Asparagus has its own breaking point, a place at which it will naturally snap when bent in half. Once this green spear breaks and rids itself of its unsavory bottom wonderful things are possible, roasted asparagus, grilled asparagus salad, asparagus frittatas . . .you get the idea. When one hits her own personal “bottom” they are faced with two choices, sink or swim (I apologize for the cliché).
Thirty Days of Perfection was conceived when I hit bottom after a breakdown brought about when my personal expectations of being a homemaker collided with reality. I did not set out to write a book and certainly not one that would ever be published, I simply was looking for a life raft and desperately needed to reconcile within myself what my life had become. Thirty Days of Perfection is my own Asparagus Soufflé created after I snapped in half.
My husband and I met in 2006, in 2008 we were married and in 2009 we were parents. Together we made the decision for me to leave teaching to stay home full time. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to discover my inner June Cleaver. I fully expected to do this job flawlessly as I would have the time to make the extra effort.
When my daughter was born, however, reality came crashing down. My life had become unrecognizable seemingly overnight. I remember one evening staring down the slope of my naked chest hooked up to a breast pump singing the Rainbow Connection to my screaming daughter because I had no hands free to soothe her; I sure as hell didn’t feel like June Cleaver, I was a singing dairy cow. I had not showered or even dressed when my husband walked in the door.
He was wearing his suit and tie, no doubt had a lunch out with clients and at some point during the day enjoyed at least half an hour of quiet even if it was just for the ride home. He looked at me and said “Why is she sad love, did you feed her?” DID I FEED HER? WAS HE KIDDING?? I finished pumping and would have thrown my newly bottled milk at his face if it weren’t for the fact that it was liquid gold and I had worked so hard for it.
In addition to being a completely inadequate mother I also turned out to be a mediocre housewife. Meals were not prepared, beds were not made and the laundry was breeding. I was a failure, a failure at something that women have been doing for years. This was the beginning, the proverbial bottom half of my asparagus self had been snapped off and there was no going back.
The next morning I took a long hot shower while my daughter napped and I began to think. I remembered that my course work that I completed for my special education credential included an action research project. Action research projects are tools used by teachers to improve their practices as educators. The teacher identifies her problem, completes a review of the literature, applies some of the practices researched, collects data and then reviews data and implements changes.
I had completed mine two years prior. That was it; a hot shower and a memory from my old life sparked a solution that turned into Thirty Days of Perfection. I jumped out of the shower, skipped the hair dryer and jumped online. I searched for a book, Homemaking for Dummies perhaps. What I found was even better, The Good Wife Guide: 19 Rules for Keeping a Happy Husband published by Cider Mill Press in 2007, a compilation of rules that were originally printed in the mid 1950s in the Ladies Homemaker Monthly. This was perfect! 19 measurable rules I could follow everyday for one month as part of my research, no literature review necessary just these 19 rules that would cure everything and lead me to greatness. I might have been a dairy cow but I was a cow who knew how to write herself out of a situation.
Every action research project starts with an objective, mine was as follows: To attempt to embody the perfect housewife as set forth by the rules in The Good Wife Guide: 19 Rules for Keeping a Happy Husband, thereby becoming a domestic goddess worthy of the highest honor of domesticity, if such an award existed, and thus feeling accomplished, fulfilled, and happy in the career of homemaker. No DeLorean or Flux Capacitor necessary, just follow these rules and figure out what works.
In July 2016 this social experiment of mine was published. It took six years because it sat on my desk for five as I assumed I was married to the last 1950s man on the planet and it was not relatable to others. It was late 2015 when I decided I would attempt to have my book published. I figured if it didn’t sell I would keep two copies for my kids to show them what their mommy did once when she was losing her mind, and that would be worth it.
I am so pleased now that it is published and has actually made it into bookstores which is more than I ever thought possible. What is even more gratifying while slightly disturbing, is that readers are finding it relatable, and I’m not alone. They laugh and commiserate as they read the journal entries and take away something meaningful to them. I am proud of that and satisfied that I broke my unsavory bottom to serve up something new.
Rose Senese Watson, formerly a special education teacher, is currently a stay-at-home mother of two. At this time, her official job title is CEO of the Watson family. Job description: everything.
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Category: On Writing