“Daily to a profession- paid thinking
and clean hands. She rises
Unquestioning. It’s second nature now.
The hours, though all of daylight, suit her.
The desk, typewriter, carpet, pleasantries
are a kind of civilisation, built on money,
of course, but money, now she sees, is human.
She has learned giving from her first chequebook,
intimacy from absence. Coming home
long after dark to the jugular torrent
of family life, her smile
cool as the skin of supermarket apples,
she’s half the story. There’s another woman
who bears her name, a silent, background face
that’s always flushed with effort.
The true wife, she picks up scattered laundry
and sets the table with warmed plates to feed
the clean-handed woman. They’ve not met
If they were made to touch, they’d scald each other.”
(From Two Women by Carol Rumens.)
I have a dilemma.
The other day, browsing through the oh so very local paper, I saw a job advertised in a tiny little interiors company I adore. A job I could do. A job demanding experience in everything I’ve got too much experience in. A job I would be good at. A job that pay’s regular money. And bonus’s and commission… in a shop with chandeliers and oodles of gingham.
And there is a little piece of me that wants it badly. A little of piece of me that says How often do jobs that are made for you crop up locally? (Actually twas the man I adored as a teenager who said that, but lets pretend it was my sensible side. The side of me that says: Your little boy hasn’t got a proper tv. There is a HOLE in the kitchen lino! What are you going do about it Big Lick?? Write your heart out and hope your fairy godmother is feeling generous? )
Oh no, oh no, oh no.How very awfully terribly dull. I was hoping I didn’t have a sensible side.
The thing is this: at the risk of offending the entire female working population,there is a bit of me that thinks that choosing to be a full time working SINGLE (and there’s the rub) mommy is MEAN. That is more noble to be the self sacrificing full time Mommy than it is, even as a single mother, to be able to provide for the child concerned, or at least to be able to provide decent shoes as well as constant attention, without relying on the man who chose not to live with us to keep a roof over our heads, (while I remain creatively satisfied and secretly kinda smug about dancing to my own tune)…
My reasoning behind all of this is deep rooted and the whole matter throws up all kinds of yukky things I don’t want to think about.
Firstly it asks me to redefine my entire image of who I am: essentially somebody who has the opportunity to make a really rather amazing life for herself and chooses not to. The woman with the agent desperate for her to write the book he knows she has in her. The woman (I wanna be a girl!) who when all is said and done is scared of who she is and more than that- scared of who she could be, so sabotages herself on a daily basis. She who is (whisper it) a bit lazy…
Secondly it challenges my frankly absurd moral stance on parenting: a stance I formed as part of a couple. Not as a single mother who owes it to herself and her son to be independent. To not be reliant. Or worse beholden. Because I don’t want to be beholden. Not any more.
And thirdly it asks me to recognise that things change. Situations change. (Isn’t that a scandal?). The future changes shape and occasionally life asks you to bend yourself out of a shape a little bit to make a world less challenging than the one you currently endure. If only temporarily. If only so that you give yourself the time and space to re-invent the future. To challenge the status quo that is your own stubborn mind-set. To give yourself the freedom, even if that only means the financial freedom, to unpick the ties that bind us to situations we should no longer have to endure. Situations that are essentially curtailing a promising future…
Damn it. Such terribly reasonable reasoning.
But what about the fact that new kitchen lino ultimately equals one child in breakfast club and after school club? What about the fact that taking this job would mean harassing all sorts of people for babysitting duty and school runs, at least in the short term till Finley starts school in September? What about the fact that the idea of being only “half the story” whether I’m at home or at work might possibly break my heart? What if Finley develops abandonment issues and still lives with me when he’s 43 and carries a Roy Cropper shopping bag whenever he ventures out the door? What about the fact that I might like who I am in working garb and end up not recognising myself on a daily basis? What if I abandon all my carefully chartered ambition and start living for my lunch time tuna sandwich?? What if I sell my soul to a devil disguised as a shop full of Gustavian furniture to die for???
Maybe I like my life. This relative poverty thing is strictly bohemian after all… a choice. A way of life I enjoy, with coffee.
Lordy see how good I am at talking myself out of things? I do this at the supermarket. I fill the basket with things and by the time I’ve got to the till it’s empty again and I walk out with a single banana and a magazine, and then get myself home and beat myself about the head with a big stick because I’ve put the tea-bags I really needed back on the shelf.
Oh heavens I’m going round in circles aren’t I? Throwing question marks around like confetti..
Help wanted. Apply with sensible advice within.