Me And Betty Crocker

Yesterday's breakfast
Yesterday’s breakfast: Expressionist Peach Pancakes. (I’ve found that I actually enjoy making pancakes even if this one in particular may make it seem otherwise)

Plates, and glasses, silverware and pans, bowls and pots, all come out of the cabinets.  I cook breakfast.  Then wash the dishes, maybe I put them back in the cabinets.  A few hours later plates, and glasses, silverware and pans, bowls and pots, all come out of the cabinets or dish drain, I make lunch wash the dishes, maybe I put them back in the cabinets.  Then at dinner, plates, and glasses, silverware and pans, bowls and pots, all come out of the cabinets and dish drain,  I  wash the dishes, don’t put them back in the cabinets.   Boring right?  Boring to read, boring to do.  I think of all the women in all the kitchens over the years.  I don’t think of the ones who are happy doing this, who enjoy cooking and taking care of their families,  I think of the ones who don’t and do it anyway.

I think of all the horror housewife stories I’ve read and movies I’ve seen about women stuck in unfulfilled lives they hate, going mad and even killing themselves.   I collected them, Madame Bovary, Wifey, The Awakening, Revolutionary Road, kept them on my bookshelf to remind me of what I didn’t want.

But somehow, (maybe because I never thought about what I did want)  even though I didn’t go the traditional route of the house in the suburbs with kids, for a good part of my existence I still found myself trapped in an unfulfilled life, going mad like all those women in all those novels.  It was when Jon gave me the use of one of his barns as a studio and began encouraging me to make my art that I started to claw my way out.

And I’m not complaining, ( or don’t mean to be) and I am so grateful to have Jon back home healing and getting better and better everyday.  And I know it could be so much worse, that so many people have it so much harder that I do.  And there have been many surprisingly wonderful things to come out of Jon’s Open Heart Surgery.  But if I’m going to be honest, (an apparently I am) this past week or so of taking care of Jon at home I can see that, as a caretaker,  I’m easily frustrated, not very patient and often irritable.  And Jon is not the kind of man who wants to be waited on or taken care of,  (one of the patients wives in the hospital told me how her husband didn’t want to ring for the nurses because he didn’t want to bother them, but was happy to have her do everything for him or have her call the nurse) he wants his independence back as quickly as possible and is getting it.  But I thought this morning, that if I did have to do this long term, that I might become like one of those women in one of those novels again.

I remember seeing an After School Special (remember them) on TV when I was a teenager.  It was about an unwed mother trying to finish high school and take care of her new born baby.  At one point the baby is crying and the girl picks it up and shakes it to make it stop.  Soon after that she gives the baby up for adoption.  It’s the only scene from the movie I remember, but I do know I thought that it’s exactly how I would feel if I had a baby.  And I know this is one of the reasons I never had children.  Because I did not see myself as someone who could be there so totally for another person.

So I don’t know if it’s just who I am, or if it’s because I gave so much of my life away before meeting Jon, that no matter how much I love Jon and want to take care of him and want him to be healthy and  happy, I’m not willing to give up my life to do it.  And I know he wouldn’t ever want me to.   But still it seems so selfish to me to feel this way.  And not something I wanted to admit to myself or anyone else.  But it is the truth.

And now, after finally acknowledging it, saying it out loud to Jon and writing about it,  I realize that it doesn’t have to be one or the other.  That part of loving someone else is being able to love myself just as much.  And loving someone else doesn’t mean giving up my life for them whether it’s a child or a spouse whether they’re healthy or not.  And that selfish feeling,  well I guess it’s going to come and go for a while, but I think ultimately, it won’t win out over the truth.  And the truth is that I’m not willing to give away my life like I have in the past.  And I’m not going to swallow arsenic or drown myself in the ocean because, unlike those women in those novels, I have choices and at this point in my life I know what I want as much as what I don’t want.



35 thoughts on “Me And Betty Crocker

  1. Maria, Normally I don’t mind cooking, I get supper, himself gets his own breakfast and lunch…but tonight, after going to see the movie Tammy, in desperation for some humorous diversion in my life after a very stressful week with family, my friend and I could no longer stand it and walked out. Came home at 6:30 to himself sitting on the couch waiting for his supper. I cooked two lamb steaks last night and kept one for tonight…told him I wasn’t getting his supper, he was on his own, make a lamb sandwich for himself, which he did… I made a salad for myself. He’s okay with that…very easy to feed but I do get feeling put upon at times with him sitting around like the two dogs waiting for me to get their supper. Once you get yourself out in the studio and get those creative juices flowing, things will balance up…now, explain me this: what is that pancake with a yellow face plopped into the middle of it…looks like lemon, what is it?
    Sandy P in Canada

  2. Maria, just reading this made me think of how I feel about taking care of my husband. He was in the hospital a week the first part of Nov. last year. He drove a truck some 28 years. He’s been home ever since. I had to do the same things you’re doing now for Jon. It brought back a lot of feelings I had then and still do now. All that cooking I did in just a few short months, made up for all the years I didn’t cook while he was away. And how after awhile, I got tired of doing it. But I still love my husband. It was just hard. So thank you for sharing your honest feelings. I so understand.

