L N.Ireland

I once thought that the strong older women in one part of my family, who’s above average height and shoe size I shared, were the head of a confident matriarchy and that one day I would step into their above average shoes. Now as a 27 year old woman, and having become my grandmother’s primary carer as her mental health declines and her forgetfulness becomes dangerous, I realise that this matriarchy is actually the product of my family’s misogyny. The women ‘take charge’ because the men won’t.

I don’t want to sound like a martyr, I am happy that I am in a position where I can support and help my grandmother – I don’t want a f*cking medal, but a little acknowledgement would make a world of difference. But they see that it’s just my ‘place’ to do all these things, my granny had two sons; my mum and dad are divorced, as are my uncle and his wife, I am the next oldest female – so of course it is my place to step up.

When I told my great aunt that I was struggling between work and organising my grandmother’s permanent care, fixing her house so it’s safe and attending all her medical appointments with her and that I hadn’t even heard from my dad in weeks she told me that “Men are just different”

“They don’t see the things we do” – ie they don’t have to do the things we do. They can do as they please without consequence;
They can waste time money and relationships
They can be unreliable, un-trying, uninterested because ‘that’s just how he is’

Yet they’ll still be praised! “Your father!” I hear on a weekly basis, the ‘matriarch’s’ aging eyes welling up with pride at the man who barely sees her “he’s so good” ‘To whom?’ I feel like asking, because I’m the one looking out for and after everyone, working full time in a successful job, paying a mortgage, trying my bloody hardest – but then that’s my place isn’t it? That career is only a placeholder until I grant my husband children, something to busy myself with….

My dad came to my house to ‘have a talk’ with me the other night, I thought that maybe he realised what I am doing, that I need help or at least that he should acknowledge the effort. But he wanted to talk about my brother and how he wanted him to get a job (he’s never had to) and a girlfriend (“so he’s not frustrated”!!). He said “I’d love to be able to say that ‘yeah, my son’s a bricklayer’ or ‘aye he’s doing well, he’s a gardener’ you know?!” I did know, but I didn’t know what to say. I guarantee you my dad couldn’t tell you what company I work for (despite it being one of the Big 4) or what my job is (I’ve been here 4 years) or even what my degree is in. He isnt proud of me, or if he is he’s never told me. It doesn’t matter how successful I am, how hardworking, how thoughtful and kind.

One thing this whole heartbreak has done for me is make me appreciate the one reliable, honest and caring man I do know – my husband, i’m very lucky