It occurred to me not long ago that I had become the kind of woman that as a single working girl, and then a married working mom, I had scoffed at. My day was punctuated by the odd chore between the pursuit of totally hedonistic self-gratification. I was even hearing myself say,
“Perhaps I should get a part time job for fulfillment rather than actual need of a paycheck.”
Okay, I didn’t say it exactly like that, but it was the subtext. And when your own mother thinks that having a job would “get you out of the house a bit”, which is code for “you need a real life” as opposed to the fantasy life of a writer, then perhaps you do live in La-La Land and it’s time to re-evaluate.
When I ran my theory past my husband, that my life was…..well…..all about me…. in a way it hadn’t been since I was in university, he agreed.
“You are practically one of those Hollywood wives,” he told me.
“No! I am not,” I protested.
But I am. I could totally be Posh Beckham, if only my best friend would marry a questionably balanced Scientologist and agree to split dinner salads with me when we do lunch. Seriously, that’s all that is holding me back at this point. That and a BMI in the double digits. And laugh lines. If only I could get past that irrational fear of botulism injections. In my face.
As a writer, I dictate the projects I pursue or don’t, as well as my level of engagement. I decide when I work and if I can take a day in the city to window shop. Otherwise my schedule floats around yoga and the gym most days but Friday when I shelve books at the elementary school (much to the astonishment of the librarian, I know the Dewey Decimal System a claim I doubt many Hollywood wives could make).
Having a husband whose cleanliness concerns don’t extend past laundry and the kitchen, and who happily helps out when called upon or under his own initiative more often, means that despite our cleaning service-less status of shame, I am hardly the house’s wife either in a traditional sense. I am free to read, write, roam or stretch myself into any position my body will still allow me. I can blog or write the great Canadian novel or even that memoir I keep telling myself I should get to one of these days.
When did I become one of “those women”? The women who worked for “personal fulfillment”? The women who “lunched”. Women who seemed to live better lives than the men they were married to?
I certainly wasn’t raised to be her. My parents are Depression Era babies and WWII ration card kids. Neither of them had a credit card until they hit middle age, unless you count the Sears card which everyone in my working class neighborhood had.
I don’t know which suburb the Right Wing Fantasy Family lived in, but moms where I was growing up worked at least part time at some point. Even the good Sisters of the Presentation taught the importance of employment right along with wifely servitude.
As a result, I became a FICA contributor at sixteen and spent the next quarter of a century plus in the workforce – as a single woman, a wife, a working mom and a widowed one. I was even the breadwinner in my first marriage because I was the one with the union job and the benefits package. And it was with trepidation that I left the work place upon my remarriage. I didn’t know anything but taking care of business and frying up the bacon I brought home.
My mother, a woman who mid-way through her 52 year marriage to an alcoholic found herself unable to leave because she didn’t know how to do all the things I grew up being expected to know, was concerned.
“What will happen to you if something happens?”
Code for “what if you are widowed again”? This time in a foreign country with no job.
She needn’t have worried so. I am too much a product of my times to lightly disregard the dangers of being a woman of a certain age who is essentially a stay at home wife/mom. Every year I am out of the work force, my potential Social Security earnings upon retirement shrink while I am not earning even the money to put away in an IRA or RSP, as they are called in Canada.
Although my husband’s ability to earn a living that can comfortably support a family and that allows me the opportunity to work on a life-long dream of writing, if something were to happen to him – and I have already lost a much younger husband, so I am not complacent about this – getting back into the workplace could be very difficult. Especially in this brave new global economy of “less is something you people should get used to”.
I thought about this a lot. I think it about it a lot still. We took all the precautions I didn’t the first time around with child and no life insurance.
I should worry more. I should write more. I should be glad my living is in my own hands and based on my own skill and creativity and isn’t dependent on remaining preternaturally young like Madonna. But I find myself unable to work up more than a fret or a whine now again about being spoiled and possibly even pampered by a marriage that totally suits me and a man who believes utterly in my talent. In this I am far luckier than any Hollywood wife or similarly kept woman. I have been given a gift. The pursuit of myself and a dream. Isn’t that worth a bit of risk?
This was an original 50 Something Moms piece that was syndicated by MCT on 15 of their affiliated news organizations websites.