At 52, I’m a little late. But I started a couple of years ago, so really–50 is the new 40, right?
The backstory: I finished a Masters in English Literature when our first kid was a year old, in 1996. The small state school I attended had a position open–an entry level PhD slot, non tenure track. Nothing for me, but a pretty good indication of what that market was like at the time. They had something like 350 newly minted PhDs apply, and I saw the writing on the wall. I’d be dragging my new family through a PhD and then chasing jobs to Lower Nowhere State for years. I had been a “Literary Theory Kid” from the ’80s, all high on dead-bald-gay-French philosophers, once in a program called “Comparitive Studies in Discourse and Society.” Heady times indeed…
By the time I got back around to going to grad school, that particular academic bubble had burst, which was actually lucky I guess. I’d gone back to school to answer two nagging questions: “Could I do the work at that level?” and “Did I want to pursue the career?” The answers turned out to be yes and no.
That answer firmly in place, we moved here. Mary had been a nurse here at the University hospital years earlier, and was able to re-establish herself on a great career track. And since we didn’t want to pay someone to raise our kids, I became a full time, stay-at-home dad. What could possibly go wrong?
What a great gig! There are volumes I could write about the years my kids were kids. What a great ride. Mary and I had the flip side of traditional gender roles, which worked out well–when Mary was not working she wanted to be with the kids, and I needed a break. I got to go flying.
We had a lot of fun, and it seems like we didn’t mess the kids up too badly. I did a little handyman work on a ‘school’ schedule–put the kids on the bus, go play handyman, home in time to get the kids off the bus, take summer off. A great gig.
But fast forward about 20 years. Now I’m an out of work housewife with no income and no resumé. And it stings.
When I half-heartedly threw my hat in the ring a couple of years ago, I got crickets: I couldn’t even get hired as a greeter at the hospital. When I used my old handyman boss/friend as a reference for a senior-at-home-care job, he offered to hire me back, at about triple what the at-home-care job would pay, so…..I did that for another year or so.
But now my wrist is trashed–an old injury come home to roost. Even typing hurts.
So I’m midlifing like hell. And it sucks. I always joked about how the male primal directive is a variant of “must kill meat for family,” and how I never subscribed to that. I know I was priveledged and lucky to spend all those years with my kids. It was a no brainer–it was right, whole, and completely worthwhile. But as my youngest starts his senior year, and I find myself at this place where they don’t really need me any more, I’ve been gobsmacked.
Heard a great little interview with legendary TV producer Norman Lear. He’ll be 94 soon, and when asked for ‘advice,’ he offered this: “Two words: Over, and Next. When something’s over, it’s over, and you move on to next. If you can hang your hammock in between the two, that’s present, which is a pretty good place to be.”
So yeah, Over. An unemployed housewife. What’s next?