At thirty six years old (when I would have told you that you were nuts if you said I was going to one day open a boutique French tour company) I had nine years of housewifery under my belt.
Except that the last year doesn’t really count because I was in Japan on a research grant and my husband was taking care of the house and kids. Okay, so, I had eight years of housewifery on my resume. But rather than quibble over that one year, let’s get to the point: I had a hole on my resume the size of the Grand Canyon. What was I going to do?
I was lost.
I was twenty days shy of my thirty-sixth birthday when the great 3-11 earthquake and Fukushima incident put an end to any slim chance I might have had at completing a PhD with a specialization in the wildly popular field of “Japanese Vernacular Architecture” (a.k.a. Japanese “Folk Houses”)… so that I could then get a tenure track professorship teaching that widely offered topic at a college where my French husband would also get a position teaching about 17th century French women novelists.
Okay, my dream might have always been a long shot… but the housewife thing wasn’t working out for me.
When I think about the titles “housewife” and “stay-at-home-mom”, I realize that the “house” & “home” part are only a fragment of what makes the position so hard for me to master. I mean sure, instead of being home alone, I would much rather be out in the garden, in a classroom or an office where I could enjoy nature or interact with peers… but, it is the other part of the title that I find really difficult. Before being a “housewife” and a “stay-at-home-mom”, I’d never noticed that, unlike other titles (policeman, firewoman, chairman, etc), this occupation isn’t for a “woman” or a “man” but rather for a man’s “wife” or a child’s “mother”. And, just as the title demands, I quickly saw my personal identity vanishing. I was becoming the invisible force behind a great man and wonderful children. Gradually, it came to feel like I was supporting the endeavors of others out in the wide wide world… at the expense of my own identity.
I’m not going to lie. I am not cut out for the work. I didn’t know how to keep from becoming entirely consumed by the job and that is on me.
Oh, I love doing it for short spurts (like evenings, week-ends and holidays), but man, after days and weeks and years… I have to admit that I find it easier to do paid or even volunteer work. To say I was unhappy would be an understatement. Looking back, I realize I’d disobeyed life’s version of the most elementary of aircraft instructions, to put on my own oxygen mask before assisting others: being a housewife was killing me. But, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s hard to see what the problem is when you are busy gasping for air.
So returning to my position as a housewife was not an option. Not on the table. Nope. Not going to happen. Captial “n”, capital “o”: NO.
I bet you think I’m going to tell you that this was the big turning point for me… but no, this was more like the point when the dim light at the end of my tunnel went out and I sat looking back over the path that had led me to my present place. I didn’t know I could own my own boutique tour company. That was just crazy. I was, as I said, lost.
(You are going to see that this isn’t the last time I found myself lost in the dark looking back over my life’s path before the light bulb went on and I started the company. I was still a year from that time. When you are lost, it’s easy to start out in the wrong direction before finding your way.)