My mother’s solution for all my angst from my teen years to my late thirties was, “If you only had a boyfriend…” It used to tick me off right before it started to bore a hole to the core of my being.
In retrospect, I can understand why my mother felt that a man would be the solution to all my problems. She wasn’t being malicious, she just had a different set of ideals. In her mind, if I had a man to take care of me I could quit working. If I could quit working I would have more time to do house-ie things and my life would be care free.
My mother was married when she was twenty-one and had three kids by the time she was twenty-four. I was twenty-eight and a single mother. It was the mid-1990s, but I had been groomed to be a 1950s housewife since I could think. Susie homemaker. June Cleaver. Whatever. I was not in a position to live the 1950s dream, yet I put alot of pressure on myself by trying.
I was working full-time and still felt obligated to fill the role of a perfect happy homemaker. I cooked dinner from scratch, baked cookies, sewed my own curtains, crocheted afghans, cross-stitched pillows, and kept my house immaculate. When I had a few minutes of down time I would kick myself for not doing “enough.” I wasn’t Polly Perfect.
Hopefully that little backdrop makes it easier to comprehend why my mother’s seemingly innocuous comment would make my head spin. She wasn’t being malicious. It was just the way things were in her world. Whenever I let the comment sink in I was able to do a real number on myself. I would either get depressed or I would get angry.
My depression was all about loneliness and not meeting some mythical standard. My anger was about a sense of entitlement. I was angry that the world was not following the script. I was “supposed to be” married by the time I was twenty-one. I was “supposed to be” the mother of three kids. I was “supposed to be” a full-time mom. Basically, I was not the housewife I was raised to believe I wanted to be.
Did you catch that twist? I was getting riled up over something that I never made a conscious effort to strive for. I was getting depressed for not living out a story that had been ingrained in me. It was my parents’ story, not mine. My parents lived in a different era and I was being whipped around in the cyclone of stale “shoulds.” It’s too bad that it took many years of therapy for me to realize this. I will admit that sometimes I get sucked back in and it isn’t always pretty.