My paternal grandmother was ever the optimist and a bit of a “Polyanna”. She was quite fond of the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” My paternal grandfather, on the other hand, would retort, “Fuck that, break out the tequila!”
I tend towards the latter sentiment myself. Okay, depending on the day, I may want to freeze the lemons and throw them at people.
My grandmother reminded me a lot of the character Betty White portrayed on The Golden Girls, Rose. She was almost always cheerful, rarely ever had a bad thing to say about anyone, in fact, she was the queen of making excuses for other’s bad behavior. She just didn’t have it in her heart to think that people could be behaving badly simply because they were assholes.
Her naiveté always struck me as being somewhat childlike. I’m not saying she wasn’t an intelligent person, she was. Her world view just seemed a bit, well, naive. Considering when and how she grew up, it’s honestly a wonder that she wasn’t very jaded.
I’ve learned fairly recently, from talking to my Uncle’s wife, that my grandmother wasn’t always so joyful in her outlook on life. I’ve often wondered this, as I’ve seen photos of her during WWII and right after, that show a woman who never seemed to smile. This is not the woman that was my Granny. I never knew her to be anything other than happy-go-lucky, even when worrying.
In the late 40’s and early 50’s, I don’t think there was such a diagnosis as Post Partum Depression. However, that doesn’t mean women didn’t suffer from it. Apparently, my grandmother did, in spades. She had two children, 4 years apart, during and right after WWII and was alone in raising them for quite some time. My grandfather was fighting in the war, and then still in the Navy for a couple of years after the war ended and rarely home.
Growing up, she took on most of the responsibility of raising her younger brother, as my great-grandmother was a widow at that point, losing her husband while she was still pregnant with my youngest great-uncle. She had to work, she had 4 children to care for, alone. So my grandmother stepped in and helped as much as possible.
I wonder if becoming an adult at such a young age pushed her towards depression once she had a family of her own to deal with, alone as well. Although from experience, I can honestly say that raising two young boys, alone, is no picnic. I did it myself for quite some time.
Once my grandfather was out of the Navy and home more often, then came the two girls. From what I’ve gathered from my Uncle’s wife, my grandmother was still an unhappy woman, but she rarely let it show now. She played the role of dutiful wife and mother on the surface, making sure to stand by my grandfather in everything he did.
These days, this type of behavior seems to be looked down on, calling women names such as “50’s housewife” and such. In reality, at least for me, I don’t see it as a bad thing.
I understand having your own life, apart from your duties as a wife and mother, is essential. I believe this is crucial for men and women alike. Having a healthy relationship counts on it, as much as it counts on open communication, honesty, and trust.
A great sex life is a bonus.
But, whether you’re a housewife or househusband, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being home, taking care of your family, if that’s what you’ve chosen to do in life. And belittling someone for doing this job, and believe me, it is a job, is ridiculous.
When my kids were younger, I didn’t have the choice to stay home with them. Now that they are older, and my health has dictated that I can not work in the public, I have been home since 2008. There are days I wish more than anything that I could do something outside the home, but more often than not, I am just thankful to be able to have this opportunity.
I can focus on my family and my writing career, something I’ve always wanted to do but wasn’t always able. In the process, I get up each morning with my husband, make his lunch for the day, and spend time with him before he goes off to work. I do the laundry, dishes, and keep the house clean (ish). I prepare dinner each night, and yes, I serve everyone’s plates.
I have been told I do too much. Really? My husband goes to work 5–6 days a week, sometimes putting in 13 hour days. My youngest son, who also lives at home, works 5 days per week, and walks to work most of the time. How am I doing too much? I should be Peg Bundy, sit on the couch and watch soap operas, eating Bon-Bons?
Not gonna happen. I work as well, but I make my own schedule. I write when no one else is here, and keep our home running.
I think it’s a pretty fair trade. And when I’ve had a shitty day, there’s nothing in the world that says I can’t cut those lemons, add some salt, and have a shot of tequila.