Guest Writer: Delia Lloyd
I have tremendous respect for women (and men) who choose to work inside the home. And yet, when it comes to myself, I’m fairly certain that – even if I wanted to – I could never make it as a housewife. (Or house husband, as the case may be.)
If you’ve ever wondered whether you were meant to work primarily inside or outside the home, here are five indicators that should influence your decision:
1. You need help operating basic appliances. I’m not talking about fancy, fuzzy-logic rice cookers or super-deluxe espresso machines (replete with matching grinders). I’m talking boilers. Last summer, my husband and I noticed that the heat would come on at seemingly odd times. We tried tinkering with the thermostat in the hallway, but that had no effect. But then the heat would go off again and we’d forget all about it. The other day, while a service repair man was at my flat fixing our washer/dryer, I asked him if he could take a look at our boiler to figure out what the problem was. He opened the cabinet, looked at the boiler for about three seconds, and then turned to me and said…“Um…Madam? See this large red button here that says ‘On‘?”
2. You can’t even read the symbols, let alone the instructions. Forget instruction manuals. I’m talking about the little symbols they devise for appliances so that even someone who can’t read (for example) can somehow manage to use the oven. Someone, that is, who isn’t me. I’ve lived in my house for nearly six months and – much like the heating problem, but even more frequently – I’d notice that whenever I put something in the oven, it tended to burn. Then, one evening when I was hosting a dinner party (and burning some lasagna), a friend of mine looked at the oven settings and noticed that the little squiggly lines that emanated off of one of the settings were also present on the setting I was using. “Um, no offense, but I think you’re grilling the lasagna” she said politely. (“Grill” being English for “broil.”) And when she showed me the little symbols, it all made perfect sense. Ah, so you mean you want to “bake” without the squiggly lines…got it.
3. You need to psych yourself up for ironing. My son now has to wear a suit and tie for the last two years of high school (we live in London, and he’s doing his A-Levels.) Which means that every Sunday evening, I find myself ironing five shirts that he can wear to school that week. It only takes about 15 minutes, max. And yet, I find ironing completely oppressive. In order to get myself through this ordeal, I literally have to play loud music, lay out all the shirts in assembly line fashion , and then talk to myself as I progress through each successive item. I wonder if others find ironing so alienating. I suspect they do not.
4. You can’t remember the number of rooms in a house. I’m not a terribly visual person (as I think #2 attests.) My husband – who is – can corroborate this. I once famously scoped out an apartment for us in Boston and came home extolling the virtues of our new “three bedroom,” only to have him arrive a short while later and inquire as to where the third bedroom was located. The answer was…nowhere. (It’s O.K., I have other talents…)
5. You need to follow recipes. I never cook without recipes. I’m not ashamed of this – I’ve grown to really enjoy cooking, especially for dinner parties – but I have always envied my friends who were confident enough to just stand there and throw a bunch of things together without stressing about quantities and if it will work. My goal is to gradually import my fondness for improvisation into the kitchen. Once I, you know, grow up, that is…
*Delia Lloyd is an American writer based in London. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times and on the BBC World Service. She blogs about adulthood at www.realdelia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @realdelia.