This morning my four year old daughter asked me “Mommy, when does Mrs. Claus come?”
First of all, I’m thrilled that she automatically assumes Mrs. Claus does EXACTLY the same thing as Mr. Claus. Signs of a new generation. Thank God.
My response to her, before I could think about it, was, “Oh, she doesn’t. Only Santa delivers the presents.” She accepted this willingly, “Oh.” Then after a pause, “Well, what does Ms. Claus do?” I opened my mouth to give her the rote answer of Ms. Claus baking cookies and helping Santa organize his present-dropping route when the little Feminism bell went off in my head. “Well, she’s in charge of the…” I said, and sort of— trailed off.
“Elves?” asked the mini. Well that doesn’t make sense. I mean, if this whole thing is gonna be believable then Santa should definitely be the boss of the Elves, I thought.
“No, not the elves, that’s Santa’s department” I said.
“So, what does Mrs. Claus do??” she asked again.
What does Mrs. Claus do? Until this moment I’d always held Mrs. Claus in my mind as a plump senior wearing some sort of archaic Danish getup who literally keeps everyone working in the North Pole FED. Which is fine, I guess. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being a baker, nothing at all! I’d be a rather unhappy girl without bakers in the world. And certainly every imaginary cultural icon doesn’t need to be adapted to modern ideals in order to prove something— right? Maybe Mrs. Claus is happy to stay home and rub Santa’s feet and bake Alaska and decorate everything! That’s the beauty of being a feminist… you can be Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (which— okay, actually i wouldn’t recommend that ‘cause her character was kind of dumb— so maybe we go with… wait, I literally can’t think of a pop-culture reference for a bad-ass corporate working woman where the story didn’t end with her being saved by realizing she worked too hard… Diane Keaton had to have done that sometime, yeah?)… Anyway you can be Diane Keaton or you can be a stay-at-home Mom and cook dinner every bloody night if you want to. Wherever you are fulfilled, be there. So, it’s okay if Mrs. Claus is a stay-at-home-mum and housewife! Right? Right?
Ack, why can’t I get myself to admit that to my four-year-old daughter? There’s something in me that wants every female role model to be doing it all! Mrs. Claus has to be in charge of something administrative AND be bandaging up scraped Elven knees AND be updating her blog AND have created a line of cashmere winter knitwear on the side AND be taking flying lessons so she can help Santa deliver presents faster, and of course everyone needs her figuring out the car pool situation with the reindeer.
I have to say though… As a woman who has been working for over 15 years, and who also has been a wife and a girlfriend… when I think about the idea of being with a man who works hard all day long and comes home to me, barefoot in the kitchen, smelling like whatever delicious dinner I’m about to serve us and pouring him a glass of wine… I like it. It’s not that I don’t have ambitions of my own (I’ve always had too many I think! —Becoming the Queen of England – probably not gonna happen), but there is something soul-satisfying about nesting and resting and not feeling guilty if I don’t work my ass off all the time. And you know what else? I can totally get by and thrive without any support from a man whatsoever. And that’s not, like, me standing on a soapbox… I genuinely I think most women can. I don’t WANT TO most of the time, but I definitely can. However, I don’t know many men who can thrive without the close support of a woman. I really wonder if guys are legitimately and fundamentally wired to need help. Am I wrong? I might be but… I don’t know, dude… I think probably I’m right.
So what if Mrs. Claus really, really likes helping her husband get his shit done? Maybe it’s okay for our girls to think Mrs. Claus feeds the crew and keeps a fire going for Santa when he comes home. The truth is (well, relative truth, considering the context) that Ol’ St. Nick probably wouldn’t be able to make it through the pressure of Christmas if it weren’t for Mrs. Claus’s emotional support, nesting, and magically delicious sugar cookies. She’s a rock, man. As far as the kids are concerned, ain’t no shiny new things gonna be under those trees if the Mrs. isn’t keeping Santa sane.
“Mommy, what does Mrs. Claus do?”
“Mrs. Claus really likes to take care of people. She’s like a Nanny and Assistant for the workers in the North Pole. She’s Patricia to Santa’s Steve Jobs. You know how it makes your teachers happy inside to get to teach little children all about the world? Well, it makes Mrs. Claus feel really good inside to help other people too! What makes you feel good inside?”
…Mmkay, then. Glad you’re paying attention.