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Housewife Forever, NOT!

Some paragraphs quote from “Professional Progress: Why Women Still Don't Have Wives”, Chapter 4: Having it All – New Option, New Myth, Sub Chapter: Free Options, pp. 137, by Terri Apter.

Motherhood is not forever – not, at any rate, in its most binding structure, wherein constant care, constant supervision and constant attention are required.

Women’s lives are often sequenced by their families, so that even those women who have taken the traditional burdens of home life upon them still have a chance, later on, to develop their expansive needs, having fulfilled both their affiliative obligations and desires.

Perhaps we can have it all, without harming anyone, or cheating anyone, or putting ourselves under stress – if only we have it all consecutively rather than coincidentally. We cannot have it all at once - but perhaps we can manage to have it all during the course of a lifetime?

For many women midlife presents new options, new releases. Many women experience in midlife, as family burdens ease, a sense of opportunity lost or denied to them in the past. The sense of expansion women feel when their children leave home may rush to fill the emptiness and loss which she is expected to experience.

Lilian Rubin has exposed the inaccuracy of the empty-nest syndrome, whereby midlife women are expected to suffer depression when their children leave home. Instead, having witnessed the various stages of their children’s maturity and independence, they feel the pleasure of completion and the anticipation of new beginnings. They now have time for themselves and see a wealth of new opportunities


By leaving our jobs and supporting our husbands’ global career, most trailing wives like me have taken the traditional burdens of home life.

My own TCK experience, where I saw my mother’s busy life while supporting my father’s diplomatic job, made me prepare myself rather well prior to this traveling life. When still packing our stuffs to move from Holland to the US, I already had a clear vision in mind of what I wanted to do at home - doing research which then leads me to write – so I began to build my mobile career very early. It seems, like the above quoted paragraph said, I’ve been fulfilling both my affiliative obligation while partly pursuing my expansive needs.

And yes, kids are growing and year-by-year I have more time for myself.

However, I DON’T want to wait until my kids are in college to ‘see a wealth of new opportunities’!

Some months ago, I thought I should start looking for a job outside the house. A flexible and moveable job so whenever we need to move again it won’t complicate the matter.

After some more thinking, I changed my mind. I decided it’s about time for me to pursue what I really want, without basing it on the convenience of my husband’s career (I’ve been doing that for 8 years!). I needed him to compromise so I can also achieve my dream.

Husband agreed that all those research and writing of mine should be more formalised. He supported my newest plan to take a PhD degree and also liked the idea of me thickening the writing portfolio while waiting for our Australian Permanent Residency (I can only get the PhD funding after holding the permanent resident).

We then renegotiated our responsibility at home. I needed the household burden of planning, organizing, scheduling, remembering, worrying, anticipating, orchestrating, arranging and coordinating to be shared more equally. It would be very hard for me to publish more if almost everything is still on me.

The renewed pact was born.

I was happy.

But not for long.

I thought enacting our renewed pact would be easy. I thought since I’ve been doing more than 80% of the house responsibility to support his career, now he will do the same by shifting a bit of the burden from my shoulders to his. I only asked it to be more equally shared as I knew he wouldn’t be able to cater like I did (I left my job and of course he won’t and can’t).

Too bad the perfect scenario didn’t happen.

After months of having the battle of the sexes, I felt e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d. The renewed pact gave little result. I spent more time and energy feeling hurt and cheated. And barely progressed on my reading and writing.

Thus I decided to follow the lead of those strong mothers and wives, which is,  to let go.  I don't expect anything from him anymore and focus on my goal ...

... which makes me feel good. And you know it’s important to feel good.

Am I going to be happy with this let-go strategy? Maybe not.

Will I be able to publish more while still doing most of the household work? I don’t know. Yet I’m sure I should not let the unequal share of household work prevent me from trying.

Am I thus suffering from a ‘simultaneous superwoman syndrome’ implied by the quoted paragraph? I don’t think so. I’ve been working on my wifery role for 8 years out of our 11 years of marriage.

I want to get my life back.

And I don’t want to start when I’m all wrinkled.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 2nd, 2011 07:20 am (UTC)
husbands and wives
Unique as this specific story is, it for some reason (:)) sounds familiar.

I hope and guess you will succeed.

Since I'm of the opposite sex (:)) and having had the opposite role, I recognize some of the dilemmas of both parties.

