Posts Tagged ‘housewife’
This morning I was in a showroom that sells stone flooring tiles. I need to get our front path repaved as, after eight years of Gulf summers, the current tiles have given up the ghost. DH, quite rightly, has washed his hands of the whole job. At this stage of our marriage, he works and I run the house (or, as he prefers to put it, “I make the money and you spend it”).
It seemed, though, that I’d chosen one of the most expensive stone in the showroom. And for some reason, the salesman didn’t like that one bit.
“We have cheap Omani marble here,” he said, kicking a slab of dull, white stone I wouldn’t put under our rubbish bin. “Use that – a quarter the price.”
“But I really like the other one,” I said. “How much will 15 square metres come to?” But still he wouldn’t level with me.
“It’s different depending on whether you get pre-cut tiles, or you have the stone cut to order,” he said.
“So tell me the options,” I said, pencil poised to make notes. “What sizes do the tiles come in?”
“Madam,” he said, sighing, and I realised we were finally getting to the crux of the matter. “You get budget approval from boss at home for before I talk to you about prices. If husband approves AED 6,000, you come back and we talk sizes and costs.”
What a contrast it was to the greasy garage I’d been in half an hour before. As part of my morning’s work as housewife, DH had asked me to get two new tyres put on his car. I was kind of expecting patronising and/or sexist behaviour from the grease monkeys, as is often the case when assertive white women stride in demanding high-performance Pirellis – but those men couldn’t have been nicer.
As all four of them lined up to wave me off, one said ever so nicely, “Thank you for first-time visit our workshop, madam.”
Another said, “We have nice coffee-tea machine. You tried coffee-tea?”
“Yes, I tried, thank you,” I said. “Very nice coffee.”
“Come again soon,” said a third. “Any time wheel-balancing – always good job for madam.”
Now that’s more like it.
Some mornings, it’s like Groundhog Day in our house: Me, standing naked in front of the wardrobe, showered, makeup on, wardrobe doors open to reveal 780 outfits bursting out, whining to DH: “I’ve got nothing to wear.”
DH, of course, has a variety of replies that range from “Darling, you look good in everything” to “Oh for god’s sake, stop buying so much crap”, depending on his mood.
Sometimes he even takes a photo of me standing there naked to make me hurry up – trust me, there’s nothing like seeing your backside in the full light of day to make you get dressed quickly (I hope he never loses his phone!).
But what I’d like to share with you on this topic is this: At the ripe old age of 41, I’ve suddenly realised why I never have anything to wear, despite having two full closets.
It’s because I still buy clothes – beautiful clothes – for a lifestyle that I no longer lead.
My wardrobe is chock-a-block full of divine office clothes and glamorous evening-out clothes. I collect dresses, for example, like other people collect speeding tickets. I love them. I love the cuts, the fabrics, the colours. I buy them in colour blocks and in stripes; I buy shifts, gowns and sheaths; in linens, silks and shimmering satins.
And I buy high heels to go with them. Vertiginously high, strappy sandals by Vince Camuto, from Tod’s, and from Russell & Bromley. They’re beautiful shoes, delicately scented of leather. I know, because I get them out every now and then and I stroke them.
But do I wear them? The high heels and the dresses?
Hell no. I don’t wear them because my life – which consists largely of walking through deep sand in 45˚C to pick up two or three children, then slow-walking back through the sand lugging a couple of backpacks while holding on to a few sticky children – is not compatible with silk shift dresses and Vince Camuto heels.
What I need is a wardrobe of shorts, of vests and of flip-flops. But where’s the fun in buying those? That, friendos, I now understand, is why I have nothing to wear.
DH was like a little kid when he came home from the office last Thursday night.
“Long weekend!” he sighed as he sank into the sofa. “No work till Monday!”
“Yay! No school on Sunday!” yelled the kids, jumping about with glee. “What can we do, mummy? Cinema? Play area? Play dates? Swimming!”
And you know what? If anyone deserves a long weekend, it’s my DH. He routinely puts in an 11-hour day – often a 13-hour day – and didn’t get a day off at all last weekend. While I know he enjoys his job, I’m still grateful to him for being the main wage-earner.
“But,” a small, unentitled voice within me whispered, “what about me? I am quite royally knackered, too, and I would give my back teeth for a long lie-in and a little time ‘off’.”
As the housewife of the family, I’m the one who holds everything together; the one who keeps the cogs turning; the family well-fed; the bills paid; the a/c working; the pool clean; and the house ticking over. I’m the one who gets the flights booked; the suitcases packed; the homework done; the cars serviced; and the social life organised – the one who maintains the rhythm of our happy house – but when do I ever get a three-day weekend?
Actually, come to think about it, when do I get a “weekend” at all?
My working days are 13 hours long, seven days a week, and they’re not spent in an air-conditioned office. They’re spent running from pillar to post in 40+ degrees of heat, soaked in sweat and usually dragging various children with me, wrestling them into car seats, listening to their screams, wiping their tears, adjudicating their fights, toiling over a hot stove to make dinners that are thrown back at me – and trying to be “fun” as well.
