Consider my life. My life is busy, cluttered, and often contradictory. Some mornings I go to work in my bright modern office, where I work in a job dominated by men (I create software). This is a job I think I am entitled to say I am good at. In the office I am driven, focussed, and sometimes, I’ll be honest, downright terrifying to my staff.
After work I return home. At home I am little better than a servant. I run around after my two teenage children, endlessly planning and fussing, and nagging ineffectually. I do all the laundry, most of the cooking, shopping, chauffeuring and organization of the household and education. This is not a job that I can claim to be particularly good at, or trained for. It is, admittedly, a complication that my daughter has a serious mental illness and requires round the clock care. Thus I am also a “special needs” mum, who spends a disproportionate amount of time on the phone or in meetings, talking to and sometimes arguing with medical and education professionals. This front is a constant battle to get help and support for my daughter. For some time I kept a blog about this aspect of my life here.
This is not the life that I imagined as a girl growing up in Manchester (UK) all those years ago, doing well at school and dreaming of going to university. It is not the life led by most of my colleagues at work, or even by their wives. It is not even exactly the life led by my husband, although it closely parallels (obviously) his. It is not the life I would have chosen, and I have sometimes felt ashamed of it: ashamed for example that despite fighting for a better sharing out of the household tasks, I have been so roundly defeated, defeated by society’s expectations, by individual failures of imagination, and by sheer exhaustion. But with age I have grown to accept defeat and accept that this is the life I have to live.
The question remains, although it is a different life, is it worse than the one that I imagined I would have? And did I have any other choice? Is this worse than the life that my grandmother lived in her Glasgow tenement, juggling the raising of her children with working in the laundry downstairs? I wish my grandmother had kept a journal of her life. Too many voices – of both men and women – go unheard, and too many lives unexamined.