Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Hopes, dreams and age

7 Comments

I’ll make a confession: I actually found the first grey hairs about 6 months ago. I put some color on to hide the fact that I’m turning grey as a donkey before I hit 25. When the color grows out about half an inch I start seeing the greyish hair again… Annoys me. I think aging with grace is a beautiful thing but I feel much to young for that at the moment!

Enigma posted about her birthday and that got me thinking. Aging is, in fact, something beautiful. I’m glad I’m not a kid anymore. I hope in 5, 10, 50 years I can look back and say “I’m glad I’m not 20 anymore!”. I think wrinkled skin has something beautiful about it and so does grey hair.

Our struggles, problems and lessons learned leave marks on our bodies, wrinkles, scars, a grey hair here and there. Having many of them is like a badge of experience. A medal of sorts.

I admire people who can tell stories about their lives. I remember listening to my mom telling us stories of her childhood in Europe. The picture she painted was vivid and exciting and whenever we sat down on cold evening to listen to her stories and sip hot chocolate the air smelled of old, long-lost times.

Living in Europe I have the chance to visit a lot of really old places and ruins. I love ruins and old houses. There’s a castle nearby which was built around 1100. I sometimes go there just to sit in the ruins and wonder who lived there and what happened there. I imagine scenes of medieval markets, kids playing games we forgot about. Scenes full of detail, like a girl and a boy secretly flirting in one corner, a little boy stealing some sweet bakery goods, a big woman slaughtering geese and so on. When I touch the stones I can’t help but wonder who else touched them, why they touched that stone and how their life went on.

And sometimes I wonder if, in 200 years, somebody else will come along and sit there wondering the same. Will he picture me sitting there, wondering why I was there? Will he wonder how I spent that day, week, the rest of my life?

I know for sure I ask these questions about myself, but that just makes me angry. Growing up I had such a secure vision of what my life would be like, obviously shaped by the teachings and beliefs I grew up with. I might have had interest in worldly jobs and careers, but I was sure I’d be married to a great man, he his help-meet, a housewife and mother. I was so sure that was my calling. And to be honest, that’s not the worst thing that can happen to anybody. A family should be a beautiful and fulfilling experience and if you can achieve that, what better purpose could you possibly put your life into?

I’m not talking the fundamentalist vision here. As a teen I had already dreamed of a rather secular version of family, where I could make decisions and not be under the authority of my husband but rather an equal partner with my own strengths. I wished for a man who would ask my advice and needed my support. And yes, I wished that he was a man who could cry and despair and then seek my comfort and strength, not suppress his emotions and act big and strong just for the sake of it.

When I left the movements I took these dreams with me in a little box, neatly folded up and hidden. I felt that I needed to change all my being and those dreams were not part of my new, worldly self. They couldn’t possibly be, after all one of the major reasons why I left was the fact that I did NOT want to get married – yet.

Just recently I realized how strong my longing for a family of my own is. Of course, not now, not at all cost. I want to settle things in my life and build something of my own before I even consider dating anybody. Call me nuts but I know that, for example, alcoholics are counseled not to start dating while recovering. I think that’s good advice for anybody who wants to break habits, change lifestyles, get out of depression or addiction. I still don’t want to stay dumb and muted like I was supposed to be. I want to educate myself so that I can go out and make my own money and support my husband and kids if need be.

A few months ago one of my friends, Daniel, visited me at the cafe I work at during his lunch break. We talked about a couple we know. The woman of those two has a much better job and the man is very content with it, so much that he in fact considers staying at home with the kids once they have them. My little fundamentalist demon voice laughed out loud and said “Why would a MAN do that?”. Daniel was a bit surprised by my half-mocking, half-shocked reaction. He said that both men and women were equally well equipped to raise kids, in different ways maybe, but still equally good for the children. And to top it all off, he said: “You know, if I was in his situation… why the heck not? There’s nothing more beautiful than raising your own kids and seeing them grow up each and every day. I don’t want to be a part-time dad, I want to be a really involved parent.” Now while I might have laughed at that couple at first this got me thinking, mostly because I really like and respect Daniel and pictured him as a very strong man.

Maybe it’s not that weird after all. Maybe men have the same desires to be a full-time parent. Maybe it troubles men more than I can understand that they miss out on the daily life of their kids. It must be hard to come home in the evening and hear all those great stories about funny events, first words, first steps, school events and everything else they couldn’t see. A story never lives up to actually being there. Maybe my dreams will be fulfilled in a way I never thought of: Ending up in a marriage where the man doesn’t have to be the alpha-provider to feel like a man, where I don’t have to feel guilty for working and not caring enough for the kids.

Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to figure out a way for myself, no matter how strange it looks to the people around me.

