Wednesday 1 April 2020

House frau rules ok

Ever since I gave up full-time work to look after the kids, I've resisted - whisper it - becoming a housewife. The plan, back in 2003 when my daughter was born, was to raise the kids, write novels and freelance. On the whole, things turned out pretty well. Most of the time, I buried my neurosis that I had opted into domestic service. Writing books has brought me fulfilment while also affording me the flexibility to spend lots of time with my kids. As they got older, I've taken on more work.

Sun shining through the daffodils
Sun therapy in the garden helped me feel better
Then along came the Coronavirus. For the first time, our home became both the centre and the outer edge of our world. And who rules over this dominion? Me. During the past few weeks, I have flexed every domestic muscle in my body to keep my family fed, healthy and occupied. 

I've researched ways to boost their immunity, scoured shops for loo roll, sourced food and built structure into the children's days. Every meal time has been a smorgasbord of vegetables, fruit, seeds and pulses (and God forbid anyone leave food on their plate). I have become not a housewife, but a paranoid dictator with benign intentions.

Covid-19 strikes home

It's like I've spent years rehearsing for this moment without realising it - or indeed wanting it. What I didn't expect was that I would be the first to succumb to the dreaded virus itself (as far as I can tell without having a test). Last week saw me take to my bed in exhaustion. Perhaps all that fruit and veg stood me in good stead because I only got a mild version of the virus - a slight cough, a sore chest and few breathing difficulties, but no fever or agonising pain. 

Self-isolation didn't really work out - my son kept popping into the bedroom to say hello. So in the end, I hauled myself out of bed to organise our meals, knowing my husband was too busy battling the stock markets and the kids were too engrossed in their school-work to think about preparing good, nutritious food. If they were at risk of catching the virus, I wanted them to be well nourished at least. 

It did occur to me one evening, while I was summoning the energy to leave my bed, that had my illness taken a darker turn, no one would have noticed until supper time. With a wry smile, I imagined the family congregating in the kitchen below, nervously opening the cold oven, searching for any sign of food. 'What's happened to supper?' one of them might have asked. Then, a pause... 'Where's Mummy?'

But all's well that ends well. I slowly got better and I'm cautiously throwing myself back into my domestic duties. The house has been cleaned - it was a team effort - and I've caught up with the washing. No one seems to be showing any further symptoms of the virus yet, thank goodness. 

As much as I have chafed against the role of house frau, I acknowledge it has given me the freedom to write as well as a certain level of  'expertise' in the home. Tonight, however, I'm wringing the changes. I am teaching my son to cook supper. As with all knowledge, there comes a time when you've got to pass it on. Actually, I need to finish up because my son's just asked me to lay the table and I don't want to be told twice.

You might also like to read:
Splendid isolation?
Brave new world

1 comment:

Fengling Tang said...

Thanks Emma for sharing your deep thinking. This challenging time has strangely made us so much treasure staying at home together as a family. Hope all stay safe and well.

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