Friday, June 4, 2010

A Man Needs a Maid

When I was a kid, my dad had tons of records. LPs they're called. Vinyl. You can only find them in vintage stores or garage sales these days. You can glimpse them in the John Cusack film High Fidelity.

One artist my dad loved is Neil Young. I was thinking about a song on Young's Harvest album entitled "A Man Needs a Maid." Young writes, "Just someone to keep my house clean, fix my meals and go away."

About six months ago, I started working full-time hours for a client. For the fifteen years prior, I have been steadily self-employed, running my own agency and then freelancing. When you work for yourself, you get used to calling the shots. You also get used to other fun stuff like being self-insured at $1,500 per month. Still there's something to be said for having the freedom to come and go, being able to run away to Ethiopia for example.

The adjustment to working full-time outside my home has been tough. In some ways, it's great. I know where I'm going everyday. I have my lunch buddies. In other ways, it feels very strange.

The biggest issue for me has been getting used to being away from home. We had to find after-school child care for our son. I can't throw a load of laundry in the dryer whenever I need to or wear crappy sweat pants all day because no one is going to see me anyway.

Mainly I've noticed how quickly my home fell into disrepair. I can feel the dust collecting on my bare feet. Clothes that need ironing are piling up in the basement. We eat out more often than in the past. Homework is a disaster. I can't make lunch everyday for my son.

These are the issues all working women face. I've always looked with envy at the other moms who are so organized. Even when I was at home, I wasn't organized. But my house was clean and the laundry was done and I cooked.

I was at a baseball game the other day - pretty much my entire social life at this point - and I was talking to other moms about what they have in their purse. I did have Advil that one of the dads needed. I have money, chapstick, a coin purse and a brush. But there are those mothers who have it all. Socket wrench? Check. Tourniquet? I can fashion one out of a handkerchief. Nail file, snack items, motor oil, cake knife, matches, corkscrew, flashlight, etc. All there and somehow neatly tucked away but at the ready for any occasion.

I can't even find my keys.

Now my house is in a permanent state of neglect. I'm not sure what the desired state would be, but I think ideally I would be able to find my keys. When you are the maid and the math tutor and the nanny, it's annoying. It's difficult and thankless. When you're a working mom, you really need a maid.

My husband and I were talking last night about work and stress and what we really want to do when we grow up. He asked me what I wanted to do and I said lately I've been obsessing about buying a truck. Not a new truck, but an old truck. A pick'em truck as my grandpa used to say. My husband said, "What are you going to do with a truck? Drive a bunch of baseballs around?"

"I'd head west," I said.

I was driving to work one morning and I heard the Avett Brothers covering a John Prine song called "Spanish Pipedream". I got the chills when I heard this refrain:

Blow up your TV. Throw away your paper.
Move to the country. Buy you a home.
Plant a little garden. Grow a lot of peaches.
Try and find Jesus, on your own.

NB I'm dedicating this blog to my friend Lisa C. who is one of those moms who does it all. I learned a very important lesson from her. Throw the dirty athletic cup into the wash with the rest of the baseball uniform. Now why didn't I think of that?


  1. amen sister...amen.
    pam houston, john prine, dems got it right.
    and here we schlep. oy...

  2. Well, you're brave Beck. I don't know if I could work outside of home anymore. I'm like that old dog that could learn a new trick, but doesn't really want to. Good on you, though!

  3. I never bought the "have it all" and "hear me roar" feminist rhetoric. Life's a bunch of trade-offs, for women and men, and a sense of humor about it all is de rigueur. Warning! Do not put the cup in the dryer.

  4. You bring home the bacon and . . . you're hot! Laundry can wait!

  5. Dear Will - to date I have not put the cup into the dryer.