7 thoughts on “Hopes, dreams and age

  1. My husband had been a stay at home dad for the past year & he LOVES it! I have a good job & he has had medical issues keeping him from being able to work full time. Truth be told he is a much better home maker than I am & he manages the laundry, pets & cleaning very well so even tho he can work now it makes more sense for him to stay home a little longer. When we have another baby I will be home for at least the first year & then we will either split care out I will work. People often are surprised & sometimes judgmental but it works for us & he has a rare opportunity to be actively involved with our son’s life. I admire tradition but sometimes people need to forge a different path for themselves & their family.

    • I think I’d want to stay at home for at least a year too. All family design aside, I can’t imagine losing that precious time with my own kids. I’d just want to see it every day… and I can understand all men who think the same way. Seeing kids grow up is the most precious time in your life and losing it to a job or rules others made, telling you what your family should look like… that’s just not worth it.

  2. I hope you find a way of family that is perfect for you.

    Your post reminded me of a doctor’s show on the radio several years ago when you would have been about 8 or 10. He said he didn’t know what any of the mothers in his practice looked like because the fathers were the ones to bring the kids in for appointments.

    We have a pharmacist in town who just had a baby. Her husband had lost his job a year before so he’s staying home with the baby and no longer looking for work. They had decided years before that if they had children, he would be the one to quit work and stay home due to her making the larger paycheck. One of our middle school teachers and his wife run a daycare. When she gets sick, he takes off and runs the daycare as it would be a bigger financial loss to close the daycare. Try to imagine a big man of about 6′ 2″ and 200 pounds with a goatee or full beard changing diapers and fixing PB&J for toddlers and spoon feeding out of baby food jars while rocking an infant with a bottle.

    Back before factories, Dads were just as involved in their children’s lives as the moms. I really think we’ve lost sight of those days. And I don’t understand why the movement people insist on the unnatural form of family being the “right” form of family.

    • Oh yes, I read a lot about the “good old times” the fundamentalists want to bring back, where the man worked and the woman stayed at home. Libby Anne on lovejoyfeminism.blogspot.com wrote this really great post about how those good old times weren’t about the woman staying at home – they had to work just as much to make sure there was food on the table. I don’t think men back in the day were as distant to raising their kids as they are today in some religious movements.
      I have never really encountered families with stay at home dads… but now that I look around I start to see it. And I don’t think a huge closet of a man is unfit to make PB&J sandwiches for the kids hehe… A real man can do that without losing his manliness!

  3. This is a very interesting perspective that really resonates with me. My husband has always been very involved with our kids and a real partner to me from the very beginning. But ever since the last baby came along, I have somehow fallen into this role of letting him do all the fun stuff with the older kids while I stay at home and take care of the baby and toddler. This has gone on for the past six months, but I recently really just hit a wall and realized that I was no longer having fun and I was no fun to be with. For some reason, I had fallen into a role of “protecting” him from being “inconvenienced” by “MY” babies. How silly is that?? I know that my own upbringing has much to do with it, but also, it is hard to transition from being the main source of comfort and food for an infant and let someone else have a turn. You cannot deny the fact that men just do not lactate LOL!

    Anyway, he assumed that I just wanted it this way, but when I told him that I was feeling really stressed, he started MAKING me leave the house and go have fun (when I’m really in a funk, it just seems like too much effort to go and enjoy myself, so I needed him to boot me out the door). Well, I have been feeling human again and am a better mommy for it, but what I didn’t realize was that the hubby had not been given a chance to really bond with our latest baby. I was robbing him by playing the martyr, thinking I was doing him a favor. But after all, HE wants these kiddos as much as I do, he loves them and deserves their affection. And now I am spending more one-on-one time with my big boys while daddy has the littles. It really is a backward way of thinking that robs a daddy of the relationship with his little ones and turns mom into an embittered old hag! I am grateful to have married a man who realizes this.If we ever have another baby, I will try and remember this lesson and not make the same mistake twice. You are very lucky to be figuring this out now before you have children.

    By the way, I too am seeing some grey on top (actually, mine is coming in white). It only started showing up after the birth of our third son, who is our wild, wild monkey and would grey any mother’s hair! My hair is naturally red, so the white hair makes it look like I have some highlights in it, almost like I actually spend money on my hair🙂. So I think I might just go with it and grey gracefully. Or maybe I’ll go to an expensive salon every month and leave the littles home with daddy!!

  4. I love your description of dreaming about people gone before, I can almost feel their lives and hear their voices, it’s vivid.
    And on your wondering about roles in marriage and parenting, we married in that old mindset, and lived for the first few years in strict gender roles, he didn’t even change daipers. So much has changed since then, I’ve discovered my potential in things other than childbearing, and he has discovered his children. It’s incredible. And now one of our biggest dreams is that we could both work part time so that we can equally provide for and care for our children.
    Life is so different than I was ever taught to believe, and so much better!

  5. Don’t worry about the grey hair: it looks lovely on young people.

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