There’s a popular image of American children that has never reflected my reality as a Cuban child.
It’s the one where kids make their beds every morning, perform chores such as washing the dishes, taking out the garbage, and mowing the lawn, go away to college, and move into a swanky apartment or Neo-Mediterranean house after landing a competitive, high-paying job after graduation.
Here’s a secret that everyone in Miami knows: Cuban mothers spoil their children our entire lives.
Growing up, I never had to lift a finger at home. I never made my bed, cleaned, washed the dishes, took out the trash, or mowed the lawn. I did go away to college, which was unexpected and difficult for my parents, and I didn’t know how to cook or perform the most basic of domestic tasks, and I can’t say I really learned then. After college, I moved back in with my parents and, once again, found myself not having to cook or clean. My mother takes care of all the housework. Life remained this way until I came to Melbourne a few months ago.
This is not unusual. Nearly all of my Cuban friends live with their parents until they’re married. Even marriage is no guarantee that a Cuban child will move out. Cuban Mom will just continue to cook and clean for Cuban Child and new spouse. When Cuban Grandchild comes along, Cuban Mom’s workload just increases.
I’m generalizing and stereotyping. Therefore you know I’m telling the truth.
This kind of upbringing resulted in some personality conflicts in me. I love having a clean and tidy home, but I hate cleaning, I don’t really know how to do it, and I’m not terribly interested in learning how. I love good food, but don’t know how to cook. I’m interested in the art of cooking, but not the craft of it, and I don’t really have a knack for it.
When I came to Melbourne and moved in with Theo, I suddenly became a homemaker. It was something I had given zero thought to and has been one of the most difficult adjustments of my entire life. The chores have always been there – the bed has always needed making, meals have always needed cooking, clothes and sheets have always needed washing, every single room has always needed cleaning – but suddenly, I’m the one that has to do it!
The word slavery attached to the end of “domestic” seems totally appropriate. I take no pleasure in housework. I am offended by the expectation that housework is my duty and that I should take pleasure in it. The idea of my identity being wrapped up in housekeeping disturbs me in a deep, fundamental manner. And yet, I want a clean and tidy home that I can take pride in.
You see the conundrum?
Of course, one solution to this first-world problem is to hire someone to cook and clean. Should I win the lottery, I’ll get right on that. Another solution is stop being so obsessive, compulsive, and anal retentive. The kitchen doesn’t have to be cleaned every single day (yes, yes, it does). If I win the lottery, I’ll get right on that with therapy.
Theo is immensely helpful. He doesn’t have any gender-related expectations about housework. He cooks and does it well. He cleans and is very thorough. He even gardens and has basic sewing skills.
Cooking is one area of homemaking that I enjoy more than others. It’s a huge learning process for me and I get it wrong more often than I get it right. My new adventure is making tortillas. We love Mexican food and while you can buy commercially-made tortillas, taco seasoning, and so forth, we prefer cooking with real, fresh ingredients. Tortillas are just flour and water, mixed, pressed, and heated. Sounds easy, right? It’s not.
Are you a domestic god/dess? Got any trade secrets for me?