For now

It is the great irony of my current situation that my move to the other side of the planet, giving me access to so many new and exciting countries and experiences, is actually the most insular and enclosed period of my life. I can’t be sure that it wouldn’t be the same if I had remained in Australia – young children play a significant part in this, as you can imagine – but despite the world on our doorstep I have never felt so encapsulated, been so contained.

A lot of the feminist literature I pretended to study at university (preferring instead to focus on happy hour) spoke about women being identified as the other, their domain being the home, their interests curtailed to that of the private, the domestic. I was born well after this awakening – that this had to be named and identified made little sense to me at the time. My understanding of and interest in feminism was more brutish: down with the patriarchy! equal pay please! my body is my own! While such sentiments remain legitimate (and still somewhat crude), it’s now the rumblings, the stirring, the collective uprising against the domicile as women’s domain that interests me more. Those generations of women before me, bubbling away until the quiet frustration and fury became no longer quiet.

A quick caveat: the situation in which I find of myself is, I think, largely of my own making. There are some external barriers – I’ve found it hard to find work here, and this combined with the costs of living here and social set up make it more practical for me to manage our family. However outside of that, I am well educated, I live in an age of amazing technology, and my partner is nothing but supportive of any action I wish to take.

Nonetheless, I find myself identifying with this image of the woman trapped within the home. It’s a big old tumble of frustration, boredom, exhaustion, isolation. I was going to liken it to a tangled ball of laundry but really, that’s just too terribly on point. Juxtaposed with this is how fortunate I am: a lovely happy and healthy family, plenty of time to spend with them, a beautiful and safe city in which to live, a continent we’re fortunate enough to be able to explore. Despite this admittedly ridiculously wonderful scenario, I find myself feeling at times trapped and at others defeated, and because of it I feel ungrateful and unwarranted in expressing any discontent.

It is in part the relentless – and only predictable in its unpredictability – lack of sleep. A tired old complaint, if you’ll excuse the pun, but one that is infiltrating everything at the moment. Then there’s the bubble of Hausfrauing – any available energy is spent inadequately attempting to stay on top of the never ending chore cycle (cook, eat, clean, repeat) (everything in my life is currently slightly sticky due to those two brats). There’s a distinct lack of contact with anything outside of families and children. My main relationships here have been forged through our children, and I am exceedingly grateful for them for numerous reasons. However, I frequently find the tedium of my own conversation (toilet training! room sharing! she calls them ‘rainbrellas’!) grating, formulaic, caricatured.

A friend asked me, fairly recently, whether I get time to myself. I do – quite a lot, really. I spend it sleeping when I can, reading (novels of the comforting and familiar variety; for me, trashy crime always), watching assorted television of an evening while slogging away at a lengthy and poorly considered craft project, drinking wine, absently flicking through social media. All of these extend the insular nature of my existence. They are also completely within my own control. What I failed to understand was that she was really asking about the quality of the alone time I have, how I use it. Does it nourish me, connect me to anything, build something?

The difference between my situation and that of my feminist predecessors is of course that there was little choice for them. Society unquestioningly and inflexibly enforced their capture within the home and the web of their families; that same society against which they chose to uprise and challenge. While it would be simple for me to use this narrative, I find the my truth a little more nuanced (although no doubt theirs was too, but that was perhaps part of the reason their oppression continued for centuries). To what extent is the time of my life the cause, or a significant contributor, to this? My personality, motivations and inclinations? The old school nature of Switzerland in particular, compounded by my inability – still – to speak the language? Or is this the nature of – I don’t want to use the word oppression, because I am anything but oppressed – containment, perhaps? But then who, if not me, is doing the containing?

I don’t have any resolution of these thoughts and frustrations currently flitting around in my head. And since my children are both asleep and there is a layer of lunch-related muck on the floor, a dinner to prepare that will in the near future be added to said floor muck, only a few chapters left in my crappy novel, and a slippery dip to visit, they will not be resolved any time soon. Thus my cycle continues for now.

(Also, I am really, really enjoying that crappy book.)

7 thoughts on “For now

  1. Great post. I think about this stuff a lot. I hope you’re doing OK. It sounds like you are, but it IS a lonely, boring time in many ways stuck home with young kids and in a foreign country. One thing my counsellor told me when I was horribly depressed about 9mo after moving here was – OK so you chose it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard and you’re not allowed to feel sad/upset/angry sometimes! I found that quite a relief to hear so will mention it to you too. I also think, the notion of choice here is a bit of a tricky one. You chose it, sure. But it was also a choice that kind of benefited your family possibly more than you (of course putting your family first is a good thing to do etc. whatever, but I think, as modern women brought up with the ‘girls can/will do it all the same as guys’ attitudes, it doesn’t always sit so well, certainly not for me anyway!) and it has left you feeling sometimes trapped in a ‘reduced’ position, like women have endured for time immemorial. So there’s that. Hang in there buddy, I hope we can have some wines and whines (and also whoops of joy!) soon. x

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    • Yeah – the more I think about it (and I think about it a lot, too) the ‘you can do it all’ myth doesn’t sit well with me for so many reasons, and I think that narrative does us all a disservice. And your counsellor’s point is excellent. I too made a conscious choice to come here, and now to stay here, for numerous reasons, knowing that parts of it’d likely be shit, but now that they are it can be hard to accept.

      Appreciate your comment – I am doing OK (thank you – I am super grateful you asked), but I am also not the same as I was prior to coming here. Which is to be expected, and is fine, it’s just….different.

      And yes to all the w(h)ines!

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      • It may sound bratty but i feel like we’re maybe the first (?) generation of women to be told we *won’t * have to be the self-sacrificing ones… so to discover that’s not quite true can feel like a real slap in the face. It makes me feel both stupid and honoured to have swallowed that though, you know? Like why would our lives be so different from generations of women before us, but how amazing that -they- dreamed that for us… and we dared to believe it. it’s a tricky one. I will keep thinking about it tho!

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  2. Fabulous insight and appreciated by an old duck who’s been there (without the fantastic location). Just one think I can’t agree with; crime novels are never trashy! Doesn’t matter what you read as long as you’re absorbed in the story. Take care.

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  3. Dearest Wendy

    Oh how I love your blogs, your words, your insight and your reflections. This one in particular resonated with me strongly. I too have experienced (and as am literally less than 24 hours away from Baby 2.0), the same reflections, questions and pondering on life. I just wanted to say that ambition and opportunity have perhaps given us more cause to muse about what we are missing (if that is even the right word)?

    Anyway, I would love to catch up via Skype sometime – I will be home in about a week! And will be up all hours, so timing shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

    I am not sure how much feedback you get on your blogs, and whether you are sometimes writing to the ether – but I always am excited to see a Hey Mamalaide email in my inbox and read them with delight. Please continue!!

    Lots and lots of love to all of you TWATs!

    xxxx

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    • Thanks for the lovely message but WHAT THE WHAT ABOUT THE BABY?!!! I knew it is on the way but I had in my head it was coming in October! Yikes! Best of luck to you and can’t want to hear news of the newest Gray-Owusu arrival!

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