One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

January 16, 2011

Farmwife

For unknown reasons I occasionally pat myself on the back for my inventiveness and hard work by fancying that I would have made a decent turn-of-the-century farmwife, like when I complete a giant batch of soup or beautify the house on scraps I have on hand. I say “unknown reasons” because even as I am thinking, “what a great farmwife I would have made,” I am also shaking my head and wondering, “why are you holding this very simplistic representation of domestic achievement up as something to aspire to? Shouldn’t you be asking some tougher and more philosophical questions about what would constitute real domestic achievement such as equality and happiness and self-realization for all family members?” (Haha. Feminists take the fun out of eeeeeverything.)

However, then I have a day like today, where a little bit of industry leaves me in agony. And I think, “holy crap, I’m only 32 and have only had 3 babies. In a less modern age, I’d be only halfway through the wear and tear of my childbearing years.”

But then I remember that the big reason why my body won’t stand up to anything these days is because of traumatic interventions in my first labour and delivery. And I probably wouldn’t have had those interventions at the turn of the century – so maybe I wouldn’t be dealing with all this pain from regular household activities.

And then I remember that without those interventions, I suppose I probably would not have survived that labour and delivery – so definitely I wouldn’t be dealing with all this pain from regular household activities.

What does all this signify? Nothing, since whether or not I would have survived or would be fitter has no bearing on the fact that many turn-of-the-century farmwives were chronically ill, in pain or disabled. So really, it’s just that when I am trying to be productive in the modern age and am hampered by chronic pain, I frequently think about how much discretion I do have to just not do that work, and I wonder how they did it. What their family lives were like. How many of them had supportive communities, husbands who cared, children who could pitch in. And how many of them had no choice but to push through it. I ponder how much illness illuminates for us the parts of our lives that are our own, and the parts where we are owned.

But I was industrious today. Made a huge batch of cinnamon oatmeal pancakes for my brood, did a bunch of laundry, made homemade pizza and then made a giant batch of lentil soup for our lunches this week. But I also took a break in there to go swimming with my family, where I mostly ignored my family and sat in the hot tub – which I most certainly would not have had the opportunity to do at the turn of the century. And I also quit midway through the laundry. And both my pizza and my soup are the world’s most convenient (throw these various canned and frozen goods together type) recipes. So I guess the conclusion is I would have made a godawful turn-of-the-century farmwife. Which is a relief, because that clearly is not the pinnacle of domestic achievement to which I should aspire.

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  1. Alison

     /  2011-01-17

    Well, maybe not a farmwife. I can see you more as a middle-class lady who has some domestic help for the heavy work. You get to sit in your parlour and do sewing and needlework, and when the mood strikes you do some soup or jam making, but mostly you direct operations.

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