-home mom life doesn’t confine me to one neat little box. I don’t want to be boxed in, but turning around and boxing up someone else is just as bad. And I am so guilty of that this time around. Writing off anyone who checked a different box on that ballot as "the other". I am working so hard to fix that.
In the end, this life as a housewife — the cooking and the cleaning and the laundry — really is the backbeat of our lives. Tyson and I show our children how our household runs, with love and respect and cooperation. There is an importance to these things, mundane though they may be. They keep our household running, functioning, ensuring that we are clothed and fed and happy so that we can go out and change the world. Or just get to preschool on time.
Besides, my inner rebel may be emerging a bit, if you happen to see me in that preschool drop-off line. I recently added purple streaks to my hair and a “Nasty Woman” pin to the diaper bag. Take that, stereotypes.