  3. Thanks so very much for such amazing candor Maria. I like to cook, sometimes, I find it creative and fulfilling. I don’t like how I have spent far more time in my life than I care to admit cooking and serving because I thought it was my “assignment”. Just now I am sorting through why I struggle to find time to write. Since creating a blog and screwing up the courage to join Jon’s blogging group I, once again, am looking at how I subordinate my creativity for other.
    Your post is heartening. It is honest to a tee. It gives me courage. I have a husband much like yours. He wants me to write. He encourages me to do so. It is I that am the obstacle.
    Thank you.
    Yet, I know you are there for Jon, for now. Both of you will strive to have it become less and less.

  4. Thank you for saying out loud that not every woman needs to have children. I have chosen to be single and not have kids and I am very happy with that decision. It draws remarks, but I knew I would never be the person who would be happy with an infant. I was always better with teens, but did not think I could last that long…Thank you!

  5. Oh my goodness. Have you seen the movie, ‘The Hours?’ It is a heartbreaking portrayal of exactly what you speak of. (I’m someone who hates to cook. So my heart goes out to you.) I’ve often felt selfish in my life for following my gut, sticking to my hunches and my convictions. I’ve done it on occasion at the expense of others. But I think some of us are born with a wild voice inside. We can’t ignore that voice. I’m sure you unwillingness to compromise is one of the many reasons Jon loves you.

  6. Maria – What a wise, open, and healthy acknowledgement that caring for someone night and day is hard, frustrating, annoying, and consuming, no matter how much we love the person and that it’s okay not to like the role. All of us will one day have to be cared-for by others and you are so wise to acknowledge all all that you do here from the perspective of the caregiver. You are not selfish at all – and I hope that you will soon be able to return to your wonderful studio creativity (I love my potholders!) which must be life-nourishing and certainly makes you the special person that Jon loves.
    Hang in there! Keep loving yourself – and p.s. those pancakes are beautiful!

  7. Even if you didn’t have to look after Jon or he wasn’t in your life you’d still have to cook for yourself and clean and do all those mundane things. With a partner you get to do half the work cause they do the other half or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. I get crabby sometimes when my kids are demanding, it’s only human to feel this way. No one wants to give up their life to look after someone else but you can find a happy medium and it sounds like that’s just what you’re doing. Never be sorry for being who you are and having perfectly normal feelings.

  8. Maria,
    As a caregiver for my husband over the past three years, (he having suffered an angioma of the brain stem and craniotomy due to radiation damage), I can and do identify with your post. I suppose it’s not only about what we want and need, but more how we accomplish it. I’m looking forward to your insights and problem solving as you move through this new challenge. Each situation is unique, but the emotions we go through seem to have a common thread, and often just reaching out leads to a state of mind that allows you (or me) to take a step or two to change.

  9. Your honesty is refreshing and it is wonderful that you could express it. I have friends (most) who feel much the same. Cooking for me, however, is a Zen thing. I like the chemistry, the colors, smells, tastes, imagination, the memories, and also the praise and the conversations it evokes. It was good to have a husband who helped, and never took it for granted that cooking was my “job” (he always at least cleaned up). Also, I like food, maybe because of growing up on a big farm. I would give anything to make my husband a meal again. Cooking for one, though, IS a bit dull, I have to say. I’m glad you and Jon have the strength and love to make it through these challenges.

    1. Cooking can be such a creative and fulfilling and loving thing to do Eunice. But It’s like music or math to me mostly, I just don’t really get it.

  10. What an honest and inspirational blog Maria. There’s no Betty Crocker here either. But I could and would handle this “test” just as you are. The fact that you are clear on what you will and will not do and that you’ve talked to jon and recorded all this on your blog is huge! You’re not the woman you used to be. You’ve changed. You are loving and selfless. Have no fear or guilt about the past or present. Just breathe. You are doing so well with all the nasty turns your life has taken over the last 6 months.I have a feeling that you’re a special person loved by many many beings. 🙂

  11. Thank you for your honesty, Maria. Finally, someone tells it like it is!! I am 74 and have always resented the roles that

    have been relegated for women. I too chose not to have children, although I did work as a school librarian for 30 years, which truly was my calling, and I loved it. But I am neither a nurturer nor a caretaker by nature. My husband is
    now in a wheelchair and needs a lot of help. I manage all right if I can tune out the world for a little bit with a book, and
    if I get enough sleep. It’s a challenge, but we’re managing so far. Escape to your studio as often as you can! View
    it as medicine for your soul!

    I read your blog (as well as Jons’ daily, and enjoy them so much. May blessings fill your life!

