This essay was originally published on Medium.com.
For many women of my generation, kitchens are command central, the headquarters from which the multi-tasking happens. And as much as we love the warmth and nurturing sentiment the kitchen represents, let’s be honest: the work required to maintain the hearth can start to feel like a chore. Indeed, the home in general, as we move through it with the discerning eye of the woman of the house, starts to take on the dread of a to-do list rather than a place of respite.
“At home” always felt like one of those dismissive boxes on forms offered to those of us without alternative occupations. As the mother and manager of the family’s domestic space, I have checked it hundreds of times, but always with a pang, a belittling affront to my feminist instincts, the doleful tone of those words.
When we were living in Zurich about a decade ago, I made a friend who asked, “Du bist eine Haus frau?” No!! I wanted to scream I am most definitely not a Haus frau, but my German was not good enough to describe what I considered myself. And when you got right down to it, I guess I was a Haus frau. Got to love the Swiss for being direct.
Well one thing I can say to the multitudes of stir-crazy people nine months into this home-boundedness is welcome to my world. Not so easy to keep it all going, is it? This is for all of us who WFH before WFH was a thing. If you’re like me, you’re chuckling that “home” has taken on a whole new importance. Home has been elevated in people’s esteem. The real estate market is on fire with people wanting to trade up into optimal spaces for work, schooling, relaxing. The old spaces were fine when it was just us and the kids, but now that certain people are home all the time, upgrades are in order!! A friend’s husband declared this summer that the wallpaper was driving him crazy — the same wallpaper he had lived with for twenty years. This sentiment has lit up not only the housing market but the renovating and decorating industries as well.
My management consultant husband is delighted to no longer board planes or sleep in hotels. He is delighted to dine on home cooking. But with our kids all out of college, this was the time I was planning to be free from the bondage of our address, the constant upkeep and list-making it takes to run a home. I didn’t want a home gym or different wallpaper; I wanted to hit the road.
But as COVID would have it, I had to settle for the next best thing, scrolling through photos and memories. There was a trip to the Himalayas…