Growing up my younger sister, younger brother and I were brought up with the strong message that it was our duty to learn as much as we could, study hard and get a good education and then job so that we would always be able to stand on our own feet.
Our time was spent going to school and tuitions, reading and classes like dance/music ( which never stuck). We were never forced to do anything, we were never expected to get the highest grade, but we had to do reasonably well. We were lucky enough to have plenty of help at home, so I don’t remember ever setting foot in the kitchen except to maybe bake a cake or try cooking something exotic I read about in a magazine. My mother spent most of her time reading and because of her we all became avid readers, we thought our time better spent reading than worrying about the laundry or cleaning. I had a fortunate childhood, thanks to my parents. But in many ways I was ill prepared to face the world as an adult. I was too wrapped up in books, I didn’t know how to cook or keep a home, I couldn’t drive or deal with most people.
My first job took me away from home, but I was lucky that my flatmate was like-minded. We learnt together when it came to paying our rent, going to the bank, dealing with the help and public transport. But the fact that we were so alike, meant that most evenings we would be reading or watching TV shows and would order in food instead of cooking. We would let the help get away with not showing up for work, and we never bothered making the flat, we shared, into a home. But we were happy, independent for the most part and doing things that interested us.
Then I got married. My husband is a good man, doesn’t expect me to be the one to keep home and cook, and supports my writing career ( I use the work career in it’s loosest possible sense). But as I freelance, work from home and make pittance it does fall into my lap the task of managing the help, cooking dinners and making sure the house is clean. I try to cook dinner around four nights a week, I have prettified the house, I make sure everything is reasonably neat. But I constantly feel like I am falling short, especially when I meet other wives who are doing DIY decor projects and setting up little gardens on their balconies. I can’t even claim that my job keeps me too busy from getting more involved and doing more around the house. I would love to have a pretty garden or to be able to cook gourmet meals every night, but the fact is I don’t enjoy the process. And for all the books I have read and education that I have had I am lost in the real world.
I get bored when the conversation steers towards where to buy curtains and what chillies should be used to make a particular dish. I wish I could be interested, because it is important to know these things and to make the effort. I worry that I am not pulling my weight in the relationship. And worst of all I am not independent financially, which was the one thing my father stressed the importance of.
So I start questioning what my purpose is in this world? I am not the independent and successful woman I was brought up to be and I am not the happy home maker I have the opportunity of now becoming. And I don’t know if I want to be either. Being an adult is confusing.