RENEE ANTONELLI VALENTE : Filled out one of those invasive forms for a discount at the mall the other day. Simple enough. And although I am a freelance writer and photographer, I don’t have a place per se to hang my occupational hat, so I checked “housewife.” “I’m sorry, ma’am,” the sales twit — er, clerk — said. “You have to have a real job to qualify for this offer.” WHAT??!
Instead of giving this 20-something ignoramus a right hook to the jaw, which would have made my “real job” making license plates — and hers selling pencils outside K-Mart — I leaned in and asked what she meant, exactly.Renee Antonelli Valente
Who knows? She could have tactlessly been telling me that only “workin’ folk” qualify because of this reason or that. God, I was hoping that was the case.
As luck would have it, well…. I’m not that lucky.
“You know, a job,” she said. “Like, working, you know. Like, doing something. A housewife is home all day.”
Seconds before the pressure cooker could blow, I somehow turned it down to a simmer.
“Y’know, I didn’t have enough room to write Chef, Plumber, Teacher, Landscaper, Therapist, Doctor, Personal Shopper, Custodian, and Concierge,” I said. Then I walked away.
Most of us had no training for any of these positions. There weren’t any orientation sessions. No one handed us a manual, our own stapler — or a paycheck.
I didn’t know the first thing about what green-versus-yellow mucus meant on the “Should I call the doctor on the weekend for this?” scale. Yet, in medical degree-style detail, I can now tell you the origins and lifecycle of the common everyday booger.
Don’t laugh. It’s as valuable as a good night’s sleep when you haven’t had one in a month. It’s a “snow day,” comp time and casual Friday all rolled into one. So, yeah, uber on the importance scale. Remember: Sometimes it’s mucus, sometimes it’s snot.
I certainly didn’t have New York cabbie skills or NJ Transit timing to get from place to place the way I do now. For a time there, I even thought I could actually pick up my kids at different locations AT THE SAME TIME. I’m telling you: If there’s anyone out there who’ll make Star Trek’s Transporter a reality, it will be a stay-at-home mom.
I could have told this little tootsie that, before being a “home all day” domestic goddess, I knew zilch about plumbing other than the occasional flush issue. Now I can you which drywall you need in the head, the differences between copper, pvc and iron, and how freakin’ heavy a toilet is to bring up a flight of stairs.
I might have flashed a little home improvement expertise, shown the keeper of the discount tickets how to borrow a truck, buy a forestful of plants and bushes and flowers, dig the holes, erect the landscape, mulch it out, and save her family hundreds in the process. Then again, what do I know? I sit home all day.
When I was younger, cooking dinner meant reheating leftovers that didn’t even look like food anymore. Now, creating a meal that everyone will enjoy is more like a twisted combination of “Iron Chef” and “Wipeout.” I’d like to see Bobby Flay make his Asian-flair taco carnitas with mango chutney salsa while on the phone with his mother, answering his kids’ geometry questions, letting the dog out to pee and dodging flying basketballs.
Sorry Robert, but THAT’S a throwdown, Renee style.
I guess it’s impressions like Miss Judge Mental’s that make the term “stay at home mom” so nails-on-the-chalkboard annoying for me. It‘s a choice I’ve gladly made, one that involves taking on many roles, juggling even more responsibilities and seeing to it that the household is spinning on greased grooves at bedtime, only to start all over again the next day.
It’s a bit more work than, say, handing out coupons at the mall (Sorry, sweetie, but you asked for it).
Yeah, I walked out of the store without my discount — or handcuffs. But I left with something so much more rewarding: a new word to put on that dreaded line.
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