Women’s Work

I wrote in my last post about leaving my day job. It wasn’t an easy decision.

What comes afterwards though is, always, more difficult.  After the initial shock passes I begin to second guess myself.  I “What If” for a while, trying to negotiate a solution.  Then I start to berate myself.  I tell myself that “other people” can do this so why can’t I?  I blame myself for not being more resilient or strident.  I begin to feel my self-worth slide.

This morning I decided to walk to get the shopping, rather than drive.  As I walked past the line of commuter cars and roadside mugwort plants taller than me the swirling waters in my mind cleared.

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I have been a mum now for over twenty-two years,  I have been living here as a carer for my mum for the past year or so.  These roles challenge me daily; how best to support, how to grow a child from infant to adult, what to say, how much to help and when,  how much to expect and when.  How to create a healthy and happy environment for someone who some days doesn’t know you as their daughter, to keep them physically safe while not making them feel a prisoner in their own home, to care for all of their needs while maintaining dignity and personhood.

These are roles with mental, emotional and physical demands.  They require long hours, wakeful nights, constant attention.  They require strategy, diary management, a good knowledge of Microsoft software packages, budget management, responsibility for purchasing, strong communication and inter-personal skills, an ability to be flexible and work on initiative.  They need you to get out of your comfort zone on a daily basis and there is no annual leave entitlement.

While this is all true, and I can see this more and more as I type, I have railed against the fact that in my “career” I have not achieved the level I would have expected by now.  I have bemoaned the fact that society does not value “women’s work” while at the same time, I realise, not valuing it myself.

Rather than seeing these vital roles as valuable and important, both emotionally and spiritually, and also in terms of social capital, I have mentally side-lined them in order to focus on the perceived “real” work of employement/business.  I have waited for external validation (that old chesnut) rather than claiming these as valid and worthwhile choices.

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In a culture of ever-expanding choices and options, where social media constantly presents a raft of exciting possibilities, doing something as “traditional” as being a homemaker can seem old-hat.  But I feel that I need to give myself permission to be just that.  This is not an easy choice.  It means letting go of ideas about what I thought I wanted, or “should” be doing.  It means getting comfortable with claiming this and saying “no thank you” to all the other shiny options.  I do not know how it will evolve.

I imagine myself digging up an old, overgrown shrub.  This is the collection of ideas and narratives I’ve been living with until now.  It is way past its sell by date, twiggy, dry and unproductive.  What might grow in the bare soil it leaves behind?

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