Was there ever a time when it was simple to be a 40 Something woman?
Was it easier back in the day when everyone knew their place? When men were men and women were women? Did that made it simpler. I hope not, because if life was easier, better, more productive back in the day, what was the point of struggling for feminism and equality?
It’s just that, it doesn’t always feel like our lives are better. There is more pressure, more stress, and more responsibility. It feels like something is missing. Like this can’t be all there is to life? Like it’s all one big revolving wheel that goes nowhere. Take my life. Every morning at our house is exactly the same:
“Mom where are my shirts?” My daughter Emma asks.
“Shirts? In your closet?” I reply.
“Folded in a basket?”
“Damn. Are you sure?”
“Ya. Never mind I found them.”
“Wet and stinky in the washing machine. When did you wash them?”
I try to think. I can’t really remember when I did.
“Do you have a dirty one that you can wear?”
Sending my daughter to school in dirty clothes, what would my mother say? Thing is I know exactly what she’d say, she told me just last week.
“You just need to do things during work breaks. You work from home, how hard can it be to stop, take a break, switch out the laundry, do a load of dishes, sweep the floor, then go back to work?”
It is a good question. I generally don’t take breaks, and if I do, I’m surfing the net, grabbing a coffee, getting a bite to eat or checking my social media. I don’t really think to do the laundry. Hence my daughter yelling at me about how hard done by she is because she has to wear a shirt she already wore to school. Heaven help us, what will the kids think? What will her teachers think? Will they call social services if her shirt gets dirty enough?
My husband comes down to save the day. He does this a lot. He’d grabbed a couple of clean
shirts she doesn’t like, out of her dresser, walked into the kitchen and said,
“Your choice, the dirty one, one of these, a smelly one, or you could just go in your bra. Up to you.”
I choke on my coffee. ‘And if she’d chosen to go in her bra, then what?’ She doesn’t. She just says Daaaad in that oh you’re so embarrassing way teen girls have and grabs a clean one out of his hand.
“I’ll go run the load, pour me a cup of coffee” he says and disappears into the laundry room.
My gawd, I can’t even imagine what my great-grandmother did before washing machines were invented. I turn, pour my husband a cup of coffee, add two teaspoons of sugar, and pop a bagel into the toaster for his breakfast.
I’ve filled the dishwasher and am just turning it on, when I feel his strong arms wrap around me from behind. I lean into him. It feels so normal.
Our ten-year-old son’s voice interrupts us and I am twirled around to face my husband who kisses me, while our son makes fake gagging noises. The kiss is just a passionless peck, normal, boring. He did it to gross out our son more than to kiss me.
“Your coffee, kind sir.”
I look at him, shake my head, and turn to butter his bagel.
“Gus and Rose’s place Sunday afternoon?” He asks and I nod. “Girls’ night after?” I nod again. “And I’m stuck babysitting?”
“Parenting dear. It’s called parenting when the kids are yours.”
“Are you sure they’re mine.”
That’s a typical morning. Every day it’s the same. A chore I forgot to do, my husband swooping in to fix things, my kids needing something or disapproving of something I did or didn’t do. Each day is pretty much the same; chores, kids, work, bed. Always the same. Perfectly the same. Perfect. The perfect life.
I am forty years old. I have a wonderful, loving husband, two well-adjusted kids, a gorgeous home in suburbia, and a career. I have a good life and I feel like I am missing something, like I’ve forgotten something, did something wrong.
Did my mother feel this way? Did my grandmother? Did my great-grandmother? Did my grandmother ever forget to switch over the wash and have to wash the load two more times before it made it into the dryer? Did she own a dryer? Did she have to run her kids around from one activity to the next? Help them with homework more advanced than when she’d gone to school? Did she feel the pressure of friends, family and society to be perfect? Did she always feel judged? Did she ever look at her life and wonder if she made the right choices?
Will it be different when my daughter is forty?
By then everyone will probably just swallow a pill and say, “that’s dinner.” So, if women have more time because they don’t have to cook, will life be any different? Or will my daughter be looking at forty saying, I think I forgot to do something.
Shannon Peel is the author of 40 Something, Captive, and THIRTEEN. For more information check out her website.www.shannonpeel.com