CARRYING ON – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Carrying On


I am a nurturer. Not necessarily by DNA, but because that was the task assigned to me when I was young and it has hung on there for a lifetime. It is, as they say, “woman’s work.”

I have always been taking care of someone. Child, adult, cats, dogs, everyone. Cooking and shopping. Making sure it all got taken care of … somehow. These days, as my ability to do a lot of things I used to do without even thinking about it become increasingly limited, I wonder what will happen if I can’t?

There’s no point in worrying about it. Life will bring what it brings, for good or ill. Everyone will get sorted out. Those who never thought they could do “that” will discover, after all, they can do a lot of things they didn’t think they could manage.

My mother was a reluctant nurturer. She had so many projects going on at the same time. Painting, sculpting, sewing, knitting, rug hooking. That was what she wanted to do. She never learned to cook, but she did it anyway … which encouraged her children to learn to cook early and often.

I’m sure a woman who could do all those artistic things could have learned to be at least a passable cook, but for some reason, the kitchen was where she drew the line. I grew up in that changing period when women were expected to do everything. We won the freedom to have a full-time career and raise the kids while making sure the marriage hung together.

Mostly, it failed. Almost all we “superwomen” of the sixties wound up divorced. It turns out, we weren’t super. No one can do it all. Something had to give. Typically, the marriage went first, but eventually, other things, too. For many, careers went down the tubes. Other women just ran for their lives or simply disappeared.

It didn’t seem like such a heavy load in the beginning. When you are young and have tons of energy, you bounce from the job to the kitchen with a supermarket in between, balancing childcare and work and a social life. But it grinds you down, even if you don’t notice the process. It’s like a potato being slowly peeled until one day, there’s no more potato.

Your partner doesn’t understand because it never seemed like a big deal. That’s what all the wives did. You were doing what you were supposed to do. Carrying on. Taking care of everyone. Knowing where the mittens were last seen, making sure the cupboards were full, know when who was supposed to be where and when.

Time has played havoc with much of that. These days, I can’t remember anything unless I write it down — and I have to first remember to write it down. Then I have to remember to look at the calendar because writing it down was just step one. Getting it done — the harder part — was steps two through however many more steps were required.

I don’t know if young women today see themselves as nurturers the way my generation did. Despite the grueling nature of the process, we were proud of our ability to balance everything and somehow, make it work. I don’t think they see their lives like that and that’s for the best.

It didn’t work out well for us and trying to recreate a reality that didn’t work before doesn’t seem likely to be any better now. The time has really come for an equal partnership where both members of a couple pull together. Willingly. And fairly.

The thing about women’s liberation is that it wasn’t freeing. It wasn’t liberating. What we won was the freedom to do everything and be good at it. Better at it than anyone else. Because being as good as the man next to you wasn’t good enough for a woman to make it.

We had to be better.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

31 thoughts on “CARRYING ON – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. One of the first woman/mayors of Ottawa said very much what you just said, Marilyn. “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”
    Leslie

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  2. I just did it, because someone had to and I had the logistics to organise at home. Mr. Swiss and his job just came first. Today i do what is to do. I have to try and overcome my handicaps due to MS, but I refuse to let them take over my life. Everything now goes in slow motion, but I do not havevto hurry. There is always an open question „what if“, but I push it on one side

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    1. It is age-related. I suggested to my doctor that i must be beginning the long drop to dementia and he laughed heartily. “You are,” he said, “the least demented person I know.”

      “But I forget everything in 15 seconds.”

      “That’s something else,” he said. Okay, then. Not demented. Just no memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. No, I don’t think the young women of today are the same kind of nurturer, WE gave them the gift of freedom to choose along with liberation and all that. Was it a good thing? Not necessarily.

    You wrote: “I used to do without even thinking about it become increasingly limited, I wonder what will happen if I can’t?” You said it yourself. You’ll just keep on keeping on.
    When hubby died suddenly I had nobody to take care of, to consider first and people kept saying “Now it’s YOUR turn to take care of YOU” and stuff like that. Made me twitchy. I still have trouble doing the taking care of me first bit because I was raised to expect to serve. My parents, my husband, my non-existent children (if I’d had any)…sometimes I think this state of limbo is a punishment of sorts for not having any. The next generation gives you something to nurture, doesn’t it? Grand children and all that?

    Good post and thought provoking. We did it all baby, but I wonder what we did to our selves that’s not repairable?

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    1. We were raised for a world we no longer live in. And we raised children who aren’t quite fit to live in the world they DO live in. What a mess.

      And no, the grandkids grow up and live their own lives, often on another part of the continent. At some point, you are on your own. We get there in different ways, but we all get there.

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    1. It used to happen more often, but I’ve written so much in recent years, a lot of the time I realize “I wrote that one already.” I think I just had this somewhere in my mind, waiting to get written.

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  4. Those were exhausting years for women, trying to do it all seemed to be expected. Perhaps luckily for me, I was never a career minded woman. I worked because I wanted and needed to provide my share of funds to our budget. I enjoyed my job in the railways but it was not really a job with a “career path” and that was fine with me.

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