I have been contemplating my relationship with my husband recently. It is pretty good now overall but we have had our fair share of ups and downs, and for years I resented him – not because we had had miscarriages, of course that wasn’t his fault, but because he had decided, despite knowing that I desperately wanted another baby, to wait so long (7 years) between our last baby and trying again, by which time it was too late.
I think that probably I was too ill by the time we started trying again, although I didn’t realise until much later that that might have been a factor. (I read a couple of years ago that women with chronic conditions such as ME, Fibro, MS, PCOS etc. tend to experience miscarriage three times as often as healthy women) .
I have mentioned before that I am not yet at a point of acceptance, of being able to get some closure and say now we have finished building our family. But I have been thinking more and more lately about trying to work out for myself what the shape of my life should look like now going forward if there’s not going to be any babies in the picture. I’ll be 45 this year, so the chances now are next to zero – especially after 4 years of no conception at all (and obviously not using anything to prevent conception!) It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, but highly unlikely. I know that.
I remember once, before we started trying again in 2010, my husband asking me, “Why am I not enough for you?” That is to say, why do you need a baby as well? At the time I thought it was a ridiculous thing to say, the two things weren’t in the same category. But I wonder now whether there is something in it. What is it that makes women like me want babies, and keep wanting babies even with a big family? Well, as I’m sure I have mentioned before, I was raised on the Waltons / Little House on the Prairie as well as having family friends with a big family which seemed really idyllic which fed into the same fantasy. Large family life just seemed much more homely and loving and fulfilling than our quiet, standard small nuclear family. When I had my own family I knew which style I wanted to emulate, and it wasn’t what I had grown up with. But additionally, maybe also a kind of tender intimacy, feeling needed, having somebody to love and adore? (Come to that, why do most women not continually desire that?)
My husband had two sisters, so not a specially large or small family really and I don’t think he was fussed either way. But I do remember once discussing with him that I wanted ten children, and he actually agreed. I suspect now that he thought I was joking. (We have produced 9 in total though – including all our losses – so one more and I would let him off the hook!)
Obviously I have also had thoughts about having a career and started taking steps towards that, but there have been obstacles and it hasn’t happened so far. I have been toying with the idea of working but I think I am basically unemployable. I would be so unreliable with ME – most days I wake up in so much pain I can’t get up, and who would want to employ somebody who might need more sick days than work days? So I have begun to wonder about what sort of things I could do from home. But I would still be at home.
I’m not really convinced that I am cut out for housewifery. I may have the excuse of homeschooling and having the kids around all day and having lots of extra educational materials and books hanging around, but I do not keep a very tight ship. If burglars ever broke in, they might be forgiven for thinking they were too late and we had already been burgled. I wish we didn’t live in a mess but we do.
Perhaps if I were well enough I could take a bit more pride in the state of the place, try a bit harder to keep things ship-shape. But I don’t think I would find that very fulfilling, and sitting at home reading books all day for the most part does nag me with a twinge of guilt at times. So being at home without babies, now that my kids are nearing the end of their education, is beginning to feel a bit odd. What will I do when the children are grown and start to fly away?
I did start some serious writing projects, but I haven’t given them the time or effort to see if they could amount to anything yet. Too busy letting myself get distracted with blogging, although I have given facebook and twitter the boot recently and I have pleasantly surprised myself to find that I really wasn’t addicted at all. (It’s nice to be able to discover new things about yourself at a time when you’re beginning to feel old and staid and boring!)
Going back to my relationship with husband though, I have been thinking more about the necessity of adjusting to this different way of life as empty-nesters (actually I think it will be a long way off for us as youngest is still only 12 and eldest who is 20 seems to have no plans to leave to go somewhere he might need to cook and wash his own clothes). I know it’s not uncommon for some couples to grow apart and end up separating when the children are gone, but that is not something I want to happen to us.
I keep thinking about the phrase in Genesis in the Bible where God tells Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband“. The context is that it is part of the ‘curse’ after the Fall, and I know that many anti-feminists interpret it to mean that part of the curse is that women desire power over their husbands. (Just as an aside, I posted a question about Christian feminism on a Christian forum recently, asking for reading recommendations, and wasn’t at all surprised to be told that the whole concept of Christian feminism was power-seeking and unChristian. Good grief.) Anyway, what was I saying?
Yep, I don’t honestly know what it means, what the relevance or significance might be to modern Christian women. Perhaps none at all. But I can’t stop thinking about the phrase somehow. I remember when we were first together, before we had children, he told me that he didn’t want me to let myself become dependent on him, because I was perfectly capable to look after myself. But inevitably, as a non-earning housewife and mother of course I did become dependent on him and I still am. I’m not actually too worried about that, as I don’t think it reflects my worth or capability, and I know that things can change in an instant – the universe turns on a pin, after all. There was a time when I went out to work and he stayed at home. It’s not inconceivable that the roles could reverse again. I might get well. (Pigs might fly, hopefully the former is more likely than the latter.)
But I would really just like to be satisfied. Content. With him. With our life as it is, without wanting or needing any babies, or a bigger house, or more money, or some great career or some other monumental success in my life. Is that lame? Or is it a reasonable way for a middle aged woman to think? Yuck! I hate that phrase, ‘middle-aged’. I’m just ‘mature’, right?! (Hahaha, who am I kidding!)
So we are back to gratefulness again. I am grateful. I am thankful. I have lots of good things in my life, and I am totally grateful that I do have such a good, faithful, long-suffering husband. He thinks I am crazy, but he still loves me, and thankfully he seems perfectly happy to accommodate my wish to keep quite a bit of baby-making practice going. 😀