Susan takes to her role as a domestic goddess with some apprehension.
‘You do realise you have destroyed my last surviving role model,’ one
of my oldest school friends said to me recently. And I realised I had.
You see, before the days of Finn, I knew a lot… specifically about,
well… parenting. During one of our many conversations on the
topic-we-knew-so-much-about, I was very firm with my friend that women
didn’t have to give up their careers to become mothers. This particular
conversation arose because although she is an admirable and very
successful lawyer living in Johannesburg she wanted children and the
only mothers she seemed to know were stay-at-home moms.
These women were dedicated to their children and their homes. This
posed a dilemma to my friend, who had spent many years becoming a
lawyer, and felt that she couldn’t give it all up to keep up with the
stay-at-home Mrs Jones’s. I assured her she was being ridiculous.
I highlighted the fact that I, myself, was only familiar with one
stay-at-home mom and even she busied herself with having to do the
books for their family business. I then rattled off numerous names of
colleagues previous and current who’d been back in the office within
mere months of giving birth and they all seemed to be coping quite
well. My own mother, I effused, had an exciting and challenging career
while my brother and I were growing up and I had great respect for her
because of it! ‘Of course you can do both,’ I pronounced, ‘I certainly
And then Finn was born. The psychic pain of having to return to work
and be separated from my small baby, left me unsure of everything. As
soon as I realised that this anguish only subsided when I was reunited
with Finn, I made an arrangement to reduce my workload and work largely
And so for the first time since childhood I found myself in a foreign
sphere known as the Domestic Realm. It is foreign to me because my
mother discovered feminism when I was two. Since then the Domestic
Realm has always had a sinister ring to it that I’ve actively avoided
at all costs. But now I’m home with Finn, because that is where Finn
likes to be. And I find myself doing things I’ve never even considered
before. Firstly, I have spent more hours in the small shopping centre
down the road than is necessary, reasonable or healthy. It’s just that
it’s such a convenient place to manoeuvre a miniature person with a low
boredom threshold that I am drawn there on an almost daily basis. I
window shop. I even window shop at the video store. I have lunch at
trendy little health shops with other stay-at-home moms and their
offspring, where we pay an unreasonable amount of money for mung bean
and flourless bread sandwiches.
But the worst is the temptations that have been laid before me. Just
the other day, to kill some time, Finn and I ventured down an aisle
less travelled and I found myself putting chocolate cookie mix into my
basket. I’m relieved to say that the box remains unopened in the
kitchen cupboard. It’s called Pilanesburg or Pillsbury cookie mix or
something. I’d read the correct name off the box, except I’m terrified
that if I go near it, I might actually bake! And then where would I be?
Yes, I used to know a lot. These days when my lawyer friend calls me
up, I am torn between warning her of the dangerous places we’re led by
having children, and telling her to leap right in. After all, the
Domestic Realm is littered with chocolate cookies.