Thursday, April 23, 2009

Was Grandma Happy?

While digging through some computer files this evening, I came across something I'd written in answer to a young woman whose grandmother had just passed away. She had wondered if her grandmother had been happy during her life, seeing as how she was raised in a time when women's options were so limited.

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I thought you might be interested to read my response.

Feminism brought with it a world of opportunities but remember what you learned in science class, with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What that means is that we exchange one set of problems for another.

I was a kid growing up in the 1950's, and my mom was your grandmother in a sense. Yes, these women were isolated in ways you cannot imagine. Families only had one car which meant there was no loading the kids up and going to the store, to the park, or anywhere else for that matter. Chores were harder. There was no permapress or microwaves. But it's a mistake to believe that women were sitting around thinking how they were "forced" to stay at home with their children. That's just the way it was, there weren't alot of other options so basically they didn't worry about what options they were missing in life. I'm kind of laughing thinking about the vision of my mom sitting around "pining to be a lawyer".

It was a different time and hard to realize from your perspective. They did have other women in the same situation to whom they could open up and they did share. They were probably on more initimate terms than your contemporaries. They shared in the old school way, low tech, face-to-face over the backyard fence!

I have alot to say about the women's movement and feminism in general and they're not all positive. Yes, they pushed and forged necessary changes but there was alot of carnage along the way, and today's young women are sometimes left with weighty expectations. I guess my answer is YES!!! Your Grandma was happy, not all the time, but are you happy all the time?

Your grandmother;s day was a less complicated time with simpler problems and simple pleasures. I think it is important that we have these conversations because as you have pointed out it's not always clear how things were and how sweeping the changes have been. Feminist issues are not now, nor ever have been black and white. Remember, to every action.......

May your grandmother rest in peace.


I suppose the point I was trying to make is that it's a mistake to look at the past through a present-day lens.

25 comments:

Lucy said...

I've found that action/reaction to be so true in life. I'd like to have lived in my grandmothers time. Yes..it was physically harder. But I'm not sure about mentally. They didn't have instant communications then. Am I romanticizing? Probably. I have many histories written by my ancestors. In the long run, they were happy.

Heidi said...

WELL SAID!! I could'nt agree more with what you said if I had said it myself! There are so many things that are expected of woman today that are rediculous...

Susan said...

Excellent! Each generation can find it's own happiness and sadness. I agree, I think my grandmother was very happy for her time.

Molly said...

Amen!

chocolatechic said...

I agree, but I think ...looking through present day lens...that women back then might have been happier without all the extra expectations that are put on women today.

Vee said...

ChocolateChic has an interesting point. It's one that I happen to share.

Laura said...

I agree with everything you said in that post. While I love being able to learn about people from around the world using the computer, there are many things that I would rather we go back to the "old school" method of doing. My mother was so busy supporting us that she never took the time to teach me what I consider to be basic life skills: ironing, cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc. I can cook up a storm (thanks to my grandmothers) and can clean, but it is always a half hearted attempt. I cannot sew on a button and whenever i attempt to iron it comes out more wrinkled than when i started.
I've always longed for simpler times, growing up watching Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons made me yearn for those time periods.
Thank you for a great post!
Blessings
~*~

Marfa (Formula For A Life) said...

Suzanne, I couldn't agree more with your last comment about not looking at the past through today's lens. That should also be applied to history in general. For instance (and I know this is a bit off topic), one of my favorite people in history is Cleopatra. I was talking to someone about her one day and he said that she was a lose woman with no morals (I'm paraphrasing, his adjective was much nastier). I tried to explain that we can't judge her actions by our morals of today. People, especially royalty, had different morals and different ways of thinking in the past. Just like if we could travel to the past, some of us might be put to death for our behavior. Imagine a woman going to the beach in Victorian times, wearing a bathing suit, or a bikini. She would forever be labeled a prostitute. Yet today nobody bats an eye lash at a woman in the beach wearing a bathing suit. In order to understand human behavior, be it of the recent past or antiquity, or even today in other cultures, one has to see them through their eyes, not our own.

Lori said...

Excellent! I couldn't have said it better myself and probably couldn't have said it as well. You are so right in that we tend to look at things as we know them now and think everything in the past was wrong but people were pretty happy then. Life was simpler and lots less stressful. There didn't seem to be as many expectations on female and male alike as there are now. Great post!

Lynn said...

What an interesting post, Farmer's Wife. I AM a lawyer, 54 years old, and attended college and law school with a lot of "wild-eyed" feminists. I considered myself a feminist, too. On the other hand, I come from a very large, old-fashioned family; sort of a "quasi-hillbilly" bunch. As I've aged, I've found so much more truth and wisdom in the ways they taught me. "Feminism" has proved in many ways to be just another self-absorbed, selfish view of the world, and another version of victimology. The feminists I know who married/partnered have had such struggles and failures. The women in my large family, though not "feminists", are self-starting, generous, strong, giving, hard-working, good wives, good mothers, good cooks and homemakers, fine employees and workers....you get my drift.
Was Grandma happy? You betcha, for the most part. But she was also focused on something other than her own power, position, happiness and self. She was mostly focused on making a good life for her husband and children, and doing the work necessary to do that. I wish we had many more like her these days.

martina said...

