Necessary Skill for Being a Good Parent When discussing the topic of raising children, it’s unlikely to hear it described as being an easy task. Nadia Bozak’s short story “Heavy Metal Housekeeping” encourages the idea that good parenting is defined by the ability to sacrifice one’s own freedom and desires with the intention of providing the child with better opportunities in life. This belief is reinforced by the symbolism of dirty and clean clothes, the self-defense mechanism behind heavy metal appearances, and the mother forfeiting her life’s goals for her son.
A quick glance at Bozak’s story gives us a motif of laundry (Bozak 100-107); the chore or responsibility involving the cleaning of clothes when they become dirty. The task of laundry itself is a responsibility given to the mother of this story, so she is sacrificing her own time in order to complete the chore. However, the task from her point of view isn’t simply an action being done, but the process of turning something dirty into something clean. “Dirt” can be replaced by “soil” or “earth”.
In the story, the mother refers to “earth” as being a confining element: “all dirt and drudgery and day-in/day-out and getting good at carrying out demands” (Bozak 105). We can then argue that dirty clothes symbolize being trapped, whereas clean clothes imply the absence of “earth” and, therefore, are symbols of freedom. If we return to the literal sense of laundry, the mother performs this responsibility of cleaning her son’s heavy metal t-shirts and sacrifices her time in order to symbolically provide her son with fewer limitations.
Another reoccurring idea in Bozak’s “Heavy Metal Housekeeping” is how people with tough-looking exteriors (heavy metal style in this case) are “fragile” underneath the surface and want to be treated delicately (104). The son wears heavy metal t-shirts in the attempt of appearing stronger, but his mother sees it as a shield: “Without a heavy metal t-shirt your son is…trying so hard not to be naked” (Bozak 102). The mother sees this attitude complex as a defense mechanism for her son as well as the “demi-gods” of heavy metal: “Beneath black demonic glances and postured virility these demi-gods have gentle hearts” (Bozak 106). As the story develops, we witness the mother allowing the son to keep his protective shield of heavy metal through her efforts of keeping the shirts in good condition.
“You work hard at their preservation…yet…will become blistered and cracked, ragged with age and constant wear, faded and soon outdated” (Bozak 101-102). This quote in particular seems to show that her efforts are in vain, but in fact it actually is a self-representation. She is describing herself as old and worn down (just like t-shirts being used all the time) from the responsibilities of raising her son. What she really desires is to be a “metal woman” (Bozak 106). Considering what was said earlier about how the heavy metal style is viewed by the mother as a self-defense mechanism, her ulterior motives involve wanting someone to take care of her. We can witness how the mother sacrifices her own desire to be taken care of in favor of taking care of her son by preserving his heavy metal t-shirts (his shields) for as long as possible.
The mother in Bozak’s short story, “Heavy Metal Housekeeping”, refers to how her “lifetime” ended fifteen years ago with the birth of her son (Bozak 106). At the moment of his birth, her son became the main priority and responsibility, therefore the ultimate sacrifice of any aspirations she had for her life. The struggles to become accepting of that loss of freedom led to an unstable relationship between her and her son (“The typical manifestations of a shabby and shattered home” Bozak 102).
However, the mother doesn’t want her son to experience the same loss of freedom as she did, which (if we follow the story’s motif of laundry) can be seen from the obsession of hanging the black, heavy metal t-shirts in the basement to prevent them from fading (Bozak 104). Compare the black color of the heavy metal t-shirts to the white uniform the mother wears to work at the hospital to support the family (Bozak 107); the black t-shirts symbolize no limitations in life, and the mother wears white, indicating that her freedom had faded from the ‘black of no limits’, all the way to the white of limitations with the responsibility of raising her son. Despite her mistakes in life and the shabby relationship between her and her son, she is “determined to turn a medium load into a large load” (Bozak 102), and try to give her son a better chance at life than she had.
Nadia Bozak’s “Heavy Metal Housekeeping” tells the story of how a mother, despite the negatively seen household conditions, sacrifices her desires and freedoms with the intended result of giving her son a better life. She sacrifices her time , her desire to be taken care of, and her own aspirations in life in order to provide as few limitations to her son’s life as possible. She had the hope of giving him a better chance at life than she ever had. Her methods of showing that hope for her son (the common motif of laundry) might not have been traditional, but it just shows how parenting isn’t a simple task and should never be taken lightly.
”Heavy Metal Housekeeping”, Nadia Bozak, pages 100-107
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