And a three-day weekend for me means nothing more than an extra day of the above when, really, the kids should be at school – and I have to get my “other job” done on top of doing all the above.
No wonder I’m so blinkin’ knackered.
I nipped out of the house today to pick up yoghurt as part of my “white” dinner (more on this tomorrow). A trip to the local shop here is about as exciting as waiting for DS to vomit, which is what I’d spent a large part of today doing, so I didn’t bother strapping on the gold Jimmy Choos, as I’m sure you can imagine.
But, as I walked out of the shop, a pot of low-fat yoghurt in each hand, I heard a strange rumbling sound, which heralded the arrival in the car park of a most unusual-looking car driven by a rather nice-looking young man. Being something of a secret petrol-head, I had a split-second thought about going over to ask him about his car. Maybe he’d even let me sit in it!
But, then I remembered.
Having popped out from my vigil by DS’s sick bed, I was in no fit state to be seen by handsome young sports-car drivers. I was a 41-year-old housewife on a down-day. I was wearing GAP khaki shorts that only just covered my cellulite (no mean feat given that can extend, on a bad day, to my knees) with an unremarkable white t-shirt and flip-flops that have seen me through two pregnancies in their eight-year lifespan.
To top it all off, I thought, as I moped quietly back to my family four-wheel-drive, I’m not even blonde anymore. Who was I kidding?
I sometimes think of my life as a champagne fountain.
And, while I’d like to imagine that means it’s glamorous, sparkling and pleasurable, the reality has nothing to do with fun and everything to do with the balancing act that’s required to stop the whole precarious creation from toppling.
I pack so much into my days, from 6am to 10pm, that there’s not a lot of room for leeway. Take out a glass in the middle of the fountain – in other words, sabotage a 12pm appointment by turning up 10 minutes late – and the whole day topples like dominoes.
Those women (and I know a few), who, when you ask them what they’ve got planned for the day, say “Oh, I might go back to bed after the school run”, or “Maybe I’ll download some more games on the iPad” – those women? We are a different species.
But other mums I know liken their lives to spinning plates on sticks – dashing from one stick to another to stop the whole lot from crashing down. I understand that because I once had it, but I don’t really feel it since I stopped working full-time.
Other days I see myself as a swan, gliding gracefully along a river with my head held high, but paddling like mad underwater where no-one can see that my little yellow legs are struggling against the current (do swans pant? I’ve been known to pant).
And on really bad days I see myself as a tiny little spider trying desperately to climb the inside wall of a wet highball tumbler; forever sliding back down to the bottom just before I reach the rim. But, to be honest, that only really happens on the days when I’m trying to have a civil conversation with our bank .
I’ve been busy lately, planning the family’s summer holidays. Anyone who thinks you just go onto emirates.com and click “book flights” has no concept of what entails a family holiday. Honest to god, it’s not an easy task.
We have flights. We have stops in hotels because onward flights don’t connect. We have more flights and more nights in hotels because cruises and flights don’t connect. We have The Cruise (more on this another day, I’m sure). We have shore excursions and we have drinks packages. Then we have car rental, Spanish villas, optional WiFi and pool heaters. And return flights, airport transfers and UK car rental. We have different people returning to Dubai on different days. We have the possibility of a Skywards upgrade (fat chance).
And then, after all that’s signed and sealed, we have Gerlie’s flights to organise.
See? Not simple.
So, I’ve been doing a bit at a time. Disappearing into my office after dinner with a glass of Merlot and choosing airlines, seats, meal plans and hotels. Reading hotel reviews, checking airline timetables, viewing ship cabins on You Tube. And every now and then I make a decision and click “book”.
Then I wander back into the living room and collapse on the sofa with a sigh.
“Booked the flights then?” asks DH with a smug smile.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. But how do you know?
He knows because our bank calls him up, late at night on the sofa, to tell him that his wife’s booked flights to Europe, a hotel and a hire car in Spain and does he mind? Shall they let her? (And what does she need a 9-seater for anyway?)
Welcome, Dubai, to the 21st century. This, dear friends, is life as a Housewife.
I’ve only been 41 for a month and, finally, my age has caught up with me.
Not in the way of appearance, of course – I’ve been getting “Mummy! You’ve got bags under your eyes!” for yonks now – but in outlook.
Walking through Mirdiff City Centre the other week, with a surprise hour to spare, I realised that I was finding the usual clothes shops very boring. I mean, clothes-shmothes – once you’ve got some, who needs more?
Instead, I found myself drawn to Lakeland – the shop about which I used to tease my mother when, every time I went home, she’d present me with yet another oblique kitchen gadget – you know, things like milk-frothers and mango-splitters for which a childless person who eats out five nights a week and even orders in her cappuccino has absolutely no use.
But things, they’re different now. Now I’m a 41-year-old Housewife with two children, I see the value of a yellow plastic banana protector and of a baking paper that’s greaseproof on one side and foiled on the other (genius!).
