Thursday, May 6, 2010

Personal Assistants Need Not Apply.

Ok, so maybe I am in the practice of reposting comments to the blog; I'm about to do it again.

I've come here today to pen the third and final installment in the Debbie Downer Chronicles: rounding out the unhappy pair of Ineptitude and Shame is... (drumroll please)


Yes, gang, my SAHM-ity is currently plagued by this lovely triumvirate: ineptitude, shame, and guilt. In fact, the guilt is probably the baddest beast of them all.

Guilt?, you say. Over not actively using your legal education? Over not knowing how to cook? Over allowing someone else to clean your toilets?

No. Those things make me feel guilty for rare nanoseconds, and then I just scarf down some dark chocolate (I've got secret stashes all over the kitchen for the sole purpose of emotional eating) and that frivolous guilt magically disappears.

Rather, I have Starbucks guilt.

Guilt which has been thrown into a harsh and unflattering spotlight by another noteworthy suggestion from the comments section. I give you, in reply to my "Shame" post, this excerpt from my new friend Anonymom:

"have you considered hiring a personal assistant? or could your housekeeper help with the errands/repairs/etc so you can have some time to wash your hair/trim your nails/see a doctor/get a massage (imagine?!?!)/get your head straight? i have a friend (no kids) who doesn't work and has a cleaning woman and 2 assistants. this, as you can imagine, is infuriating and completely beyond my comprehension. but you're in a different position! she found her assistants on craigslist. you can hire someone to free you up for 3-4 hours just a few days a week. apparently there are many retired/unemployed women who don't have to work but would like to make a little money on the side. maybe something to consider."

For those who know me personally, and know of my current living situation, I'll pause a moment for you to stop laughing and collect yourselves.

For those who don't know me personally, suffice it to say that my housekeeper is, in essence, the best personal assistant in the world. I mean, ok, she doesn't actually do my errands for me (she doesn't have a car), but the fact that I can comfortably leave my kids in her care at any time of day or night means that I effectively have all the freedom in the world.

It's what I do with that freedom that is causing me grief.

And it more or less all comes down to Starbucks.

In the community where I live, it's as if Starbucks is a land populated solely by women. Women without kids on them, but who all appear to be of childbearing age. Women who are often decked out in tennis attire (and not just the ornamental kind, either). Women who come in groups, women who sit alone, women who are smiling and chatting in the middle of the morning and who appear to be ACTUALLY ENJOYING THEIR CUPS OF COFFEE.

And this, I tell you, makes me extremely uncomfortable.

It's a lot like I feel about religion: I WISH I could believe in God! I WISH I felt the way religious people do!
I WISH I could get that goopy mushy feeling from prayer and trust that everything is gonna be okay!


(Who, incidentally, would probably be *thrilled* to hear that I was sitting in Starbucks in the middle of the day drinking a latte in peace. But that's beside the point.)

You see, the dilemma is not that I need a personal assistant to free up some time for me to devote to myself. The dilemma is that I have *plenty* of time for myself, in theory... I just can't bring myself to enjoy it. Hence the guilt.

You know what would be AMAZING? If my average weekday morning looked like this:

9 am - drop kids at school.

9 - 10 am - go to gym, run on treadmill, lift weights.

10 - 11 am - shower (with shampoo *and* conditioner instead of a utilitarian 2-in-1! unheard of!), get dressed, properly dry and flatiron hair, and apply a little makeup. (ahaha, I know, this is where it starts to sound ridiculous) (no, who are we kidding, it sounded ridiculous at the gym part)

11 am - 11:30 am - grab items at grocery store.

11:30 am - 12:25 pm - sit at Starbucks, read newspaper, sip latte. (Alternative scenario: Sit out by the pool, weather permitting, read book.)

12:30 pm - first child pickup; begin afternoon feeling rested and centered and calm.

The only problem with executing this plan?


I mean, my husband is a guy who would *kill* to get to the gym more than once or twice a week. He hasn't physically sat down to read the newspaper since 1998. The only times I've ever seen him sitting poolside with a book were on the two short vacations we've had in the past 5 years. And he works, *intensely*-- oh, I don't
know-- maybe 16 hours a day.

So how unspeakably COLD would it be for me to plop myself down on a chaise lounge and thumb through a book at 11 am? Or get a manicure, for no particular reason? Or take a tennis lesson, just for the purpose of bettering myself? (I do, admittedly, take the occasional power nap mid-morning. But they only last 10 minutes and I justify them on the basis that I am preserving my physical health when I am feeling run down.)

In other words, I may not actually *have* a high-stress, high-income job right now... but for some crazy reason
I FEEL COMPELLED TO SUFFER AS IF I DID. Otherwise I think I'd feel like a freeloader, a barnacle, a disgrace to my radical feminist beliefs.

Which only goes to illustrate how seemingly hellbent I am on sabotaging this whole SAHM experiment. Cuz really, if played correctly, this SAHM thing is a CRAZY GREAT GIG. Relatively free mornings, relatively free nights, and only really heavy lifting in the afternoons and evenings. And yet, here I am, perpetually rushing around in the malls while the kids are at school, searching in vain for that perfect birthday present / school project supply / show-and-tell item... running myself undeniably *ragged* just so that, when my darling husband drags himself through the door at 10 pm, we can COMMISERATE about how hard *both* of our days were. So that he won't feel like he's pulling all the weight alone. (So that he won't wise up and realize that I am-- by definition?-- taking advantage of our situation, just by virtue of the fact that I am not working in an office while he is??)

My resigned conclusion: either I am The World's Most Empathetic Wife, or I am The World's Most Enthusiastic Glutton for Punishment. You make the call.

Meanwhile, I'm off to the party store: the goody bag bubbles I bought don't properly match the goody bags.
And in the highly twisted parallel universe where I reside, these things matter. :)


  1. Interesting - normally it's people who do believe in God who feel guilty for enjoying themselves.

    Here's a way of looking at this, though: One of the main reasons men kill themselves over work is to make their wives happy.

  2. You've just highlighted a big part of why I still work outside the home. I would feel EXACTLY like this - guilty about not having "enough" to do - if I stayed home, and I'd rather go ahead and get paid, even if it now means that I really do have too much to do. Plus, for me, a major fear is that I'd get too wrapped up in my kids' lives if I didn't have something of my own to focus on - that I'd make their successes and failures my own and define my self-worth accordingly. I can't handle that pressure, and working helps me maintain perspective.