My Grandma had a very hard life, emigrated here in 1913 to marry a hard working farmer. They loved each other dearly despite many struggles. He died 35 years before her. One of their children had health problems. They seemed to always be just squeaking by financially, despite being frugal. What do I remember about her? Her laugh, the twinkle in her blue eyes and the hugs that little tiny old lady could give that were all encompassing.
Times are different; we have different stresses than previous generations but all generations have hopefully been happy.

belladella said...

Very well said. It was a simpler time, that's for sure. It feels like I am always seeking that out- thus my love for that time and all things from it.

BittersweetPunkin said...

I agree, although it was more difficult-it seemed more "honest and pure" to me.

bv said...

i love this post! Lynn said what i would say if i could express myself that well. as a flower child of the 60's i still wanted a man to be the man and i wanted the old fashion role of the wife. I strive to have the life that our parents generation had. less tech, less 'fast' anything. i love homemaking and want to be in my home. i think taking care of my family as art. no, i am not happy all the time, but i am happy most of the time. that has nothing to do with the time we live in but how we chose to be.
bv

cinasue said...

Good girl! Sometimes I wonder if it wasn't the more personal and intimate of relationships that some women were trying to get away from when they 'followed' the movement. I know that I saw many a young woman divorced and alone as I grew up and into my 20's. The search of independence can come at a price indeed, if one allows it to.

Heidi said...

After reading more of the comments I can see that most feel as you do Sue! I know that my Amish friends are happy - without all the 'stuff' that makes our lives easier... yet, they are always busy ALWAYS have time for friends, family and God. Cant beat that combination
I also dont think that woman used to be as guilt ridden as our generation has become, at least our woman. Trying to juggle jobs,'carrer's and familys is just to much and the guilt out ways the good that 'may' come from it all. At times I feel cheated that I am expected in so many circles to 'work out' to help suport my family - yet, my family is runs much better when I am home with the.... its such a hard situation to be in at times.

Cindy La Ferle said...

I love your response. I am reminded of Anna Quindlen's introduction to her first column collection, "Living Out Loud," which chronicled the years she decided to stay home and raise her kids instead of working in the office at the NY Times.

In her intro, Anna mentioned an older woman she met on a bus en route to work. The woman said to Anna, "You young women have so many choices today... I feel sorry for you." I often thought about that quote when I felt conflicted about "having it all" in my early years of marriage and motherhood. It was so difficult to be all things to everyone that I often wished I lived in my grandmother's era ...

Anonymous said...

I was a child of the 50's. I had two grandmothers, one a farmers wife, hard working, canning, baking, taking care of the chickens. She seemed happy to me and loved by everyone. Always in a dress and apron.My other grandma was a manager of Neilson's 5 & 10. She had to work to support my grandpa for reasons never known to me. He stayed home and took care of the house. She drank and smoked, wore pants and was never a very happy person. I don't know what this all means but just my observations.

jmmyndlnd said...

It was great reading your post today, takes me back to my grandmother's day and I know she was happy, much simplier time and I think more relaxing, much more family time and family reunions, which just doesn't happen anymore because everyone is just too busy, would love to go back in time.

Farmchick said...

Well put and well written. And the comments...Wow! Such a great blog conversation going on here.

lifeinredshoes said...

I've always felt I was meant to live in an earlier time...proof.

Rue said...

Suzanne.... that was perfect. Every word and I agree.

hugs,
rue

tales from an O.C. cottage said...

Sooooooo true! The women's movement has taught me that I don't want what they did/do. "Grandma's" life/purpose probably touched and shaped so many lives, hearts and minds in a way that no high powered corp. woman can...in a "real" way... and Grandma's ego never got in the way. LOVE THIS POST!


m ^..^

Rebecca said...

Some were and some wern't. Same as today.

bayouwoman said...

You and I seem to be about the same age, so let's remember that Grandmother was coming off the depression and post-war eras where they saved aluminum foil, used cloth napkins several times before washing them. For a woman to be in the workforce back them, she was either a widow (of which there were many, my grandmother included) or God forbid, she was divorced (shameful at the time). So, the women in the workforce weren't glamorized in Grandma's day. It was a necessity for most of them. Just thought I'd add my perspective! Amazing how opinion changes: THEN: working woman equaled no man to provide TODAY: working woman equals status. THEN: Stay at home mom - the norm TODAY: Stay at home mom - the exception. I think they had it better back then. You?

Great post, by the way, and thought provoking.