I could have spent hours in Lakeland. Every item I picked up was the answer to a question I’ve asked or an irritation I’ve felt at some point in my life as a Housewife.
Baking beads; wooden lolly sticks; tubs in which to store the unused half of the apple, tomato or onion (what will I do with the empty margarine tubs?); bread bags; storage solutions; shelving maximisers; cupcake papers in every conceivable size; sandwich toasting bags; silicone cake moulds; bake ware beyond belief; and my personal favourite: Non-slip, leopard-print clothes hangers – just think, no more silk tops lying crumpled on my shoes (yes please!).
I was too overwhelmed to buy anything on that first, wide-eyed visit, but I’ve got to admit: I’ve since reinvestigated the dusty mango-splitter and my opinion’s changed: If you like mangoes, it’s brillsville.
Sometimes I wonder why I went to university.
I mean, all that late-night swotting at the library; all that exam anxiety; the reading lists; the lectures; the psychobiology experiments; the dissertations; the hot summers of exams – they were for what, I wonder?
As DH and I sweated it out on late-night study sessions (yes, we met at university), at no point was there a moment when he said, “You may as well go to bed, hotlips – you’ll be looking after the kids, anyway, so doesn’t really matter if you get a 1st or a 2:2. Mine’s the career that’s going to matter.”
And, for a few years, I had my career. Amazingly, I earned more than DH for a time. Then I earned less, but still a decent wage. I was the boss; I ran my own company. I was responsible for people – not just their careers, but their lives and the lives of their dependants.
And then I had children.
So now, while DH now dazzles on the professional stage, earns a million and networks over cocktails at Zuma and dinners at The Riv, my degree (a 2:1 BSc Hons from Warwick University, by the way) sits figuratively on the mantelpiece while I spend my days driving the school run; sitting in car parks while DS sleeps in the back of the car; making packed lunches; mindfully dozing in public play areas; coaching the children through dinner; and calming toddler tantrums.
It’s hardly Honours degree work, is it?
And then I remember what exactly it was I got from university.
22 years after I packed my teddy bear and my text books and headed up north to study, it’s funny to think that the most valuable thing I gained from university was not my degree, but my husband.
I don’t know at which school you trained, but let me give you a quick crash course. If you want me to get your hands on any my family’s hard-earned cash, please pay heed to the following:
- Cold-calling at lunchtime, school pick-up time, kids’ dinner-time, bath-time or bedtime will get you nothing more than an irritated “not interested”.
- Asking me “when’s a good time to call?” will also get you a curt reply. You want this call, not me! If you push it, the answer’s “never”.
- Getting my name wrong will never impress me.
- If you think I’ve got to the age of 40 and had two children without planning my financial future, you’re underestimating me. That’s doesn’t make me like you.
- Telling me I’ve been selected as one of “Dubai’s highest earners” makes me realise how badly informed you are. I am a housewife. My income is zero; it’s measured in the heart, not the wallet.
- Telling me I’m a valued client when I closed my accounts with your bank in disgust back in 2007 isn’t a good introductory sentence.
- Telling me I’ve been selected for a preferential mortgage rate is, quite frankly, ridiculous. One, I already have a house, and two, do I have to say it again? I have no income!
- Sending me a gold credit card that I haven’t asked for just embarrasses the courier as I will foam at the mouth, curse the bank and refuse to accept delivery.
- Assuming that because I’m a housewife I have all the time in the world to “meet for coffee and a chat” (“Everyone has time for a coffee, don’t they, Mrs Dubai?” Um. No) insults me.
- Asking to meet me in Costa Coffee makes me feel uncomfortable. Do you really expect me to divulge me family’s financial status in a public coffee shop? Seriously?
- If I agree to see you, calling me up from your car to tell me that my house doesn’t exist, just because you can’t find it, makes me wish you didn’t exist.
- And, finally, you turning up in a car that cost more than my house makes me want to lock the door and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.
So, here it is. Within days, I’ll be 40 years old. A friend who knew me in my wilder days summed it up nicely: “How did that happen?” she asked. I know exactly what she means.
There I was, two minutes ago, aged 19 with the world at my gawky feet. Then I was married (26) and still thought I was 19. I enjoyed turning 30; thanks to six months in the gym, I was fit, slim and happy, and I was going places with my career (but I still felt as if I was 19). I didn’t take the milestone very seriously.
A lot’s happened between 30 and 40. My career went from strength to strength. I had two babies, gave up full-time employment and settled into life as a housewife and mother. It took some adjusting but, now, if anyone asks me if I’ll go back to work, I shudder, quite literally, at the thought and laugh like a loon.
These days, I’ve learned not to take sh*t from anyone. I still have crummy posture but I’ve grown into my face. My body’s healthy and it’s not in bad shape (I just have to stop comparing it with the 20-year-olds in the celebrity magazines). I’ve learned, through my children, the qualities of patience, selflessness and unconditional love.
Yeah, generally, I’m happy about turning 40. The fact that the transition will take place in a luxury pool villa on a tropical island in the Maldives is the icing on the cake: No more, no less. Mwa!