In life we create these moments that we believe matter, marking the date, we celebrate, thinking that it will always be of some importance to us. We don’t think of what lies ahead, how life’s assurance to us is always going to be to change our course, and all of a sudden that moment, now holds far less value. All the sentiments surrounding the moment no longer exist. The value of the date, the celebration, has no role anymore, and a vacant space is created, for a new story perhaps, or perhaps for no story at all. The date, becomes as it was before, and quietly you wonder to yourself why in a world where nothing is permanent or absolute, do we still insist on signifying such moments in the first place. In hindsight, it would seem for this particular moment a certain naivety had taken precedence over, her much higher wisdom.
In August 1970, a woman named Judy Syfers stood before a crowd gathered in San Francisco and read a humorous essay she wrote entitled ” Why I want a Wife”. The crowd was gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. In 1971 it was published in an important anthology of feminist works, ‘Notes from the third Year’.
I belong to that classification of people known as wives.I am a wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.
Not too long ago a male friend of mine appeared on the scene fresh from a recent divorce. He had one child, who is, of course, with his ex-wife. He is looking for another wife. As I thought about him while I was ironing one evening, it suddenly occurred to me that I too, would like to have a wife. Why do I want a wife?
I would like to go back to schools that I can become economically independent, support myself, and, if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I going to school, I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife to keep track of the children’s doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children’s clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturant attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure they have adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. it may mean a small cut in my wife’s income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.
I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed,mended,replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook. I want a wife who will plan the menus, do the necessary grocery shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and then do the cleaning up while I do my studying. i want a wife to go along when our family takes vacation so that someone can continue to care for me and my children when I need a rest and change of scene.
I want a wife who will not bother me rambling complaints about a wife’s duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a rather difficult point I have come across in my course studies. And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.
If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.
When i am through with school and have a job, i want my wife to quit working and remain at home so that my wife can more fully and completely take care of a wife’s duties.
My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?
when a daughter of my closest friend gave me this piece to read i did so lightheartedly thinking in the beginning how truthfully funny it was.. however the further i read, the humour was lost to how implicitly relevant this piece is to the women of today. How do we change the story? How do we teach our sons and daughters differently, to expect different and fairer for themselves when all they see are mothers taking care of them, taking care of all that needs to be done for their lives to feel secure and loved as children? How do i show my daughters that their lives are abundantly worth everything and that they need not lose themselves to the children they bear and the husbands they marry, when it is all they have ever witnessed and not by their mother’s choosing? This piece was written in 1970, it could have been written today, i could have written it, for myself.
…she was able to ware proudly her passion for life, instead of her heart on her sleeve. She knew to hold herself back because she valued herself. she knew her price-priceless. She knew that the kind of love she gave was only going to go to somebody worthy of it. When your young your self-worth comes from being loved by other people; but by the time you are a woman with a past, you know your value, and you love yourself. That’s where your self-worth comes from. No man can ever give you your self-worth, but you can let plenty rob you of it. On the surface it would seem she is self-centered, which she is. But self-centered in the best possible way; being centered in the truth of who she is. Her authentic self. A woman who knows this deserves nothing less than to be loved truly madly deeply. Unconditionally. Devotedly. Exclusively. A woman who will not settle for anything less. Because that is the only way she knows how to love.
-Sarah Ban Breathnach
I have been confused and troubled by love for my life. I know i have wanted to believe that love is something only another can give to you, like a precious gift perfectly wrapped, a gift that would always remain the same, unable to be moved by life and harsh circumstances. I always wanted to believe that it is possible for another to give you the things that you were missing from your own beliefs, that they may just be able to fill the gaps, build you up, see your potential, even if you really couldn’t see or believe these things for yourself. I wanted to believe it to be this way, because i thought it was easier. There is no need for me to do anything. No need for me to do the hard work of discovering it for myself, within myself, by myself. It’s easier to accept and embrace the precious gift from another. What i have learnt, is that this rarely works. The very things we are looking for outside of ourselves, for love to provide us with, can never be found out there. It will never really exist there, unless of course, it already exists within you. It’s always nice in the beginning, your love see’s you the way you want to see yourself, you fall in love with the idea they have of you. It’s always a nice idea but it can never be a lasting idea because you don’t for a second believe it to be true for yourself. And that is the only place where love can begin. What i know now is, love doesn’t ask that we change or bend ourselves, it’s doesn’t require us to hide or manipulate truths about who we really are, or ask that we deny any part of ourselves that don’t seem to fit. Love requires nothing, it just is. It doesn’t need to be built up, explained or begged for, it doesn’t even need recognition or admiration, love just simply exists and i understand now, that i must be all that i am seeking, i must journey within and discover that great love for myself, by myself, only then will i truly be able to share it with another.