    Lou Ann

  12. Maria, That there pancake is a masterpiece as well as your written post. I see it as a card in the future…

  13. This is a beautiful piece Maria. To see yourself, understand yourself and accept yourself as you are is a great gift to yourself and to us.
    Thank you for sharing this part of your journey.
    With love,
    From Fran

  14. Maria – Last summer, I felt exactly the way that you do right now after my husband had a terrible accident and was recovering from surgery. It’s okay to feel that way – I used to think that hell must be a kitchen where the dishes never get done and pile up faster than you can wash them. And now, a year later, it is completely different and things are fine again and my partner is able to do whatever he needs to do to help me. It’s amazing to me, makes me stop and appreciate every time he does the dishes. I think there are many kinds of miracles – Maybe this is one of them- time passes, healing happens, life continues. Good for you for expressing yourself and not bottling it up inside until it explodes. Sending you wishes for a steady, uneventful week so you can enjoy being back in your studio.

  15. Life is all about balance. So often women are made to feel guilty by society at large when they admit they need time for themselves. Time to recharge, time to be creative, time to just sit and think. Caregiving is only acceptable to me in limited doses. That is why there are home health aids, gardeners, cooks, etc. They do the work we can’t or don’t want to do. Being a caregiver to the point that you become resentful could kill any marriage. Take care of yourself first and there will be more left of you to be the spouse that Jon loves.

    Peach face pancake has a face that made me laugh! He looks, shocked, stunned. You can’t get away from your inner artist, even when you cook!

  16. Maria – you sound human to me. I appreciate your courage to be brave enough to write your truth. Cheering you on, as well as Jon.

  17. What a wonderful post. I’m happy for you. It’s so healthy and honest. You are so healthy and honest. I understand what you are saying. You say it so well. I couldn’t verbalize or write it but I do recognize all those thoughts and feelings as I read your post. Your writings touch me. Thank you. I am happy for you and Jon.

  18. Your peachy pancake reminds me of the ‘Oh, no, Mister Bill face from SNL. And we share a mirror image of domesticity and motherhood.As an ‘accidental’ stepmother of three ready-made kids, you are spot-on to the virtue of missing the birth process!!
    You may have read both books but my most favorite matriarchal pagan vision is The Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley; with The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as the dystopian patriarchal opposite. [Should you ever need a literary respite from the housework routine.]

    1. Oh yes, Cheryl, I’ve read them both although a long time ago, they still stay with me. And I can certainly see the Mr Bill resemblance.

  19. You described the daily kitchen ritual so well, Maria. It gets maddening, even for someone like me who likes to cook. But having to get meals on the table every day (and more than once a day sometimes) can be a dim prospect. Thanks for your honesty and saying what many of us are thinking.

  20. brava! for your honesty and truth telling. . .for your courage to be who you are no matter what. . .love this blog and sending sister love across the miles. . .

  21. I was a caregiver for my mom, so I totally empathize with the emotions you described. It’s very difficult, and I think often it is more difficult than for the patient. Both you and Jon have been on my mind a lot over these last few weeks. I wish I lived closer so I could help out. Hugs to you both. Miss you!

  22. Well said, Maria. I have been married 35 yrs. and have no kids, as planned. No regrets. Many things would not have happened if there were kids – hiking the Appalachian Trail, living in Karlshrue W. Germany, additional education. So happy Jon is doing well. Glad you are back in your work shop.

  23. Maria, you described exactly my life as a young wife, but never dared talk about. What you were brave enough to write helped ease the guilt I still feel. Thankyou.
    I’m sure you will find your equilibrium in time. I love both yours and Jon’s posts. Here in England I read them quietly with my breakfast, it’s a lovely way to start my day!

  24. Maria I have such respect for these words of yours and found myself nodding ‘yes, yes’ and ‘yes’! as I was reading. A stream of thoughts came to mind I felt drawn to share with you.

    No children by choice here also (and in the early 70’s when I married it drew amazing (to me) negative unsolicited reactions without fail)! No regrets on my part (tho I’ve often wondered if all those who were so bothered by my choice ever got over it, lol)

    I think the real soul of care-giving is more about doing what is needed ESPECIALLY when it’s outside ones preference or personality.

    If you don’t acknowldge and address your needs how can you ‘refill’ to give again and again to one you love andwho needs you? And ultimately a person who loves you (the caregiver) wouldn’t want you to sacrifice your life endlessly….

    Cooking? Me, not so much either (read ‘hate it’)! lol Baking yes, cooking/cleaning = bored. I admit to always having a pile of paper plates/cups that I use OFTEN (ok daily). They bio-degrade, save time, well water, my sanity and sustain my contentment quotient 🙂

    *Thank you for your honesty – as always*

    Continue to take care of YOU as well as Jon. So glad he’s healing so well (easy tho it’s not). He’s lucky to have you (and he knows it which is wonderful too).

    Enough ‘o my babble lol

    PS great new work (stitching and pancakes both)!


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