“I have nothing to live for. I am of no value to anyone.”
Life as I’ve always known it is no longer. I’m useless. I’m bored. I’m lost. I’m depressed. I have no value. If I can’t be someone’s 3C*, what good am I?
Before Women’s Liberation, certain things were expected of females. We were trained to not just act a certain way, but to be and to think a certain way. If we refused to conform, we could not ever expect to get a good husband. Or even a bad one. And all women were required to have a husband. Men needed wives, after all. They were out there working, making money, spending free time with their fellows to recharge, ruling the world, making important decisions. And there we were, all trained and smiling, full of hope while we waited. Me, hoping they wouldn’t notice my small breasts, my tall stature or my attitude of “but how come boys don’t have to do all this sh*t, too?”
Females were trained to cook and clean. Even in [most] homes in the old days when almost every home had a servant, the “lady of the house” had to know how to cook and clean so she would know what to expect from her servants. (I see on one branch of my own family tree, about five generations back, that one family of servants had servants, too.)
Let’s say someone is trained to do a specific task and for some reason, that task becomes redundant. They lose their job, their career, their purpose. They can plunge themselves into the darkness of depression and despair believing they are no longer of value. Or they can learn something new and do that.
Women of my generation were raised with one basic purpose in mind: to be a wife.
What is a wife?
Let me rephrase that: What was a wife? Things have changed! (Somewhat.)
During WWII (World War Two, 1939–1945), men went off to war and women stepped into their vacated jobs. Remember Rosie the Riveter? (https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter ) That was what our moms did. That was what women were capable of doing.
When the war was over, the men came home and got their jobs back and…
Where did the women go? The women who had been “working?”
They went home to do what they were “created for.”
Single women were “allowed” to be in the workforce as secretaries, teachers, nurses and librarians, but as soon as that ring went on that finger… Pow. Zapped into the world of the 3C, the world of The Wife.
Women didn’t “work,” women were housewives. That wasn’t work. The natural state of the female was to be at home. Women loved it. They loved looking after the house and the kids and their husbands. (“And they lived happily ever after.”)
Remember what I said above? “They lose their job, their career, their purpose. They can plunge themselves into the darkness of depression and despair believing they are no longer of value. Or they can learn something new and do that.”
My mother was in the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII. She worked as a telephone operator. She married my father who was also in the RCAF. (Dad trained wireless operators.) She was now a wife.
Mom did her wifely duties, of course she did. But she could also sew. Like a boss. She made my clothes and her own. She did my hair. She did neighbors’ hair. She was wife, nurse, teacher, fashion designer, hair stylist, chef-ette and often a single mom when Dad was away, still in the Air Force, then sick in the hospital for two months with a form of typhoid fever, then away at police school when I was around five. She did it all. That’s what women did.
What else was there to do? There were no cell phones. No TV. No microwaves. Not everyone had a telephone. Many in the boonies didn’t even have electricity. I remember visiting a cousin’s farm in the 1950s and they had these big glass lamps that they lit at night. No electricity. On a dairy farm.
Post-war times were tough. Mom had a washboard to do the laundry with until 1950. This I remember well because I got sh*t for blabbing to the mailman when he knocked on our apartment door one day: “We got a washing machine because Mommy is going to have a baby.” Pregnancy in those days was generally kept secret because there was only one way to get into that condition.
What Did a Wife Do in Those Days?
What occupations kept “the wife” occupied during those long, long days of being all alone in the house while her beloved, her prince, was away at work? What did she do all day to “fill in her time?”
· cooked and baked (Despite the idea that girls “didn’t need to know” arithmetic in school, our mothers could double, triple, halve and even third any recipe without the use of an abacus. There were no electronic calculators back then.)
· cleaned (This, with mop and pail, watered-down vinegar for windows†, and cloths that had to be washed. There were no [affordable] vacuum cleaners, paper towels (as we know them) or “magic” sponges in those days. Floors were washed on hands and knees. The latter I know from experience!)
· did the laundry (Mom and most moms I knew of did the laundry on Mondays in a wringer washer. Watch your fingers! Clothes were hung on the line no matter the weather, although we did have a folding wooden rack of sorts for emergencies.)
· ironed (Pretty much every single thing that went through the washing machine—dish towels, sheets, pillowcases, Hubby’s undershorts—was ironed. And this was a Tuesday job. Imagine irons without electricity! https://www.pressrepublican.com/news/lifestyles/ironing-more-tedious-with-sad-irons/article_d5c1a6fe-749d-5eb2-a87a-a8400cac347e.html)
· served as escort for public events with Hubby (Including all that that implies. [*wink, wink*])
· home schooled (Helped with the homework. But Daddy was often called in for the arithmetic. (See above).)
· made sure the children and hubby were fed, dressed and out the door on time for school, work and religious services
· handled phone calls (In those post-war days, in our town, there were party lines or sometimes the neighbor’s phone if families didn’t have a phone yet.)
· acted as doctor and nurse (Doctors made house calls and charged money for it, money people didn’t often have, so our mothers had to know all about mustard plasters, Mercurochrome, iodine, ice packs, a little gin for bad colds, how to take a sliver out or a bee’s stinger, diagnose when to actually call in a doctor, name it, she could do it.)
· shopped (within an extremely strict post-war budget that usually Hubby was in charge of; girls didn’t know anything about arithmetic, right?)
· dressed to the nines (especially in time for Hubby’s arrival for supper which was ALWAYS on the table when he stepped through the doorway)
· had the newspaper and radio all ready for Hubby after supper so he could relax after his hard day at work
· kept the children occupied in the evenings so Hubby wouldn’t be disturbed (All this while doing the dishes and helping the kids do their homework (see above) and later, getting them ready for bed. Then be all glamorous and spiffed-up (see “escort” above) to spend time with Hubby after the kids were taken care of.)
· I could go on and on and on
“Imagine, if you will…” this wife having none of this to do anymore. No kids, no hubby. She has a vacuum cleaner (maybe even a Roomba, too), a microwave, restaurants for take-out, order from or dine in, a cellphone with reminders, TV that can be recorded then watched whenever, drugstores, OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) or equivalent (in most countries), mixers, blenders, juicers, frozen pre-made meals, prepared almost-everything, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and dryers, debit and credit cards, a job/career/government pension that provides a stable income, pre-school, daycare, a car…
Wow. Nothing to do. I’m of no value anymore. “They lose their job, their career, their purpose. They can plunge themselves into the darkness of depression and despair believing they are no longer of value. Or they can learn something new and do that.”
It’s never too late to learn something new. Something fun. Volunteer. Take an online course or go back to school/college/university. Write a book. Write two. Think of something. We now have 31,536,000 seconds a year to ourselves.
Today’s tip: Learn something new.
Until next time.
*The definition of a “3C” may be revealed in a future post. It’s rude and possibly shocking. But sadly apt.
†Dad helped out when it was time to do the outside windows
Illustrations from https://www.needpix.com/
Photos by Sherrill Wark