Role Model ?

housewifeOn every survey, on every application, on every questionnaire:

Father’s Occupation:  _____________               Mother’s Occupation: _____________ultimate

Like most of my hometown friends and classmates, I entered “Steelworker” for Dad.

I always paused, and was often almost ashamed to enter “Housewife” for Mom.

This was the 1950’s. The family model of the baby boomer generation was for Dad to be employed in a manner that would allow Mom to be home raising her children and caring for the home.  Leave It To Beaver. Ozzie and Harriet. What’s not to love about that ?1950s Housewife

I wanted more for my mother. She had worked the first decade of their marriage, contributing to the family finances; co-purchasing their home.

She was bright, lively, vibrant, engaged in the world of work. I was young, but I remember. I have photos of her at one of her jobs, at an A & P grocery store. She looked happy. She always brought friends home on Friday night. She served homemade pizza. The conversations were so animated; she was in her comfort zone. We noticed.

A few years and 3 children in, she was forced by tragic circumstances to be that housewife for the first time. She had 3 more children. She was never the same.

We often heard her lament. “If I just hadn’t had so many children” “I had so many dreams growing up” “I wish I had gone to Nursing School” ” I could have been so much more than a housewife”.  Ouch.

For all of us, particularly her 4 daughters, this was a painful message; one that had us all scrambling for some sort of self-fulfillment that was not defined by being a wife and mother.ketchupIt took me so long to reconcile all these negative influences. There was emotional pain, confusion and depression.

On the last week of her life, Mom looked at me with all the sincerity she could muster and said “You children are the best thing that ever happened to me”.

I’m sorry for her, and for us, that the acknowledgement came so late. In my heart, I always wanted to believe this was her truth; it was just so nice to finally hear it.

I had my first child 3 years later.

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18 Responses to Role Model ?

  1. Maria says:

    I have always had a very secret dream about being a stay at home mum and wife. None of it have ever happened, or may never happen. When I have been home with my kids over the years it has been because of my illness, depression, so it has been hard to enjoy it. And wife, no man have ever wanted me to be their wife.. Oh well, their loss I guess 😉

    But its sad that parents put blame on their kids for their unfulfilled dreams, the good think about it is that we would never do that to our own kids 😉 My mum has always been upset about having me as a 16 year old, and claim she lost so much out of life because of my father.. So I guess that’s why I had kids around the age of 30 and still are single 😉

  2. Thanks for sharing, Maria. The timing was interesting. I was hearing the OB/GYN advice of the day to” have that baby before 30″. Fortunately for young women today, that advice is not so valid. But I felt the pressure, and fought it hard. My mother died just before my 29th birthday, when I began to re-evaluate.
    And re the wife thing for you…you are so right…their loss ! ☺

  3. We are all so imperfect and ambivalent, aren’t we? Wouldn’t it be great if we all possessed the wisdom at the beginning of our lives that requires a lifetime to learn?

  4. megdekorne says:

    Tenderly written Vanessa … I understand … Blessings

  5. mandy says:

    We came from the same day and age, Van. You speak the truth of the way things were. My own mother stayed in bed with depression. Did she have dreams? She never voiced them. Conflicting job, being a mom. I went back and forth working outside the home, then guilt brought me back into the home and child raising. I try to convey to my daughter to follow her dreams outside of having a family first, the rest will work out just fine.

    • Times have changed, or have they ? With women having so many more choices, they are still conflicted. I see it in my daughter and her friends, who want to have it all; just struggling with the emotional logistics. Thanks for sharing, Mandy.

  6. This is a tough one… As women, we want it all but its very difficult to be fulfilled by too many roles at once. If we dilute the resources too much (time, us, etc), our effectiveness and enjoyment go down precipitously. I have done a lot of personal work over the last several years to discover what it is that I REALLY wanted apart from other people’s expectations, my own ideas of what I thought I ‘should’ be doing, and what my friends were doing. My life looks quite a bit different from a lot of others but I wouldn’t trade it for the world ❤

    I'm glad that even though it came late, your mom was able to acknowledge to you how happy she was to have gone down her path 🙂

  7. writerinsoul says:

    Interesting and familiar. My mother liked to say she hadn’t “married a house,” but in fact, in many ways, to my eye/mind, she *had.* She made it abundantly clear she didn’t think much of her lot in life, but she was not quite the victim she portrayed, although it would take me some time to see that. Her daughters got a message she didn’t plan: that a life of raising a family sucks. I’m glad your mother ultimately gave you much-needed validation. People sometimes have no idea how important admitting the truth can help those who’ve waited a long time to hear it. Thanks for this post.

    • You’re so right, Collette, the validation was late, but so very welcome. My brothers were ok with the role of dad. I am the only daughter of 4 that chose to be a mom. Two sisters never tried, and one tried hard not to get pregnant, but welcomed the 2 babies she claims were divine “accidents”. Those negative words, that a parent utters so casually, have a lifetime of impact. Lesson learned. Thanks for sharing.

  8. lbeth1950 says:

    I felt the same way. I knew my Mother’s life was put on hold when she married. I remember many times hearing her say she felt like a machine.

  9. I am very young (28) with no kids nor husband, so I am not sure if my comment will be well received. I was thinking as I read your lovely story, do women just want what path they did not take? A career woman wishes she was home more with her family and the housewife gets depressed at home and swears that they are “missing out” not having a career. Obviously we wish and some swear we can do both but I myself am not so sure. In the end we are remembered for the memories we create with our families not the money or success we accumulate, right? Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • A 28 year old’s comment is always well received! Some of my favorite people in the world are your age.

      There is an element of “what if” for women; traditionally, men do not share the luxury of choice of career/parenthood. Without fail, when folks come to the end of life, they wish that they had more meaningful relationships…with family, friends, etc. and less attention to the “stuff” of material success, job fulfillment, and other things defined by society. So…there is that.

      For myself, I could do both, just not at the same time. By waiting almost 10 years to start a family, I could afford to take time off when the kids were young. I’ll never regret that choice. The career choices were more limited on return to the work force, but…who cares. I was living life on my own terms. Thanks for chiming in, and thanks for being “real and raw”. ☺

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