I know I only posted yesterday, but today I finished Penny Vincenzi’s latest book “The Decision”. It was absolutely riveting, not least because it’s set in the sixties, when married women didn’t work as a rule. The central characters fight constantly over this very issue, and it made me remember, with such sadness, how my first marriage was. Old Hubby really didn’t want me to go to work, and “couldn’t see the point of paying somebody else to look after our children”. This book takes me straight back there, even though it’s set earlier than my first marriage, which was from the mid seventies to the late eighties.
It was not a happy place to be, managing a household, a bad-tempered husband, and two small children. I did go to work, part time while they were small, and then full time with school holidays when they were both at school, and eventually, when we divorced, full time properly. Childminders were the order of the day, though, not nannies like in this book.
It’s such an odd, old-fashioned viewpoint. Old Hubby clearly thought that a woman’s place was in the home, looking after the children. That was her job. Oh, and looking after him. It drove me screaming round the bend. I’m sure he found things difficult, too, because he just didn’t understand my need to work (although he never complained about the extra income). I have a feeling that his view came from his mother, who believed that unemployment was all because women like me worked, taking jobs from the men. As a secretary? Really?
He would arrange to do things and go places on his own in the evenings or at the weekends, and just expect me to have the children. If I wanted to go anywhere, I had to ask his permission, and check that he was available to have them. If he wasn’t, I couldn’t go. God. When I think about it now I get so angry.
Happily, things in this, my second marriage, are very very different, and New Hubby (I say New, but we’ve been together longer than I was with Old Hubby!) has always been encouraging and supportive. Now all our children are grown up, and we’re both retired, so working isn’t an issue anyway for all sorts of reasons.
But how I shared the struggle to feel like a real person with the central character in The Decision. I love motherhood, all of it, from babyhood to now, and it’s a really, really important thing to do, to mother one’s children to adulthood. I just needed to work as well.
I was desperate to finish the book, to find out what happens, but at the same time didn’t want to finish it because it meant I’d have to let go of all the wonderful characters with whom she always populates her books.