It is not easy to adapt to new scenarios I know from experience. As reasonable as your wishes are, it is pretty tough to shift the balance between partners - if only because professional careers leave pretty room to manoeuvre.


Dec. 4th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
Re: husbands and wives
Our domestic dynamic is classic, it happened before, now and in the future in every family.

Everybody told me to be patient. Equality will come eventually.
Dominique Goh
Dec. 2nd, 2011 11:46 am (UTC)
I'm glad to hear that you are taking steps to pursue what you want- PHD. It's no point waiting till the kids are all grown up before you start something which you desire. Kuddos to you.. It will be harder on you but I'm sure you be able to cope somehow.
Dec. 4th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
Ah thank you, Dominique. I want to be like you ... you know doing something I like more seriously .. and yeah I don't want any longer (I hope our permanent residency will be there soon).
Dec. 2nd, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
What do you want to get your PhD in? Will you be doing it full-time? Do you have a university in mind?

I think this is a wonderful goal to have :-)
Dec. 4th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
Hi Reve! I should peek through your blog soon :D.

I'm planning to do social science, related to what I've been publishing these past few years (multilingualism, Indonesian people).

The ideal uni will be the UNSW, very close to where we live. 2nd option will be USydney downtown. Third option, the furthest will be ANU in Canberra (capital of OZ, 3 hours away from Sydney). I can't really apply now or request for scholarship/funding as we don't have the permanent residency in hand (in process). And since my law background is very strong, I need to publish more writing in the media, to proof that I'm also capable of research/writing in social science.
Dec. 5th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
San, Niko bisa dilatih buat share the household stuff. One thing at a time. Misalnya breakfast urusan dia, elo merem aja deh urusan anak2 makan apa. Ntar elo bisa masak yg bergizi buat dinner. Or school homework urusan dia, elo udah ngajarin mrk piano dan bhs Indo. Musti pasrah sama hasilnya... krn grade-nya mungkin turun :). Along the way, elo kasih input dikit2 soal healthier breakfast choice, soal pay more attention to their homework, etc.
Pick something that time consuming for you, but doable for him.
Kalo Brian di rumah, pagi anak2 urusan dia. Breakfast, school's lunch. Anak2 gua prep buat nyari baju dan siapin backpack mrk sendiri. So I have time in the morning buat balesin email, catch up with FB news, or even sleep in a bit :) It's not happening overnight, and we are still perfecting it. But you don't have to be old and wrinkles to get what you want/deserve :)
Dec. 5th, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
Di rumah gw, issuenya bukannya Nico ngga ngerjain apa2, tapi persentasi tanggung jawab masing2 yg amat jomplang.

Nico udah punya tugas2 sendiri di rumah, Cin, dan dikerjain sama dia and he does everything very2 well.

Sayangnya dari tahun ke tahun tugas gw nambah sementara tugas dia masih sama aja terus.

Kalau dulu2 gw masih oke, tapi sekarang dgn niat gw untuk publish lebih banyak, dgn niat untuk juga ambil degree seperti dia, dia harusnya lebih ngerti bahwa household responsibility bener2 harus dishare.
Dec. 5th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
I think he will step up once you start your classes :) He's a good man.. Kasih more responsibility bisa ga ?
Dec. 5th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
Untuk bisa apply buat funding PhD, gw harus punya PR Australi dulu, Cin. Dan PR itu mungkin baru tahun depan kita dapetnya.

Sementara menunggu, pas gw belum mulai, gw mau publish lebih banyak. Laki gw ngedukung banget untuk gw mempertebal portfolio, tapi krn di otaknya gw itu masih di rumah, agak2 tricky untuk bikin dia nyadar bahwa untuk gw bisa publish lebih banyak, gw harus riset dan menulis jauuh lebih serius dari sebelumnya. Dan itu hanya bisa gw lakukan kalau tanggung jawab RT yg sebagian besar masih di gw lebih di-equal-kan dgn dia.

Dec. 23rd, 2011 10:51 am (UTC)
Wife o wife
Dear Santi,
I now understand what you are talking about in our chat. I do admire your fight spirit. I think I have chosen the easiest way, to be a super wife, mom and woman. I am exhausted to go to the battle. Wish you luck and happiness.
regards, Anky
Dec. 23rd, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Wife o wife
We pick our own battle, Cky --> superwomaning ouresleves is far from easy :D.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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