I was doing a particularly disgusting household task today (think botulism), and all of a sudden I remembered a "Seraphic Singles" reader I met a while ago. She used to read my blog because she had been good and sick of being Single, and what she wanted more than anything else in the world was to get married and have a baby.
Meanwhile, she had graduated from university and was working towards the relatively high-status and lucrative career her family expected of her. She enjoyed the challenge and did the work and eventually got a great job shortly before she married. Soon after becoming married, she got pregnant and when the baby was born she packed it in at the office. I forget if she was offered decent maternity leave or if she basically just had to go. I suspect the latter. It wasn't one of those professions that are oh-so-understanding when a woman has a baby.
Staying at home with the baby didn't seem so bad because (A) she didn't want her baby raised by strangers at a day care and (B) her husband also had a well-paying job. Although it didn't take quite as much extra study as her career had entailed, it was very lucrative. It was also very high pressure; at least, he found it so. He got terrible migraines and when he came home he did nothing but watch TV and wonder aloud why the house was such a mess.
The house was such a mess because the baby was a difficult one and the New Mom had to work around the clock 24/7 to keep the baby happy, healthy and fed, sleeping when the baby was sleeping. And despite this, as the months dragged on, and the baby began to toddle about and to say a few words, the New Mom was mind-numbingly bored. And ashamed. Deeply, deeply, ashamed. All that education, all that overtime, and for what? Her mother and other female relations, she was sure, were looking down on her for "not working". She had been a working woman, commanding a good salary, racking up successes and praise, and what was she now? She was exhausted, run ragged by the baby, very worried about her husband, and somehow unable to even keep her house clean.
When I launched into a little theological speech about how motherhood is the most important and noble profession for a woman, the New Mom began to cry. So I stuck a sock in it except to say what I always say to weeping mothers of very young children, which is that if they need help around the house and their husbands are making that much money, then they should freaking hire household help. Once upon a time, well-educated women married to men in highly-paid jobs ALWAYS had household help. ALWAYS. And the highly-paid men who didn't agree to pay for it were considered incredibly cheap and even cruel.
I don't know if your fellow reader did get some household help although I hope so with all my heart. It wasn't even as if she wanted any time to herself, or even to try to get her self-respect back by going "back to work". My impression was that she wanted to be able to TAKE CARE OF HER HUSBAND as well as the baby, and she was finding it absolutely impossible. And having a clean house is part of caring for husbnads, since husbands seem to really, really need to have tidy houses even if they themselves are fundamentally incapable of wielding a sponge.
I thought I would throw that out there today in case I have been sounding too peppy about marriage lately. What all you girls who desperately want to get married must realize is that there is a lot of cleaning and brainless television in your future. It blows my mind that men (men not completely worn out from real wage-slavery, like mining, that is) used to leave the house after dinner and go out at night: to the pub, to the music hall, to the dance hall, to lectures, to political meetings, to the theatre, to the cinema. If they were fond of their wives, they would take their wives.
The television seems to have put an end to that for most men. There are a lot of men at swing-dancing, but I bet swing-dancing days will be over as soon as they can get women to share their beds and board---perhaps a nasty shock for the poor women who envisioned dancing together into the future. (The brave and besotted boys who come out to Polish class because they love their Polish sweethearts enough to want to speak to their relations are great and honourable exceptions to these observations.)
Anyway, Single, Engaged or Married, you should always contemplate the pretty sugar-coloured almonds that are such a feature in weddings nowadays. The sugar on the outside represents the sweetness of married life. But right in the middle is the slightly almond, sometimes still with its bitter skin. Whoever developed the sugar almonds at weddings tradition had a good grasp on reality. No two people living together can be completely contented with each other and their lot 100% of the time.