A few years ago, I set a personal development goal for myself: to become a domestic diva. I had become tired of making excuses for my aversion to household chores and a consequent over-dependence on domestic staff. Long before I got married, I employed house-helps to take care of my most dreaded household chore of all: shopping. As marriage loomed in the horizon, I sat my fiancé down and talked to him about my aversion for going to the market and explained how the experience of haggling, pushing, shoving, fussing and shouting always left me in low spirits. He agreed with me that our culture was tough on women in this way and that the expectation that a woman who is “good wife material” should trudge through muddy markets in rented rain-boots defying hail and brimstone for every meager bargain each weekend was archaic and unconscionable. “Cha-ching!” I thought “I landed a martial artist, swimming-enthusiast, handsome, professional Christian man who is tolerant of my phobia for the open market”.
Fast forward to 12 years after marriage and 6 children later. My aversion was no better but I had become quite adept at juggling of a steady stream of housekeepers and house-girls until 3 years into my marriage, when I landed the ultimate housekeeper who ended up working with my family for 13 long years. I was in domestic easy street! My bubble was only temporarily popped whenever she had to travel for personal reasons or was otherwise unavailable. In those years, my dependency got so bad that I would get a headache at the thought of making lunch for my family of eight.
All this was causing me significant cognitive dissonance because I also have a deep-seated dislike for anything getting the better of me. I hate fear or a feeling of helplessness but I completely loath dependency. Hence, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would become fed up with it. The time finally came about 5 years after I faced up to my aversion for financial dependency in my marriage. That is a subject for another blog. One day as I chatted with an old friend about how becoming a home-maker had changed my perspective about dependency in marriage, I quipped up that the next fear I needed to stare down was my domestic management. “I intend to become a domestic diva” I announced to my puzzled friend, who dismissed it as one of my fanciful fads. “I just don't understand why that would be a goal for you. Why would you want to do that?” I did not tell her it was because I disliked the way that the fear of my own incompetence and inadequacy had me cowering in a corner, hiding behind domestic servants. It was not that I did not know how to handle house chores, it was that doing them left me with a feeling of cosmic injustice and severe under-employment.
Fortunately, I did not end up addressing my fears alone. Fate stepped in and gave me a hand. First, my family embarked on a two-year ‘gap year’ which had us leaving our comforts and routines behind. Next, while I was still vaguely ambivalent about taking my housekeeper along on our adventure, she opted for early retirement and in the course of the following months, she died in tragic circumstances following a motor accident. My daughters were devastated but somehow the fact that she had retired and had not been living with us for a few months prior to her death helped to somewhat dull what would have been a full blown emotional catastrophe for us all. Between the months we were traveling and her passing, there were many moments when I was seriously tempted to cave in and send for her but I was resolute as I faced the market trips with any one of my teenage daughters who was willing to be shoved and shouted at, along with me. Next I took on the big, ‘bush’ farm markets where you were still expected to haggle but everything was already dirt cheap. This happens once a month and so far, I usually have a friend in tow. Progress.
There was still one threshold I needed to brave. It was my parameter for how far along I had come: I love moi-moi but the trouble it takes to make this meal was usually too much for me to contemplate on my own - even though I was good at it and could handle it with no trouble, I just did not want to do it. Fortunately, a few specialized restaurants make it with banana leaves just the way I like it, so that took care of my occasional craving for it. Last weekend, I decided to put my domestic progress to test. I got back from my Saturday morning work-out and got busy. By the time my children and house-guests returned from their various outings, moi-moi in leaves was ready: made from scratch, although the beans had been measured the precious night by my middle daughter. That indicated mental preparedness and premeditation. It did not count.
This weekend though, I topped my personal best with an impromptu decision to make akara (fried bean cakes). It had been the farthest thing from my mind early that morning as I finished my Tai-Chi class and cycled back home with the intention of getting showered and dressed for an outing with a friend in about two hours. On arriving home, I decided spontaneously to make breakfast instead of leaving my family to fend for themselves with sandwiches. I measured, soaked the beans, washed and dehulled, blended, mixed and seasoned the bean cakes and had gone about half-way with frying them before any help arrived. Suggesting that my friend swap places with me so I could get ready quickly in time for both of us to be picked up by another friend for a meeting, I paused to take a long, hard look at myself as I passed by the mirror: “You did it! You licked that old fear, you domestic diva you!” Touch down!
If you liked this piece, you will enjoy the book Helpmeet by the same Author
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 August 2016 22:57
Written by LB