Katie's musings, mostly on things related to family life

Monday, January 27, 2003  

Domestically Challenged

by Katie Allison Granju

As anyone who has ever talked to me about my views on baby raising knows, I am a big proponent of breastfeeding. Science has now pretty conclusively demonstrated that breastfed babies are less likely to ever develop asthma, Crohn's disease, certain cancers, and a wide variety of less serious illnesses and disorders.

But when people ask me why I breastfed my own children past toddlerhood, they are often surprised that my first response isn't a listing of all these important health issues. In fact, the number-one reason I nursed as long as I did is because it was easy: no bottles to mix or heat; no worrying about blending up fresh jars of mushy food or packing juice boxes for outings to the park. Nope. As long as my baby or toddler was still nursing, we were all set wherever we went together. My extreme disinterest in any type of food preparation, no matter how seemingly simple, is only one manifestation of what I have come to accept as part of who I really am. You see, I am Domestically Challenged.

I used to worry that I was lazy or odd or maybe even mentally disturbed in some way when I was the only mother in the room who seemed genuinely troubled at being asked to bring a baked good for the school fundraiser. In years past, I would gawk in open-mouthed wonder when I would drop my child off for a playdate and notice his friend's unbelievably tidy, immaculately decorated home, complete with needlepoint pillows casually tossed to the sides of the sofa.

"Oh those little things," the friend's mother would say dismissively of the needlework masterpieces, "I just stitched those up while I was waiting in line at the grocery store last week."

My jaw would drop as I would slink back out the front door to my (chronically messy) car, promising to return for my child later that afternoon.

Before accepting my label as Domestically Challenged, my guilt would sometimes compel me to actually attempt to keep up with the more talented parents I knew. When my son Henry was in kindergarten, he requested that I buy him a skeleton costume for his school Halloween festival. I informed him with more confidence than I actually felt that I planned to create his costume from scratch.

"Please Mama," he begged with a hint of desperation. "Please just buy the costume! You know you can't sew...or anything."

Perversely, his concerns only egged me on and I headed off to the fabric store that very day. The morning of his school Halloween party, I proudly showed him the "skeleton costume" I had created for him. He was skeptical, but since he was only six years old at the time, I was able to convince him that all the cool skeletons wore tulle.

As it turned out, his confidence in my abilities was short-lived. When I picked him up that afternoon, he angrily informed him that the second grade girls had taken it upon themselves to let him know in no uncertain terms that what he had on was not a skeleton costume, but a fairy costume...and a really terrible-looking one at that.

"Next time," one bossy little girl instructed him, "Have your mom call my mom for help. Or you should send her to Party City. They have great costumes there."

Over the years I have also gone on short-lived cooking binges, scrapbooking frenzies, home organization freak-outs, and other similar attempts to overcompensate for what I now accept as my...disability. After spending what has certainly amounted to hundreds of dollars on various books promising to turn me into some sort of hipster Martha Stewart mama, I have killed scores of houseplants, knitted lopsided socks, baked inedible cookies, and reorganized my kids' toys so that they can no longer find anything.

Finally, sometime last year, I hit bottom. Unless I wanted to end up truly going nuts, I had to accept the things I cannot change does the rest of that poem go? Anyway, the moment of truth came when a dear friend of mine who manages to bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan, all the while remaining married to the same man for the past 25 years and raising five terrific children, sat me down.

"Katie," she opined in her gorgeous Argentinian lilt, "you have got to face the fact that you are not cut out to keep house. You are a good writer, your kids are healthy and happy, you earn a living and get everyone where they are supposed to be on a daily basis. Most importantly, you are there for your friends and family. But my dear Katie, I must insist that you hire a housekeeper."

Bam! Just like that I realized my problem. I had been unable to face the truth. I was Domestically Challenged! And just like other disabled individuals, I would have to make certain accommodations to meet my special needs. My friend was right!

Although I initially questioned the expense, the very part-time housekeeper I have hired has changed my life. My house is (mostly) clean. My children are able to find their socks more often. I get more writing done and thus, earn more money. We all enjoy our home life much more.

Currently I am in the midst of a major career change. I am in my second year of law school and plan to go into practice sometime next year. At that time, I have every intention of finding a way to bump my household help up to almost full-time. I'll do without a lot of things to make that happen. And if anyone has figured out a way for the Americans with Disabilities Act to pay for some of the expense of my outsourced domestic goddesshood, please let me know.

Copyright Katie Allison Granju, 2003. All rights reserved. Contact the author at for reprint info.

posted by Julie | 7:44 AM