Excitedly exploring palette knives in my art and abstract creations are bursting forth.
I was pondering this while I made breakfast...
It was once thought that a mid-life crisis was something only men experienced. Only men, it was believed, had a life that was serious enough, hard enough, and possibly unfulfilling because of their duties as providers. Only men had the stress of serious careers or the risks of hard physical labour. Perhaps these things are true for many men, but women were typically thought to naturally love the life of domesticity, housework and raising children and if one wants to elevate the task-family management, which turned out to not be true. A woman who was unhappy in this domestic life was once considered not properly female or perhaps even mentally ill. Enter valium.
Thankfully we are past those days, but still it is difficult to shake the idea that the woman is the one responsible for the home and the modern complaint is that while women can have careers or pursue their non-familial dreams, they are also tending to take on the majority of the family and household responsibility in addition to this. Of course this is a generalisation and it’s also possible that times are changing and what I experience is not what younger women are experiencing. It is astonishing to me to even write the phrase ‘younger women’ as I am arriving in middle age with my head spinning. How did this happen so fast? I had my own mid-life crisis of sorts, as women have always been quite able to do and with hindsight it seems not so difficult to live forty or fifty years and not discover that things have gone terribly wrong. Or even mildly wrong.
It was an awkward, painful, difficult time but the pain didn’t last too long, thankfully. Mostly it was simultaneously uncomfortable and exciting. Changes came, both quickly and slowly. I would never say that my former life was full of things wrong for me, because it wasn’t. In fact there is definitely a part of me that enjoys domesticity, managing a home and raising a child because I love my son more than life itself so all things related to him always felt important. And I love an orderly and smoothly running home. The thing is, for a woman of my generation and life experiences, it is rare (although not impossible nor unheard of) to live a life completely dedicated to her own sort of work while someone else manages the details of life. I mean, it never would have occurred to me that I could or should make my life’s work art and have someone else do the cooking and cleaning or that I could simply neglect it. #notmyjob or #notmyproblem now come to mind. It would never have crossed my mind to pursue a life of creativity and not be responsible for the state of the home, the care and feeding of the family. I suspect that I had internalised from an early age that this is what it meant to be a woman.
I ponder that now, as I am enjoying what I call mid-life ecstasy. It’s what is on the other side of the mid-life crisis. No, my life is not perfect or easy or magical, I am much too practical a person to see it that way. But having raised my child successfully into a wonderful adult human being I can now call a friend, and having found a partner for this second stage of my life who expects nothing of me in the way of domesticity and yet is appreciative and thankful for anything I do, I am mostly free to create my art as much as I wish to. I say mostly because I still place expectations on myself. It’s a difficult habit to break.
Often I apologise if there is no dinner planned or if the laundry has piled up because I was immersed in creating, but he sweetly reminds me that he does not view these things as my job. I have a partner, not a domestic slave, so while he takes on many of the jobs I am neglecting, he also sometimes neglects them too and I think this is preferable to a partner who is acting the role of housekeeper and caretaker because that would come with guilt for me. It creates a sort of inequality I cannot live with. If I had lots of money I am sure I could see myself living as a male artist might, either in a mess and going without meals or with a hired housekeeper to sort out such things. Nobody viewed a man who could not or did not tend to such mundane chores as inadequate in any way but a woman who cannot or does not is still an oddity at best.
I am not an oddity, but I am living differently from how I'd ever expected to and am exceedingly happy for it. Better late than never, as they say.