The Perfect Wife

The ad sounded simple enough.  Wanted:  Do-It-All Sally with Barbie Stewardess smile who can maintain Sunset Home filled with children and pets, teach college preparatory school curriculum while providing beautiful, nutritious meals three times daily from extensive organic kitchen garden.  Must possess current valid Class B driver’s license, EMT certification, and fashion model registration.  Minimum bachelor’s degree in child psychology or hotel management.  Bilingual in Latin/English preferred.  Successful applicant will have complete security of position for a minimum of two decades in exchange for compensation. Live -in position; time off by appointment only.

I’m not sure it’s always worth it.  Criticisms are plentiful and pay raises non-existent.   How come I can be reprimanded by hired dance teachers for being tardy, volunteer baseball coaches for not providing a clean jersey, and my own charges for dinner being too hot – all in one day – but never get fired, even if I burn the kitchen down?

Weren’t we told as children that once we found Prince Charming and were whisked away on his fine white charger that we’d live happily ever after?  I don’t remember diapers and dirty dishes in “Cinderella.”  I distinctly remember a shining castle with a wait staff in that final portrait.  I also thought it said something about “and all their dreams came true.”

illustration by Chuck Gillies, in "The Sleeping Rose"

And then we find out once we’ve signed on for the position that there’s fine print to the deal.  The Christian wife must dress modestly, so no neighbor is tempted, but intriguingly, so her husband is.  She must expend an absolute minimum on all aspects of the venture, so that the budget is always balanced.   No matter how many times the baby has been up overnight, she must have hot coffee ready for her man before he leaves for work in his freshly pressed shirt.  She is to send him off with a full tummy, a smile and a kiss, and alluringly welcome him back home the same way, to a clean house and completed assignment list, ten to twelve hours later.  If he is angry or depressed about his job situation, she will sympathetically listen and cheerfully encourage him, regardless of what kind of  handbasket her day has gone to hell in.  She is eternally content to have the luxury of  a stable career and lucrative ministry in rearing their children – simultaneously with keeping the home fires burning.  I couldn’t find a photo of this;  I had to resort to an illustration in one of my children’s books.

Then how, exactly, is this humanly possible?

It is not – by design.  God wants us to realize that we cannot do it on our own.  That’s what the Ten Commandments were about, too.  They are so simple, yet so impossible to maintain.  Sure, I can probably make it through life without murdering anyone, but how many of us made it through adolescence completely honoring our parents?  I’m not sure what obedience to the first couple commandments even looks like, but I suspect I’m not doing overly well.  Everybody will fall down somewhere in them, and that’s exactly their purpose.

But I’m getting out of my depth.  I’m just a housewife.  I can’t even keep up my everyday chores without feeling the desire to run, screaming, from the building.  So why were we all led to believe that adult life would look like Sleeping Beauty’s final scene?  That is so not reality.  Even though it’d be easier to just shuck everybody out of the house and do the work myself, all would be for nought the minute the whirlwinds returned.  I must teach them to clean after themselves and develop a lifestyle of orderliness in order for my workload to come into something less than slavery.  Sometimes, though, I think I will expire of absolute exhaustion first, and they’ll trip over my body for two weeks before noticing I’m gone.  Maybe not – when dinner doesn’t magically appear in front of them, they’ll go hunt me up.  Then they’ll go to McDonald’s.

But somebody told me once that this is a ministry, and I should derive eternal pleasure from my duties.  Couldn’t I just keep it up one more day?

No.

It’s going to take more than telling myself I’m doing a great job.  Something superhuman, because I am not moving another inch in service to anyone without divine intervention.  Yesterday, I was struggling with a passage in Hebrews. My daughter woke early and came to sit in my lap, which meant now I had to juggle a wiggly toddler for my “quiet time”.   She ran to get her Children’s Bible, and insisted I find the page so she could study with me.  I forced a smile and did the right thing.  If there’s one thing I don’t tolerate well, it’s interruptions in the morning before I have my head together.   But I read her the passage out of her Bible anyway.  Instantly, the words came alive and I understood – but not before she had jumped down to go find out if brother was awake.  I was relieved to be left alone as the words jumped off the page to explain everything I was struggling with.  Then I chuckled as I grasped that it was no accident she’d awakened uncharacteristically early.

This morning I woke up tired before I’d begun.  It seems I have more to do now that my two oldest are off at work during the days.  So I decided to tackle the biggest drudgery first.  I ironed about a dozen shirts, hung them up, and returned to find that the little kids painting at the kitchen table had turned into four beings of different hues.  I thought I had the Blue Man Group in my dining room, but one was red.  And they were shorter.  I uttered one word:  showers.  In their dash to the bathroom, one went the most direct route straight across Mom’s Persian rug.  I saw that the dog, too, had a blue paw and was trying to round them up.    I had more mess than floor.  Of course, Grandma’s little song would end all my frustrations, right?    “This is the way we wash the rug, scrub the tub and bathe the dog;  This is the way we clean the room, so early in the morning!”  Never a dull moment in the homeschool household, that’s for sure.  And now another load of laundry.

But tomorrow I will get up and do it again.  I may actually keep my baby’s Bible next to my chair so I can remember that I’m not sitting here alone.  I can do it for one day.  Not one day more; each day has sufficient troubles to drop me thankfully in bed at night.   But each morning, I must stop at my chair and fill up my tank in order to make it through today.  Because there is no such thing as perfection alone.

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5 thoughts on “The Perfect Wife

  1. Brenda, this one blew me away. I was moved to tears, bittersweet, yet proud. This should be required reading for all girls in about the tenth grade, when they are dreaming of rose-covered cottages with perfect little cherubs at play among the flowers. Never does the thought cross their minds of bee stings, mud, squabbles and hair-pulling. Sing it, daughter, loud and clear, and the sisterhood chorus replies, AAAA-MEN!

  2. Once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Housewife is seen as such a derogatory word and describes a thankless job. Even though life is right there in front of you when growing up, you never quite get a good enough look at it to see it for what it really is. If you want your kids to see what life is really like, toss the Disney stories and go right to the source with the Brothers Grimm version of the stories. Happy endings are a little hard to find in the originals. My wife hates the live or die speech, but here goes a shorter version. When you get right down to it, you have two choices in life. Do it or don’t. Live or die.

    I agree with Ginger that this should be required for 10th grade girls as a primer for what life is like. Keep up the good work.

  3. I was always comfortable with my first wife dressing provocatively (but tastefully); I was pleased with her figure, and the attentions of other men simply confirmed my taste and good fortune in the selection of a mate. My attitude was always ‘look all you want; she goes home with me’. Besides, it was good for her ego and I trusted her completely.

    A beautiful sunset is wasted if you’re the only one who sees it.

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