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'The Life'? Hardly!

Firstly let me start off by apologising for my lack of correspondence. Factors have combined to render me somewhat illiterate since July 20, and I am sure my 3 readers have been wondering what's going on (although not really because 2 of them are my parents and one of them is my therapist). Still, this is not the time nor place for explanations, so I will share with you my experience of the past 2 weeks.

A number of factors combined to present me with the perfect opportunity to test the age old question: is being a housewife really that hard? I mean we've been hearing for decades crass and sexist jokes about sandwiches and ironing boards and dishes, and i think behind these sneaky moments of humour there is a general belief that if you're a housewife you've somehow hit the jackpot of life. Your husband supports you, and all you have to do is take care of the 2.5 kids; keep them fed, clothed and alive, as well as clean the house and sexually satisfy your partner. Well, that is what is written in the job description anyway.

So let me explain my situation. I found myself off work. My parents were on the trip of a lifetime overseas for a few weeks. My sister was performing in a musical as well as attending class in the city. Her hours were ridiculous. Up at 6, out the door by 7, home at half four, dinner at 5, out the door 5:30, home again at 12, do it all again Tuesday. My role? To keep her fed. And sane. And anyone who knows me knows I take this role very seriously. Food had to be of an excellent standard for breakfast, lunch, and especially dinner. My other duties were to keep the household alive, which involved feeding cats, cleaning their disgusting habits, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, visiting grandma, paying the bills, putting the garbage out.. etc etc.

Not a huge task? Ha! For starters, Bec had gotten bored of sandwiches and was existing on a diet of microwaveable rice for lunches and fish fingers for dinner. No, this will not do! So I set about sorting things out. Dinners had to be meticulously planned so they were on the table by 5. Lunches had to be planned to waste minimal (I am quite poor) and deliver maximal taste and fulfillment. Generally, planning took up a couple of hours a day as I scoured recipe magazines for ideas whilst performing other tasks, such as eating and cleaning. Then cooking. I've never been a big fan of the meat and three veg, unless there is some crazy sauce or some insane asian ingredient I can add to it (see an upcoming article on quail eggs and other oddities). So cooking took up loads of time. Hours a day. I wanted her to have the best meals, healthy and yum. I was going to be the best mum!

By the third day I was completely clacked out. Mentally I was exhausted, recipes were spinning around in my head, tasks that weren't being done because of all the cleaning I had to do were staring me in the face at every turn. The cats were depressed, the lawn was out of control and my veggie patch was suffering with the injustice of it all. I sat down on Wednesday night after cooking an absolute killer meal (god knows what it was now), and said to myself 'holy shit, this housewife thing is bloody tough!'.

And it is! Since then I have eased up a bit, gotten smarter, more cunning. Meals are cooked in big batches well in advance and frozen, so if the need is there I can pop it in the microwave and we're good to go in ten minutes. Today I made teriyaki chicken with fried rice. The fried rice was frozen from Sunday night, the chicken was cut in to the strips and took 5 minutes to cook, and I'd long since stocked my fridge with enough random Asian ingredients to knock up a half decent sauce in 4 minutes flat. Dinner took 12 minutes and tasted awesome. It's why I have time to sit down and write this.

What I am trying to say is that I have such a renewed appreciation of the women of the households, and my mother. How in god's name she juggled 2 kids, a hungry husband, a job, all the financial responsibilities of the household, cleaning and cooking and lunches and breakfasts and organising sports and after school care and still managing to stay sane is absolutely completely beyond me. Maybe it comes with practice. But I think there are many teenagers and members of my generation out there who have yet to experience the rigours of independence, and even more who have crossed back in to the nightmare of dependents. As the fortnight has progressed it is true, I have learnt my lessons. To minimise cost I save absolutely everything. You never know when that leftover pasta might be good for a salad, or that half a cup of sauce could be spread over some mashed potatoes, or those apple slices could be slipped in to some oats for breakfast. I load everything up with veggies to make it last longer, and am working my way through all the meat in the freezer before I shop for anything too outlandish.

This is all giving me time to devote to other tasks like cleaning and paying bills. The respect I now have for housewives is immense. It is no jackpot, landing a husband who will earn the money. You still have a career, you're a mum! And if you don't apply yourself to it the same way you would a job your performance will be poor and the results will be poor, which is actually quite crucial. If you get fired from your desk job you can go get another one. Or drive a truck. If you underperform as a mum or dad, you don't get to buy another kid and start over (with the exception of Indonesia).

Give your mum a big hug. And for god's sake cook her dinner!

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