I had an interesting conversation with my mum last night. I was telling her about my dad and what had happened and how I felt his lack of understanding of love was due to what he had experienced through his mother, who put him through hell through her choice of men when she was younger.
I explained that my grandmother always had a choice and she chose to have an affair with a married man, from which my father was born, and she then chose to marry another man, with a son, who didn’t treat my father right.
She fervently defended her actions, and some of the points she made really did make sense.
She explained to me that my grandmother had spent all her schooling in boarding school (not the posh ones you get these days), and she started working as a chambermaid in a top hotel in Paris as soon as she left school at 18.
There, my mum said she was duped by rich men who stayed at the hotel. She said “that woman has been abused by men all her life”.
She explained how badly the man she married had treated her and how he never accepted my father, that she had to struggle to buy him presents sort of behind his back.
This is where I said she still had a choice and she chose to put herself and my father through this.
My mum got very defensive of her and explaining that she had little education and in those days, didn’t know any better.
My grandmother ended up spending the rest of her life alone after her divorce from her husband, my father rarely cared for her until the end when he had her moved from Paris to a nursing home nearer him. I feel sorry for her, but the times I reconnected with her when she was in her 80s, I found a content woman, she had made a little life for herself that she was happy with, caring for “the old people” as she would say, bringing them meals and company.
This whole conversation with my mother made me think about choice. It made me realise that indeed not all of us have that privilege to be educated enough to have choice. I feel extremely lucky and grateful that I am. But I realise not everybody has. Especially women.
Recently, I have realised that throughout history women have always had it tough, for we have lived in a man dominated world since the beginning of time…and still do.
I work in an IT environment and more and more recently I have felt the weight of being the only woman on the Service Desk. Things are changing at work though and that is encouraging, but it has made me realise that we, women, have a long way to go yet for this “equality” we have been after.
In fact, I think this is where we have gone wrong, it’s not equality we should seek for we are very different to men, but freedom to be who we choose to be. I don’t see many women around me who have that freedom. There are a few though and it is refreshing. Such as one of my best friends who is a housewife and chose to raise her kids rather than carry on working, and I admire her for that – I’ll be honest, I’ve always had a problem with mothers who carry on working when they have kids, especially when they are young. And yes granted in this day in age, one has to work to make a decent living, but it always comes down to this doesn’t it: money. Love and care for your children now takes second place. Sad world. Anyway I digress.
The stigma of being a woman in a man’s work seems to come from women too.
I had a friend (girl) in Canada who was a carpenter. I remember having one of those talks with her and some friends, including my husband, which turned really sour. We were talking about dating sites and being honest. She said that she wouldn’t put her occupation on her profile because she was worried it would put men off.
I couldn’t believe what I heard. Surely if being a carpenter would put some guys off she’d want them to know straight away as not to bother? But nope, she wasn’t to be convinced that being honest was the best policy, and, unfortunately, my husband agreed too – for, and this is what had attracted me to him in his profile for a different reason – he too had never put his occupation – pig farmer at the time – for fear of putting women off. I had noticed he hadn’t put his occupation on and the way he phrased it made me think he felt occupation was irrelevant which I agreed with, however I didn’t realise it was because he was ashamed. He would argue that’s not the case, but in my view, if you hide your occupation because you fear it would put people off, that is shame, nothing else.
Anyway, it looks like women have a long way to go before they can feel they have a choice, whether self inflicted or not.
I understand now that my grandmother lived in an era where she had little choice, so I can forgive her for how my father was treated. In fact, I have a lot of affection for her, I always have and I do hope she did find her happiness when she decided to stay single after the disastrous relationships she had. Oh….look….she did make a choice. Good for her!