Trying to acquire empathy for the women in my life here I am going to try to imagine what it would be like a day in their shoes.
Disclaimer, this is not from my host mother’s perspective. This is just from observations of many different households I have been in.
Wake up at 5:30am for the call to prayer. Get out my prayer matt and try to focus on my prayers through and through. Go downstairs and heat up a cup of tea. I do not want to start my cup of coffee too early because each day is filled with many cups. After I enjoy my cup, I quickly head to the kitchen and start preparing breakfast for my husband. His work is exhausting him and I want to make sure he gets a healthy meal in. I cannot help but think how men in other countries actually prepare their own food.
My mother and father in law will be stirring soon as well. Better make breakfast for them as well. I try to think of the possible meals that won’t upset my father in law’s stomach and satisfy my mother in law’s pickiness. Eggs again. I can’t wait until my son marries so I can have someone to help me with all this work.
While the eggs are cooking, I better get started on my daily cleaning routine because after all my cleanliness is judged and assessed by all the guests in my house. I think I will probably have several groups of guest over today, as per usual. My host seems to be the hotspot for guests. Its wonderful for the women: The Women’s Cafe of Pallchiste, but it sure is a lot of work to take care of once they are gone.
My daughter is absolutely amazing because she helps out in the kitchen and when guests come, but she’s off at school very early. We have this American in our house for two years and I still do not know how to approach her. Is she going to contribute to cleaning? Does she know how to clean?
Lost in thought, I realized the turkish coffee for my husband is boiling over. I dash over to the wood stove and pull the coffee off. I remember when I was really young and touching hot things hurt my hands, not anymore. Too much hard work for these hands to feel the touch of flames anymore. Seeing the American flinch to the flames the other day reminded me that she does not do the manual labor of the household or have the strength of handling flame.
After I set the table and feed my family. I am right back at work. I am washing the dishes. Cleaning the counters and then back to cleaning every inch of the house. If I stop my mother in law will find something wrong and criticize me for the rest of the day about it. I can’t handle her riding me like I am some unmarried girl sometimes. She was in my shoes once and it just makes me want to lash out at my someday daughter in law.
My son is getting out of bed now. I run to the kitchen and make him his favorite cup of tea. I hope he is feeling better. He has been sick lately and even the thought of him getting sick again gives me a heart attack. I ask him what he wants for breakfast and I make his meal. After he is fed, I decide what I am going to make for lunch/dinner. I want something that will make everyone happy. Keeping everyone well fed is indeed a large task. Once I get those items on the stove, I go back to cleaning. I glance at the clock.
It’s 10am. I prepare for the next call to prayer and I find my matt. After praying. I realize guests will be over soon. I hop into some guest appropriate clothes and find the juice and fruits for them. The next three hours are filled with laughter and relaxation by the guests. Occasionally I check up on the lunch/dinner. The guests leave and I am right back to work.
My husband comes home at 1pm wanting a snack lunch to tie him over until dinner. I fix him some pet (bread dish) and then he’s off to work again. The rest of the day is a blur of work and fixing food. By 6 pm I am able to sit and relax for an hour or two by watching my favorite films on the television.
The lifestyle of a housewife in this culture is brutal. There is nonstop work and expectations that can easily overwhelm the most stable and sane person in the United States. My appreciation for every housewife in this culture grows everyday.
I am trying to figure out where I fit into all of this. Constantly criticism this system is not going to get me anywhere, but just straight up embracing it does not feel right. So alas I fit somewhere in the middle trying to embrace some aspects–integration–and share my culture with other aspects.
6 months into service and I still have a long way to go with understanding this culture and how I fit into this mix.