Nothing desperate about being a housewife
One time in my husband’s work Christmas party, the boss’s wife told me how she used to be a university lecturer, before she gave up her career to support her husband and children. I was anything but surprised. It seems a common story, former investment bankers and the like, smart women, intelligent and capable. They always appear happy, looking all bright-eyed and bushy tailed after their morning yoga session. At least that is how it appeared to me, in the moment, when I was sandwiched between full time work, two young children and a building project.
So why on earth was I choosing to keep dragging myself to work every morning, looking as rough as a badger’s ass? I’ve been reflecting on that quite a bit, now that I am no longer commuting to London and working long days.
It’s not like I had no choice. I could have just left. At times, my husband was pleading me to slow down. And I knew it was for my own sake, not his.
But I remember what was going through my mind back then. How perseverance was the only way to succeed in anything. How changing gear would feel like failure.
I mean, take cycling as an example. When a cyclist gets a cup of urine thrown in his face while climbingup a steep mountain, does he break down and start crying by the road side? No, he wipes his face and keeps pedaling, if that’s what it takes to finish the Tour-De-France.
And after all, it’s not like I was living some unimaginable tragedy here. This was just the all familiar balancing act between work and kids. Something millions of women balance every day (Kudos!). To put my problems in perspective I remember trying to watch a documentary about Russian serfs in the 17th century, but being so exhausted I fell asleep half way through.
It’s also true that the modern-day-woman has evolved alongside the modern-day-man. These days men are just as capable as women to step in with traditional childcare and household duties. It really takes some of the pressure of us women, right?
Yes, I suppose that’s all very well if your partner has a flexible employer or a part-time job. My husband works in mergers and acquisitions (it’s that stuff Patrick Bateman in American Psycho pretended to do for a day job, when he wasn’t busy with murders and executions). Let’s just say a shark tank would probably provide a more sympathetic environment for daddies.
You could honestly say I didn’t have much of a support network. My parents live abroad and the in-laws were 2 hour drive away. If I got stuck on the motorway on the way back from work, there was no back up plan for nursery pick up. Only a fine.
Sometimes perseverance can make you your own worst enemy. I got sucked so deep into not giving up that in the end I really wasn’t thinking clearly. I’d lost the clarity of thought to recognise the situation I found myself in, and that I needed to take action, take control and put my life back on the right footing.
So here I am, facing a major change in my professional life. Not sure what is to come next. But now with some distance to those murky months of feeling chronically exhausted, I realise that this is a truly good thing happening to me and my family.
I will be there, every day to pick up my daughter from school and help her with her homework. My son spends most of his time at home now, not at nursery. My husband is really happy to have his wife back too.
This year, as the autumn leaves fall over Hyde Park, I look forward to a new chapter in my life. I realise that I had forgotten what it feels like to be enthusiastic about something. The house is looking so much tidier and I am making some good progress with decorating our home.
Everything just feels so much more organised, in control and it’s nice not to be late all the time and feel like I am constantly catching up with things, trying to somehow keep my head above the water.
I’ve not taken up yoga yet, but I remain open to the prospect of exploring new ways to pursue happiness and well-being.