Losing my Dad at 13 had a profound influence on me, but not just in the way it affected me at the time, but the way I looked at the future. It made me make a lot of decisions about the future – obvious ones like living for the moment and not dwelling on the retirement fund (who knows if you’ll get to enjoy it,) but also a pledge of independence.
I watched with pride the way my mum picked up the running of our household. I dont mean the day to day – obviously she already did the shopping, the cooking and the traditional roles any Mum would do in the home, (actually she was working by then too,) but also the more traditionally male roles. My Mum became our financial decision maker, book keeper, accountant and gardener. Looking around, many women in their fifties might have fallen apart, not even knowing where to start with household admin they didn’t normally even see. She was able to do it because she and my Dad had unusually always done things like that together and of course it would be obvious to say she also had to. I made me realise I never wanted to become the kind of woman or wife that ‘left things to him’.
A few years on, after only 3 years of marriage I can already feel us slipping into separate roles. I convinced myself it was delegation with things like holiday planning when I was too busy or looking for a new insurance quote, but I felt a bit guilty every time I asked Pete to take out the bin! It’s like that old leadership adage, don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t be prepared or able to do yourself.
More recently, its been all about DIY. For over months the cold tap in our bathroom had a washer problem and although the tap turned, no water came out. It wasn’t sudden, both of us watched it get worse for months and neither of us did anything until one day it stopped. I nagged (no, not my favourite word but I’m prepared to admit that’s what it was,) Pete for months, first to fix it and then to get someone who could. He actually didn’t know how to fix it but I wanted him to look it up or something, there’s always Google right? Of course the answer was that I could just as easily have done something about it myself instead of letting it become the butt of every argument. Eventually the tap got fixed (Pete’s solution was to replace the taps, but that’s another story) and before long there was another minor DIY job… the hook the blind cord wrapped around in our bedroom worked its way loose from the wall along with the surrounding plaster and we couldn’t raise the blind. We both carried on, the hook could be left in place and if you crossed your fingers, it might not fall out during the day, but obviously it wasn’t ideal. The nagging started again.
A couple of weeks ago one Saturday morning I realised, I was becoming that woman. The truth was that although I was busy, really I was also out of practice. I had gone from someone who used to put her own shelves up, to being scared to try to fix this minor problem because I didn’t know how to tackle it any more. So I went and found the tool box, customised some rawl plugs to fill the gap and used a shed load of no-nails to secure the hook. Not all that technical I know, but I felt empowered to start doing these things again. Next on my list is the broken bathroom window lock. I’m told you can buy new double glazing locks and fit them yourself…
I guess some women look at men taking the traditional male roles of DIY etc as being ‘looked after’ but I don’t need Pete to do this stuff to show he loves me, I need me to do them, to make me feel strong. So if the worst ever happens, I know I can manage by myself.
I’d love to hear your take on this readers, it’s high time we had a bit more life-discussion around here and I hope to be bringing you more posts like this, but they don’t work without your input and conversation. Do you DIY and how do you feel about apportioning roles in your relationship? Have I made you think about retaining your independence?