Two skills that I learned early in life were listening and observing. I am naturally inquisitive and intuitive about those closest to me. As a kid at family gatherings, I would soon become bored with playing with the other kids so I would go and spy on the adults. Now, when I look at old photographs of those family gatherings I laugh when I see my little head peeking around a door or over some sitting adult’s shoulder – the only child in the picture.
My favorite spot to hangout back then was the kitchen. I loved it there because the women of the family would be there cooking and talking. It always smelled fabulous in there and the discussions were lively. I got to know my mother, grandmothers and aunts very well by listening to those discussions and observing their body language. As for the men in the family, I compared them all to my Dad and he always was the better man.
As I grew older, I noticed some puzzling behaviors among the women. I noticed that a few of my aunts were their happiest when their husbands were not around. I recall visiting my aunts when my uncles would be at work or out. My aunts would be upbeat and very engaged with us children. Later, when I visited while my uncles were at home, my aunts were sometimes “taking naps” alone in their darken bedrooms for hours or unusually silent in their engagements with us. Their demeanors would be so drastically different that it was alarming enough to me to mention to my Mom. However, the men in the family were always the same. The “why?” of it remained a mystery for me until I reached adulthood.
As I grew up into womanhood and entered into adult relationships, I often reflected on those memories of my aunts. Now, some of them had different meanings because I was older and wiser. I know now that two of my aunts were battling “circumstantial” depression which resulted in one being institutionalized later in life. Another one was actually being physically and emotionally abused by her husband. These were hard realizations for me because all of my aunts were very good and loving to me. I witnessed how they did everything in their power to make their marriages work and to be good wives. They all remained married until “death” parted them from their husbands. It was not all happy for them but I guess they remained for reasons I cannot understand.
I know now that watching the lives of my aunts influenced me about marriage and commitment. It seems to me that women “do” everything to “make” the relationship work and most men are reluctant to do the same. I termed this type of woman the Make-Do Woman. The Make-Do woman is willing to concede, to compromise, to justify, to rationalize, and to minimize something within her personhood to continue with a relationship that has gone bad.
I wish I can say it only happened in the generations before mine but there are brilliant, strong, and competent women today that are enduring this situation in their lives. They probably don’t see themselves as I have described here but only as someone who can’t “throw in the towel” yet. But, if the women are the only ones trying to save the relationship, I challenged them to re-evaluate their motivations. I challenged them to embrace self-preservation. I challenged them to answer truthfully this question – “If you are crying more than you are smiling/laughing, is it worth it to stay?”
Do you personally know any “Make-Do” women? If so, pass this post on to her.
What do you think about my description of the Make-Do Woman?