im reading Something More at the moment, a book that has travelled many years beside me, it was at one time in my life well read and again now. As im reading im finding the stories are familiar, and i say with immense heartache are just as familiar once again. Sarah writes, ‘if it’s true that sometimes we marry for the wrong reasons, we convince ourselves to stay for even worse ones. We stay to be kind. We stay for the kids. We stay because we think we can’t afford to leave and wont calculate the psychic cost of remaining. We stay because we put loyalty to others above loyalty to our own truth. We stay because we are genuinely good and decent people. Good people do not walk out on marriages that are congenial enough to get through a dinner party, school conferences, a childs learning disability, a father-in-laws stroke, family holiday gatherings…’ Some women can do this and they seem to do it well, on the outside. They go about their lives, allowing themselves to slip away and they settle, settle for what they have, for what ever nourishment is offered if any is offered at all, they talk themselves into the belief that what they have is enough, that they can make do, they are even grateful, it might not be the complete story, but its a story and its good enough.. I’m not one of them. I have always wanted my children to live in their truth, what ever that entails, even if they are to find themselves lost in their lives over and over again, even if my children have children, be brave and follow your truth. They were my words and up until now, had only been for them. Until now, they have mattered more. All the ones i love have mattered more. I love well, somewhere and sometime ago, i stopped loving well the one who i needed the most, i stopped mattering to myself. Now, im listening to the honest words iv’e always held out for my children and offering them up for my own taking. I’m moving into my truth. i know it will come with resistance from others, even ones i love, that is alright. i understand that they don’t recognise me this way. It will take time to adjust, for understanding that now i am as important as they are, that now i may not always abide by the rules they have set for me. And some wont come around at all, it simply will no longer fit, maybe it will be too confronting for them, of their own stories, but that too cannot concern me now. i can let go with love the ones who are not meant to stay. What matters most now, in this moment is that I matter.
the literature of women’s lives is a tradition of escapees, women who have lived to tell the tale.. They resist captivity. They get up and go. They seek better worlds.
I have been quiet here lately, away, for quite sometime now, I know. There has really been nothing that has been ready to say. No truth that needed to be revealed, not until now, anyway. I’m in the in-between. Moving slowly and allowing myself to build in strength. I have let go of all that my story entailed and will leave the pages blank for a while. There are deep hard questions that I need to ask myself now. Ponderings that only arise when all the children are asleep, when the house is still and there’s nowhere to hide, from myself. What was it I believed about myself that would allow another to come in and ever so slowly and carefully dismantle me, my worth? What belief is it I must hold that would say, you are undeserving beside the ones you love, the ones you care for and give your life to? Where did the deep value and love for myself go? I didn’t notice it leave. For so long I didn’t fight for myself. I allowed whatever expectations I had about what I deserved, to slowly fall to such a place that I began to believe and hold on to what was happening as if it was my truth, a devastating portrayal of myself. I would catch myself sending silent whispers off into the world, wondering if this was to continue to be my story. While travelling in the car with my children and my husband, my own reflection caught me in the car window and in that very inconvenient moment I was hit hard with a deafening sadness, where I had to fight with great strength to hold back the tears that were begging to fall but in such way that I knew if I am to begin now I may never stop crying. I may never be able to escape the depths of this grief, grief for the loss of myself. This is the moment it became so very clear to me, if I stay in this, I simply would not survive.
This year has been a hard one for our family, big changes came with big challenges, much of which we are still unfolding. My girls sometimes worry that we are unique in the current unrest of our home, that the waves of emotions and truthful uncertainties are not something that is felt within the homes of their friends families. The truth is, it is more likely closer to what is real than the idea of ‘happily ever after’ is in many ways. We are forever unfolding and growing into ourselves and if we get too caught up in things that don’t matter for long enough, we can lose sight of what truly does, even with the ones we love the most. It is important for them not to be too sheltered from life’s pains. If we protect and hide what is real, what is raw and true, we teach them to only know life as an all encompassing wonderful. And life is wonderful but it can also be equally devastating and no one is immune to feeling some sort of devastation at some time in their lives. We need our children to be aware of this, we need to them to grow with resilience, so when life imposes hard challenges upon them, they will know that it is alright to hit the ground. It is alright to feel hard pain. It isn’t a sign of a weakness or a betrayal of a story that they have been living, there is no shame, no need to hide or mask what is real for them in that moment. They need to understand that life moves around and around, and the hardest of moments will pass, we will circle up again. Staying true takes bravery. Staying true, doesn’t always mean that there is an absence of love. Love can be very present and it’s a difficult challenge to go on loving another without an idea of what the story is really meant to look like. Life and love are messy, children do complicate relationships, it takes a deep kind of honesty to be able to understand and often admit such inclinations. I would rather my children know that they wont be saved from never feeling pain in their relationships, that having children will challenge them in ways that they could never imagine. Parenting, is tricky. Autism is a blessing and a heartache. There is subtleties, that only you as a parent can recognise, the struggles and misunderstandings, confusions and frustrations. It’s almost impossible to completely understand, and as a parent you carry a certain kind of worry that is unique only to them. These honest challenges have put a strain on our family, and we are all still trying to find our grounding. I am hopeful that we are on our way up again. I have let go of any ideas of what I thought we were meant to be and are allowing life to honour us with what we are instead. I have surrendered, and relaxed into the truth and I know happiness will flow through our doors once again, sometime soon. This past year we have shared many, many tears and have experienced more than our fair share of temper tantrums from toddlers, teenagers and an overloaded mother. But as a family we have triumphed life with our spirits, love and acceptance of what is. In all our uncertainties that we have been presented with, we are settled in the knowing that we are a strong tribe and we will be alright, no matter what life bestows upon us next.