I am one of life’s very fortunate people.
I had a wonderfully straightforward, happy, loved childhood, and parents who put my education firmly in the headlights of their priorities. This philosophy, combined with some great accidents of chance, and enormous hard work on their behalf, led me to spend my formative years in some extremely good schools. The one that comes to mind especially today is St Mary’s, Ascot.
I spent four very happy years there, with wonderfully Enid Blyton like moments of madness, alongside a good bit of solid learning. One thing which always struck me was that we were being taught to become independent. We had the brains, and the education to do with our lives what we might choose. And while getting married and having children was far from maligned, it also was a long way off our radar. Few of us wanted to become “just a housewife”.
Life moved on. I am only slightly in touch with only one of my classmates from St Mary’s, more’s the pity. She is clearly a very successful business woman, with a lovely family – her updates on Facebook are a delight to read, and remind me of the time spent there on a regular basis. as for me, I was drawn to teaching… a strange career that is often misunderstood and rarely considered very highly by many. But it is a hugely satisfying vocation, and something I never regretted doing. Three years on, and I was teaching from home and awaiting baby number 1. Over the moon, thrilled to bits and tremendously excited. And never once did I consider myself to be “just a housewife” – after all, I was looking after the house and my baby, and doing a considerable amount of hours’ work each week. I felt extremely satisfied with my life/work balance, and all was good.
Baby number 2 came along, and I shifted a few hours, but largely things continued as they had been. I had plans already made up to allow me to continue working, whether another one or two babies turned up. It was a juggling act, but I was very much at ease with that juggling. I did not like the idea of being “just a housewife”… especially since the one thing I am really bad at is the houseworking!
We spent some time in France, during which I could not work – and again I was confronted with the reality that as much as I loved my family, I wanted more. The temporary nature of our stay there allowed me to “housewife” my way through a couple of years reasonably happily, but largely because I was making plans for my work when we returned to the UK.
My very good friend Stephanie has just celebrated 5 years of her blog, Was this in the Plan?...
I met her at our local children’s hospice only a few weeks after our return to the UK. All of my plans had been thrown to the wind, and I had no option but to be “that housewife”.
[It’s important to realise that I have extremely high regard for housewives. That I include in that title the ability to keep a lovely house, make good food for the family, keep husband and children on an even keel, ensure that there are clean clothes for everyone to wear, manage social lives, homework etc, etc, etc. It is NOT an easy job and is massively undervalued. I simply find it extremely difficult and my failure in this domain makes it unrewarding.]
All of a sudden, at the beginning of 2004 I was in a new house back in the UK. My Darling Man was finishing off a work project in Switzerland and I had three small children in a state of shock. Eldest was only just 4 years old, and having to readjust to living in England, a new playgroup and a very very sick baby brother. Sweet Girl was barely 2 and suddenly spending all of her time in hospital watching all sorts of people poke needles into that baby brother. Little Man was 6 months old and being attacked by leukaemia. Not only was I utterly unable to work, the house was far from neat, lovely and welcoming!
I did manage to buy a car in the midst of all this before Darling Man was able to come home, and we made good headway in dealing with that blasted cancer. Tubes made their way into our lives alongside the needles and chemotherapy; speech and language therapy appeared out of nowhere (speech therapy for a 6 month old??? – oh yes, to try and help with eating it turns out); genetics appointments, and cardiology appointments; cardiac surgery followed, failed and was eventually turned to open heart surgery. The roller coaster had well and truly begun.
Tomorrow is the 3rd November.
Tomorrow marks ten years since we were given the diagnosis of Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukaemia (JMML). Tomorrow marks ten years since I officially became “just a housewife”.
Tomorrow, I embark on the last few days of half term. I need to prepare my two Asperger’s children for their respective returns to school (one will rant and rave and refuse to go, probably becoming rather aggressive in the process; the other has found the holiday pretty unbearable but will no doubt have a panic attack because she hasn’t been there for a week). Little Man is finally in a good special school where he is kept safe and allowed to learn at his own, slower pace. We have a minimum of five specialist consultants’ appointments before Christmas, so it’s another busy few weeks.
Tomorrow, as with every day, I will think about feed, food and maths and work out how best to keep that little man as healthy as possible – add to those five appointments a sixth to which it has been agreed he will not accompany me.
Tomorrow, I continue to advocate for his needs, and the needs of so many children like him. Not out of some selfless altruistic sentiment, I’m afraid. Simply because if I do not, no-one else will, and he will suffer as a result. If I can help others along the way, my heart will soar. Not least because if I am able to help another, I cease to be “just a housewife”,
I still have dreams. They are not what they once were. The last ten years have changed me beyond recognition – my understanding of life, my priorities, my principles, all those have changed. And I need these ten years to colour my future – I need that feeling of being “just a housewife” to be overcome by the good that I have done for my family and for others. At the moment, my dream is to become a dietician.
And embarking on a completely new career at the tender age of 41 is certainly not something that was ever considered possible when I was back at school. Going back to university, starting again in the middle of life was unthinkable. I’d like to think that maybe someday this message might make its way to the girls that now fill the corridors of St Mary’s – you can do so many things with your life. Some you can do now, some will follow a beautiful path. But life tends to throw curves in your path, and in some, your plans may be changed, delayed or made impossible. It’s rarely too late to think again, to dream again.
As for me, being “just a housewife” has shaped me in a way I could never have imagined. The people I have met along the way in this rather specialised housewifey world mean everything to me, and I am the richer for their presence in my life. So for now, I continue to be “just a housewife”, but leave myself open to the possibility of being something else as well…
I was invited by that wonderful friend Stephanie, to take part in a blog hop?? (the techy side of blogging is very new to me)… Here’s hoping this works!
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PS… The wonderful brilliance and appalling failure of blogging is that it allows me to fire off a post in the space of a few short stolen minutes… No time for editing. There is much more I would like to say here, but I would then need to condense or induce a comatose state in my readers. I just wanted to apologise for the ramblings and the things left (for today) unsaid!
Do click on that Linky link… there are some valuable people whose words merit your time. Actually, you deserve to take a glimpse into their lives – yours will be the richer for it.