As women today we find ourselves in a lot of different roles. Some of us may remember when women were only expected to play certain roles in life such as mother and housewife. Most though do not even have a recollection of those days. I lived on the fringes of these times and I have experienced both in my lifetime. I watched my own mother in those roles and I was convinced that this would be my joy in life as well.
Things began changing for me in high school. So many of my friends were talking about their career aspirations and college plans. These times were exciting yet uneasy times in the lives of some women. There were women who could not wait to break out of the mold that had been formed for women and those who were unsure. And there were also women who cherished their role as mother and wife and wanted nothing to change. As for me I was totally caught off guard and had not given it much thought. Mom and Dad had been talking to my brother about college but never to me.
I imagine there were a lot of women like me, women who had not thought of doing anything but being a wife and mother. It sounds rather ridiculous from today’s perspective but I was terrified for the first time about my future. I was not prepared for college, I had no plans for marriage, and so what was my next step? These many years later I spoke with a girlfriend of mine who found herself in the same situation at graduation. She told me that when she graduated she just sort of hung around the house until her daddy asked her if she wanted to go to college or work. She just had not thought about it. She decided to work. She told me she had not even thought about it until he asked her. Some of us were walking around in a sort of psychological coma I suppose, waiting to see what would happen next.
The world was changing so rapidly and right in front of our eyes. There were woman’s libbers burning their bras, woman climbing corporate ladders or owning their own businesses. More and more woman were coming on the scene in important and powerful positions. If you were not ready for it like me and my friend it could either suck you in or paralyze you.
I looked at my training which was four years of home economics and tutelage under my mother’s expert training for cooking, cleaning, and being the perfect wife and mother. These were important skills to have if you were getting married in those days. They are important today as well and far too few girls today get the benefit of that training. But it does not benefit you much in getting employment outside of the home environment so I had to do some quick thinking about the future.
This was when Dad also decided to have a mid-life crisis and leave home. Not great timing for any of us. Since this happened I ruled out college. I decided on business school which was a career that women who did work outside the home had been doing for years. It served me well; after completing classes I was able to get a job that paid a good enough salary so that I could support myself. I was able to work my way up from a clerk to Executive Secretary in a few short years. Though I often thought about what I could have done if I had gone to college I was happy with the road I had chosen.
After marrying and starting a family the job worked out well for me in giving me the time off I needed with the children. My mom stepped in to take care of the kids while I worked. But as the children got older I ran into an obstacle that made me more determined than ever to get a college degree. My son looked at me one day during his high school years when they were talking about preparing for college. He told me that since I had never gone to college that he was not going either. I told him his dad went for four years but he said it did not really count because it was electrical college. How he figured that did not count I will never understand but then who knows the mind of a teenager?
So at that point I asked him if I went and got my degree would he? He said, “Sure” (with a grin), as if to say he did not have a thing to worry about. So I made up my mind right then and there to go back to college at age fifty. I did and I loved it. I found everything so much more interesting and exciting than I had before back in high school. I worked hard and got my degree and made sure my son had no excuse.
Women’s roles have changed so much over the past several decades. Even those of us who did not rally for these changes or even see them coming were able to rise to the occasion. I have seen that women are resilient and can rise to any occasion even when we are not totally prepared. These years of changes have made us stronger and made us more valuable than ever in whatever we choose. As for me, my favorite role has been as wife and mother and I am so very thankful that those skills I learned as a girl were put in place.
Elizabeth Reed is a freelance writer and a resident blogger at Liveinnanny. She particularly enjoys writing about parenting, childcare, health and wellness. In addition, she is an expert consultant on issues related to household management and kids.