Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Land of the Housewives

I can't sleep. For the past hour, I tossed and turned, with thoughts of our new house dancing through my head. Well, it's not ours yet, but we plan to sign on it before leaving for the States Wednesday morning, and hope to move into it when we return from vacation in September.

It's so exciting! It's our second home purchase, but the first one (in Orlando) was more of a condo than a home. This one (in a small German town called "Kleinsendelbach") has a huge yard (or "garden", as they're called here), a big basement, attic, and garage, and for now, we look out onto a huge pasture, with a church steeple just barely visible on the horizon.

I have to be careful what I write here, because my in-laws read this from time to time (and they always seem to know exactly what we need, or don't need), but one of my first purchases is going to be one of those cute little play houses, and matching slide, for Lukas to enjoy in our new back yard. He loves those things, but until now, we've had no place for stuff like that!

So needless to say, we're pretty happy to have found something that's large enough for us, affordable, and in a good neighborhood (with lots of kids!).

Since we returned from Holland, that's kind of been our main focus. Other than that, we've been noticing some huge cultural, and generational, differences here in Germany. For starters, salesmen are worthless here. You walk onto a car sales lot, and the men sit in their office, looking at you, and wondering if you're worth getting up for. If you're bold enough to open the door and walk into their office, chances are, they'll probably get up to greet you. The problem arrises when you ask to test drive a vehicle. In our case, there was a long pause, accompanied by a small sigh, and then he agreed to go and get the license plates from the other side of the dealership. In the meantime, we're standing in the cold autumn breeze (no it's not autumn yet, but it might as well be), without sweaters on, wondering whether we should just leave. Once he returned, we had to show two forms of identification. The drivers' license alone wouldn't suffice... no, he'd need a passport too (even though that required us running back to the car). Needless to say, we didn't buy a car from that lot.

But perhaps more interestingly, is our recent debate over the (perhaps German?) notion of the housewife. Recently, I was criticized for my innability to (regularly) mop, cook, and iron my husband's clothes. I admit, occasionally, Tobi irons his own clothes, I never mop, and we usually take turns preparing meals... cardinal sins for a housewife, or a modern-day marriage? Am I mistreating my (poor) husband by allowing him to do some of these things for himself, or is it acceptable for family members to share housework and meal preperation? In giving up my job as a jet-setting marketing professional at a large, international company, was I unkowingly consenting to a lifetime of domestic labor? If roles were reversed, and my husband stayed at home with the baby, would he then be expected to mop floors and iron clothes? Is my chosen career as a writer to be classified only as a hobby, which should take back seat to my role as a housewife? So many questions.

In any case, I firmly believe that these sorts of rules should be defined by the two people that entered the marriage, and not by parents or in-laws. Critique by either of these parties doesn't
improve matters, but rather worsens things, adding an element of confusion to the matter, as you debate whether or not to speak to the people making these bogous claims, and what type of relationship you want your child to have with people who openly, and regularly, disapprove of your life choices.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Oh, Liz, of course you know this blog lit my feminist fire. I could write so much, but I won't. I'll save it for a verbal discussion . . . hopefully soon. I'm sorry I'm not in Orlando--I just returned from a two week trip to NYC, DC, and Orlando. Now I am back home and have a friend visiting from France. Perhaps we can chat via tele sometime this week?