There was a moment, in the midst of cancer and parenting during the insanity that was our life over the past few years, when Zach looked at me and said, “do you think our lives will ever feel not-awful?”
At least I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. It might have been me.
This sounds like something I would say much more than Zach. But at least in the twisted world of my own memory, the words came from his mouth – which makes them all the more shocking.
We were so lucky in all the love and support we had received during the incredibly difficult experience of adjusting to new parenthood and encountering cancer at the same time.
And yet in spite of the help we had benefitted from, we were completely overwhelmed.
I wish I could remember the exact moment or the exact circumstances – but there were so many bleary-eyed nights, it could have happened at any time.
But it really stopped me in my tracks. In spite of the bright spots of joy and many points of good fortune, we were not happy.
It was a slog just to get through the day to day grind – changing nappies, sorting dinner, paying bills.
And the realisation that our lives felt awful – and the best we could hope for was “not awful” – really broke my heart.
It was so much worse going through cancer treatment with a baby who wouldn’t sleep. But to be honest, these things made us feel stressed and miserable even before our lives more or less exploded.
At that moment – I started thinking…
I refuse to spend my life so stressed out by the dishes that I can’t enjoy the gift of my one and only life.
I don’t want to be always trying to escape the most basic material of my existence.
There has to be a better way.
For roughly the past year and a half, I’ve been thinking this over a lot.
I feel like there must be something deeply wounded – in our society and also in myself – that needs to be healed so that engaging with the things that keep our lives going (aka the domestic sphere) doesn’t feel like an endless obligation to drudgery.
Things are so much better now for my family than they were when I was in the midst of cancer treatment. But living through a global pandemic – and being more or less confined at home for a year – has brought its own pressures.
So to that end, I’ve decided this year to start an experiment.
I’m calling it Home Ec for the Modern Human.
I’d like to think about the everyday, sustaining things we do in our lives – how to do them in a way that makes life feel like less work and more fun.
Some of this will involve thinking about the little tips and practicalities. But I suspect making sense of our current relationship to the domestic sphere will also involve asking the big questions.
This is stuff most of us don’t really want to talk about or even think about. But even though I am a writer by profession, I spend more time thinking about and executing domestic-related tasks than anything else in my life.
Wouldn’t it be worth taking the time to think about how to handle all of this?
I don’t want to have to turn into a 1950’s housewife to get a bit of a better grip on life. I don’t think I have to. I know lots of people who seem to handle things with a whole lot less angst and resentment than I typically experience when managing these things.
So to that end, I’m planning to use 2021 to create my own Home Ec course – getting to grips with what it means to be living as a modern human – maximising joy and creativity, and minimising stress and drudgery.
Everyone deserves a life that lets them thrive.