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.

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12 comments
  1. Deb said:

    Oh gosh, you write as I feel. My life is nothing I imgined it would be. At 11 my head was in books and during my teens I loved politics, feminism, environmental stuff and dreamt of being bi linguial and working in business, law or politics. Now look at me; stuck at home caught between feeling a failure and doing the most important job on the planet; raising my children. I struggle to accept who I’ve become and often find myself thinking about my grandmother and whether my life is as repressed as hers was. Deb x

    • I suspect we’re not unusual – there’s this gap between what we *thought* we were going to be doing, and what we *are* doing in practice! It might be a bit more marked for us, having children who went a bit more off the beaten path in childhood, but I don’t think we’re alone.

  2. dhonour said:

    You will never be defeated by anyone else’s expectations. Instead of thinking of what you have been ‘reduced’ to doing, think of all the things you do. There are many, many people out there that would give up, throw in the towel and claim defeat. But you are doing them. Are they monotonous and full of drudgery? Probably some days, sure. But don’t ever lose sight of yourself in there.

    • I completely agree: in many ways women who soldier on managing the challenges of family life can always comfort themselves that they know they are doing something of value. But what I think needs to be said is that it is still not much valued by the world at large. It is hard to feel heroic without the respect of other people (not that I can claim to be particularly heroic myself!). You’re quite right to insist that we’re not “reduced” by doing these things – and we know we’re not – but maybe we need to keep reminding the rest of the world of that fact, with as much firmness as we can bring to bear. (And perhaps by celebrating our successes too!)

  3. I have a few friends with special needs children — three friends like this. One is my age but looks a decade older after raising an autistic son, plus doing a high-powered job. I admire the hell out of her.

  4. You write beautifully about difficulties and challenges of raising children, juggling their needs with yours, and providing for a family–the stuggles of our modern life. Please know that you’re not alone and there is nothing shameful in the travails you face. They happen to all people, in all cultures, of all classes. I know the stress can be overwhelming: it was for me and I fought depression for many years. Writing, supportive friends, counseling and sometimes medicine got me through it, though. It’s important to reach out for help, and it’s no sign of weakness to do so. All the bes.

    • Thank you Kurt, that is such kind and perceptive feedback! I shall take courage.

    • Thank you very much! I shall really enjoy answering the questions and reading through the other nominees.

      • mewhoami said:

        You are very welcome! I look forward to reading your answers.

  5. Rachel said:

    Hello, I appreciate that you follow my blog Differently Able, Just As Capable on blogspot. I think it was after my blog for Mind in June last year about my experiences of being on an adult ward at 17. I read your guest blog for them around that time too and it was humbling to hear how it feels to be a parent on the caring side of that sort of situation.

    I’m just getting back to blogging and reading other blogs after a little while away and have decided to change the name of my blog (and thus the URL) as I felt ‘differently able’ was something of an isolating term for some people or even for myself a little bit. It has a bit of a mixed reaction amongst people with a disability. If you’d like to keep reading you can now follow it at http://araeofpossibilities.blogspot.co.uk

    Many thanks,

    Rachel

    • Thanks so much for this Rachel – I will follow as soon as technology allows me. I love your writing.

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