Building A (Happy) Family Life In The U.S.

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I am a stay-at-home mother in the Midwest. Born and raised in Indonesia, I am now raising my two children on the American soil. This is my story.

Soon after our wedding, my husband and I moved to the United States for his studies. By the grace of God, I got pregnant just two months prior to our departure. Suddenly, I was placed in a career transition from a full-time architect to a full-time housewife. As a person who was born and raised in Indonesia, I had painted a picture in my mind of what a family is based on what I was familiar with back home. However, I found out that having a family in the U.S. turns out to be completely different. When I was much younger, I imagined being a housewife to be very fun: I would cook all the delicious meals whenever I want, have flexible time, and do things I like all the time. I also pictured myself living in a nice, clean, and tidy house. Also, since I always have some pretty bad seasonal allergy, I would also want my house to be dust-free. But in the U.S, those things seem to exist only in a television commercial.

In Indonesia, we are used to having maids who help us doing those “household” tasks. I recalled taking them for granted. It was so easy to blame the maid when we found something was not done according to what we wanted. But after living in the U.S., I realized that your house would remain the same if you don’t do anything about it. This means that your messy kitchen will look exactly the same when you returned from your vacation. The pile of dirty clothes will accumulate if you don’t do the laundry routinely. In the beginning, I was very frustrated. It seemed that I couldn’t get anything right; the clothes always got wrinkled and the laundry bin kept on piling up no matter how much time I spent in the laundry room. I only managed to cook several simple meals that would last for two days. My house was always messy and dusty, with piles of dirty dishes on the sink that started to stink. Not to mention the children who craved for my undivided attention almost all the time (remember, most people here don’t have nannies to help them). Will that be too much if I said that 24 hours a day was never enough?

After six years of experience, I learn that there will always be pile of dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and messy rooms everyday. Overtime, you will adjust and become more efficient. Your significant other will also become more effective in helping you. My husband is very busy with his research. But I am grateful that he spares some time to help me doing the house chores every now and then. Without any help, there is no way you can get it done without being overly exhausted every single day.

Now, I have learned to set the right priority, which is my family happiness. I have decided to change my strategy in order to enjoy my everyday life with my family without spending too much time on the chores. Here are some tips that I though might be useful to survive as a housewife in the US. First, focus on doing one thing at a time. I only do one chore per day. Whether it is done perfectly or not, I will move on to another chore on the next day. Second, increase your efficiency when cooking. To save yourself from cooking and washing those heavy utensils everyday, try to cook in big portions and freeze some of those to be thawed when needed. Third, shop non-perishable stuff such as toilet paper, detergent, etc., in bulk to save some gas money and time from going back and forth to the store. In this case, join a membership at a wholesale store such as Sam’s club or Costco can be beneficial.

After all, I believe that human is a very adaptive species. No matter where you live, there will always be challenge. I would not base my happiness on where I live. Instead, I will focus my time and energy to enjoy what I have with people that I love. On my next article, I will share about the great things in America that you and your family will love and enjoy as much as we do.

The picture was supplied by the author