Island Blog 182 – Woman unchained

I am woman

Today I cleaned the house, Made up my face, cleaned my boots, sorted the washing, planned the evening meal (and thawed it).  I walked the Poppy dog around Tapselteerie, noticing the change in birdsong and feeling the spring of urgency in the air, air that was soft and plump with sunshine, cut by a memoric winter wind.  I was glad of my stout boots, my leg warmers, my soft wool hat with diddles of gold fleck just to keep style about me.  I heard my boots pound the ground and squelch through the mud, mud raised and created by men with trucks and trailers laden with blocks of chainsawed tree – a victim of Harry or Imogen or the one before beginning with G.  I considered the times that a tree falls outside of any gale, named or anonymous.  The tree is never anonymous, standing tall and strong for many years with its own name, growing according to that name, behaving such and blooming when the time for it is right.  If oak comes before ash or ash comes before oak, there is a ‘knowing’ among humans.  Certain birds nest in oak branches, others in the ash.  Rowans are female, as are silver birches, oaks, male.  Who decided all this?  Not I said the sparrow, not those of us who couldn’t give a monkeys about names or species or gender.  We just do what we do when we do it.

After walking I cleared some old raggedy stalks in the garden, noticed the chipped paint around the window, noticed the windows (there are no window cleaners any more) and the clouds full shout beyond the glass, moving as they do, changing, catching light, making shapes to enchant me, full of rain or hail, every colour of the palette, and then, gone.  I added to a painting, one of jaunty boats and not much talent, but bright and attractive.  I made lunch, which means lighting toast and adding toppings.  I worked on editing two pieces of script for others who value my grammatical critique and I opened mail, jumped on the paper bin which is always overfull and managed to shut the lid.  I washed a jumper, folded sheets, wrote a thankyou card, paid two bills, charge my phone and lit a scented candle. I texted some of my kids, dealt with some admin, cleaned my car and oiled the door hinges.  I worked out a fence adaption to stop the Poppy dog jumping over it, lit the fire, brought in wood and ordered more for next week. I cleaned out the hoover, ordered some Spike Lavender, sorted out the cutlery drawer and shredded courgettes.  I emptied the compost, picked up litter, went to the shop for some groceries.

Okay, I am not a broker, nor a vet, nor a TV presenter..  I am no neuro-surgeon, no map maker, no dentist or mountaineer.  I am not a book binder, a celebrity, an actress or counsellor.  I could list a million professions and come up with a ‘No, not me’.  And yet, all this day I have achieved  a great deal that matters.

In my life I have met folk who ask me what I do.  Now I can say I am a writer and yet that irks me, the fact that I need to put myself within any such confines, allowing the askee to nod and say Ah, as if being anything they can Ah about makes me great (or great for the moment).  I practised once as a young, irked, woman saying ‘ I am a mother and wife’, because to me that meant I was more brilliant that any of those aforementioned professions, in that I had to be as dextrous as an acrobat, 24/7 for the rest of my life.  I could not come home tired and sit down because everyone needs an evening meal.  I could not say I was bored with feeding babies, or welcoming guests with cake and a loving ear. I could not abandon the housework when 24 dogs or fifteen children or one husband had turned the carpet into a mud bath. I could not lie in, play hookie, turn my face to the wall, not once, not ever.

The person who received my Wife and Mother response, drifted away like a wave on its way down the coast.  To be ‘just’ a wife and mother is so not enough for this patriarchal world.  The little woman back home is just that.  Little.  And yet she is far from that.  She will hold together a life, a family, a community.  She will learn and become adept at a thousand tasks most professional folk would marvel at and run from.  She may sit quiet  but her quiet is her knowing, like the tree, like the bird.  She does what she does when she does it.

If nobody else honours her, I do, right here and right now.

3 thoughts on “Island Blog 182 – Woman unchained

  1. So many times over the past nearly 40yrs I was asked by colleagues what my wife does. They meant by way of work. I was always careful and proud to say ‘Home-maker for our family, on behalf of the two of us’ (or something similar). I’ve always been keenly aware of the many skills, imagination, commitment – and long hours she put into the work. There was no more important work to be done for our family. Someone had to do it, and if not her or me then wh? – and could that outsider be expected to have the same commitment and motivation as us? Denise did the home-making on behalf of me and her ; and I did the money-earning on behalf of me and her. Old-fashioned division of labour. Both of us worked hard, and contributed equally – but differently. You know, most people think of stay-at-home-mothers as enduring loneliness, boredom, loss of status, etc etc etc. Well that might be true if they only go through the motions – doing the bare minimum. We surely can’t expect to keep up a professional career with an attitude like that: and shouldn’t our own family expect at least as much from us in child-rearing and home-making? No ‘little’, No ‘just’, No depracation, whether self or otherwise. There is no job more important than child-rearing, and close behind it is home-making.

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