You have to remember this was over two decades ago, and my exposure to feminist theory largely came from what books I could obtain from the local library, and they mostly written by the second wave feminists of the 1970s: Betty Friedan, Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer. Going back further in time, I'd grown up being told there were things I couldn't do, and things I had to do, as a girl. And it was during the interminable government of John Howard, the Prime Minister of the silent generation values and conservative mindset, whose speeches and policies left little doubt the man believed at heart that a woman's place was in the home. Well, if that's what he was for, then I was against it. I knew my feminist place. As I saw it, this was a war of liberation, with no role for women devoted to school runs and PTA meetings. You're with us or you're against us. I had work to do.
So I thought then. I'm cured now. Two major things have changed; firstly, my views on feminism have changed a lot since then. I now see that issues such as preventing sexual and relationship violence are what matters, not whether a woman changes her name when she gets married (and whilst still in my militant years, I was working as a receptionist/office administrator. One of my duties was updating client records, and that included when women faxed us a copy of their marriage certificate wanting to change their names. I didn't like having to do it - I believed women who took their husbands' names were just perpetuating the notion that women are the property of men. But I still did it, made the changes because at the end of the day, what right do I have to tell someone else what I think their name should be? I'm telling you this to make the point that you can respect another person's name and pronouns. That's for them to decide, not you, no matter your feelings on the issue. If you can accept a woman's married name, you can respect when someone tells you their name is Riley, and not insist on continuing to call them Steve. Okay, end of digression).
And I've come to realise that thinking one only has worth if one is in paid employment is a completely sucky and capitalist view of things.
But the biggest difference between then and now? I'm tired. I have been solely responsible for my own life, and working, for most of the last twenty years, and I'm worn out, and would like someone else to take over the income earning and paying bills and insurance so I can bake and grow a herb garden, at least for a while.
Let me say right now I love my current job. I'm coming up to three years in the role. I work with the smartest, most amazing people, and I've learned more than I could imagine. There's always something new and different - there aren't many other jobs with duties that have included both video seminars on chemsex and watching Paw Patrol with a delightful four year old. On the good days - when you pull off a big project or host an event - I can't imagine anything more rewarding or anything else I want to do.
But it still involves much of the Dilbert-esque wibble inherent in most jobs these days, especially in this era of KPIs and accountability measures and having to account for every dollar of funding. There's zoom calls, business plans, 360 degree performance reviews, so called because I'm going around in circles trying to figure out what to write for my responses. And, of course, the meetings.
When I need to go to the office, parking is a nightmare (I drive due to chronic fatigue) and I can't see a window from my desk. Ahh, my desk. For all that the work I do has improved, it's the same carpeted little half-box that has haunted me for the last two decades.
Before I graduated from university a few years ago, most of my jobs were office based, administration and call centre, mostly, with some unfortunate forays into retail. None of it was fulfilling; I was just trying to pay the rent and hopefully, eventually, get myself together enough to find something I did want to do. In the meantime...there were redundancies, restructures, business plans, deadlines, managers, co-workers, commuting, work lunches, office Christmas parties, conferences, early starts, late finishes, lots and lots of customers, and lots and lots of meetings. All in the same carpeted box. Sometimes it was my carpeted box, and I could put up pictures and postcards, sometimes we did hot desking and I'd just get the carpeted box for the day, but either way, there was no way that carpeted box was more restrictive than being stuck at home.
And when I'd get home from my carpeted box, it was mostly just me having to sort out things like bills and insurance with the money I got for sitting in the carpeted box. Money that quickly evaporated, being mostly the sole income earner.
No wonder I'm tired, and part of me doesn't want to do this anymore. I've been following a few cottage core and homesteading sort of accounts, and I've fallen in love with the lifestyle. So, in exchange for not having to worry about how to pay the bills or why I'm being summoned to speak with my boss's boss, I'm willing to give up control of my own money. I want to be a housewife. I want to cook from scratch using vegetables I grew myself. I want to have the energy to bother hand washing my delicates. I want to learn to reupholster furniture. I want to scent my ironing water. I want to take the iron I bought three years ago out of the box for the first time. I want to make my home an oasis of relaxation and welcome home the person paying for it with a hot dinner.
I've finally become someone with a fulfulling career and prospects of progression, and part of me wants to give it up. And I know staying home wouldn't be as easy as my Pinterest fantasies. But there's a neat caveat for me on the housewifely lifestyle. The hardest part of being a housewife - the care and feeding of small humans - I don't have to do. My only child is rapidly approaching adolescence (he sure eats like a teenager) and is mostly self sufficient for basic physical needs. We still have our moments, like when we arrived at the aquatic centre recently to find he had failed to pack his swimsuit after I specifically told him to do so. The good mother thing to do would have been to use the occasion as a valuable learning experience on personal responsibility, and turned around and gone home. But we'd had something of a drive to get there, and I wanted to swim too, so I wearily bought him a new suit. Moments like this aside though, my nappy changing and baby proofing and constant-need-to-pay-attention days are behind me, and a search of reliable medical websites shows my chances of getting pregnant at my age are roughly equal to the chance I'll be killed in a car accident.
It also means that my chances of this lifestyle coming to fruition are about the same as the odds of me being abuducted by aliens whilst dying in a car crash and pregnant. First I'd need to form a stable relationship with someone who saw me as an equal and valued partner, then persuade them they should continue to value me as an equal partner as they go to work while I faff around embroidering quilts for my cats. But I never said my dreams were realistic. Maybe I should start a new genre of fiction. Whilst teenagers fantasise about being turned into billionaire vampires, exhausted Gen Xers and Millenials can read books where the protagonist is turned into a mystical creature who is loved and adored and doesn't have to sit through annual general meetings or clean up the food a toddler has tossed on the floor (I've done both at the same stage of life at once. That was fun). I can even put some recipes and craft projects in the back of the books. I just wish I could quit my job and let someone else take over the rent while I write them.