I told you there’s no such thing as the quiet country life,’ says my husband. ‘You are delusional. ‘You think you’re just gonna hang out there and sit by the river and write books? There’s no such thing. Life is work.’
My husband is usually right. He’s pretty smart. But that’s not one of the reasons I married him because heaven knows the women in our family are strong women. My mother and her sisters. Always right. And if you try to gauge anything from my previous post ‘Why living a life of Opulence is a good idea’ you’d probably also believe that I married him because I knew he would be a good provider. But how could I know that? When I married him we were on equal terms. A few years out of law school, equal earners. No, not true. Not equal earners. He’s always earned more than I, even right ab initio (ie right from the very start!) because… because… I don’t know… because he’s a male I think? Or also because he started off in a fancy corporate firm and I started in a small old law firm in Plein Street, where I would dodge the homeless in the doorway and tried to ignore the calls of ‘rendabeg, renda bego tomaties’ (A rand a bag of tomatoes) outside my dirty window.
But I think largely because he’s male. Funny thing that. How long ago that I started working as a lawyer? 1990. And still we fight hard for that gender gap. Gosh we women have to keep fighting hard. Fighting for this, fighting for that. Fighting for equality and equal rights, fighting to make ensure we don’t get left behind, let’s get to those 50/50 stats in leadership for women in the world, on boards of companies and in high positions, fighting to hold it all together, our marriages, our careers, our children, our FACES! They start getting these lines and our boobs start to sag and so we fight with ourselves! We start to fight off the younger women with the perky boobs and the big careers ahead of them because they look so …so…powerful (careful what we say here about judging women, too beautiful, too rich, too thin, too clever…see this wonderful article by Elana Ferranti that my wonderful women friend shared with me.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/17/elena-ferrante-even-after-century-of-feminism-cant-be-ourselves (this beautiful pic is from the article in the GUARDIAN)
Enough already, I don’t want to be fighting anymore. I have it all. And I do. There is not a single woman that I know in the world, not Megan Markle or Angela Merkel or that woman who is an international best- selling author because none of them, not one of them has it all. I do. I have it all. I have a passionate marriage, children I adore, an education, a more than comfortable life and opportunities that others could only dream of. My husband tells me all the time how wonderful he thinks I am.
But he also says that I’m emotional and senses a frustration. And he’s right. I told you he’s usually right. Because I am that, thank heavens! Imagine being unemotional- how awful!
But frustrated? Yes I am frustrated. I’m frustrated about many things and I’m trying so hard to keep to the topic of what I want to write about here but I think it’s probably going to be a bit messy.
Bear with me will you?
I’m frustrated with the feminist thing for one because this feminism thing about wanting equality and equal opportunities isn’t working for me like I thought it would. I’ve written a lot about it in my last book and I don’t want to explain it hear ‘cos it’s too long and complicated. If you want to know more, please offer to publish my book. Did I mention frustrated?
But at the moment, I’m also extremely frustrated about something and this is where it goes. I’ve been DYING to use that superb quote of Anne Lamott’s you know…” if you didn’t want me to write about you should have behaved better” and I think I may even have done so in my book but I’m doing it again here ‘cos it fits perfectly.
So here begins my story. I’m calling it ‘ducking and diving in Stanford’.
It was in October 2016 when I put my boxer puppy in my car and drove out to Stanford to meet an agent. I had been to a writer’s retreat the month before and made up my mind. Stanford. I loved this peaceful, sleepy village, next to the river where I could get away and break away and find a part of me (this is such annoying phrase in the women’s space, isn’t it, that #metime, thing, ‘cmon), write maybe sometimes alone, enjoy seeing the children disconnected and unplugged and free from the world, no TV, no WIFI, enjoy a quiet romantic weekend on my own maybe, with my hubby. We wouldn’t have to go all the time, but it would be so nice to have a little place of our own to go. And if we didn’t go, we could rent it out, let it become an income- producing asset, rather than just a weekend getaway place. No indulgences here, just a life style kind of investment.
You see, the thing is this. Since I was a little girl, I was taught that I had to seek out my place in the world. Be strong, be independent, work hard, get the best education, move on, work hard, be smart, save money, invest well, marry well, have children and keep going, just have it all, do it all. You can, you’re strong, intelligent, go for it. Go!
And I did. I did. I tried all these things. And then suddenly, years later, many years later, I found I had kind of lost my power. I had actually lost my power. How did that happen? What power, you ask? My financial power. My power that made me feel that what I did mattered. Not that I didn’t feel like I didn’t matter to anyone. I did. I know I did. I was the most important person to so many people. I am the most important person to so many people: my husband, my children. Even still my own aging parents. We know that. The world knows this. The most important things in the whole world are people who have significance to other people. Yes, food and shelter and trees and nature- oh, please, please, bring the rain and clean our planet and change the status of corruption and make it world peace- but people.
But when you give up too much of what makes you powerful – your financial freedom- you lose a little power. For whatever reason. Whether by choice or circumstance or whatever. Now. This is a hectic debate and one which I didn’t plan to go into detail here, – I told you this post would be messy, but I want to say it here because it’s the truth. My truth and my story and what I see around me. The reason that so many women struggle with the combination of marriage/work/children thing is because when you give up your supposed ‘equal’ earning power as a woman to combine it with a family, then one of you in your marriage partnership – usually the one earning the most is implicitly entitled to a greater part of the decision- making process when it comes to the big decisions. It’s just how it is. Let’s for argument sake, say, that in most cases, it’s the male. In most families that I know, the male is the major breadwinner and despite the women working and earning and having an equal marriage where decisions are jointly made and everything is shared and equally plotted and planned and discussed, the person who holds the (unspoken yet incontrovertible) power is always the one who contributes the most financially. It’s what dictates who gets the lion’s share in life in so many respects, like efficient access to justice. Only the wealthy seem to get their day in court.
Right on the other side of the story is the plight of the poor male. He also gets pushed to work hard and study hard and stop messing around with that bloody rugby ball and go back and study, and do well, and save hard and study more and find a nice wife so she can give you a nice life (shame, after a few years you may want to find a newer model ‘cos her boobs are sagging and she’ll whine a lot about the kids and not earn so well) but keep going and make more money and invest well ‘cos the kids now need to be educated and don’t forget about retirement and inflation and ja. You get what I’m saying.
I’m already a few thousand words into my next, by the way. I think it’s going to be called Betty and Me, a few years on. Here’s what I’ve been scribbling in and being EMOTIONAL about. Ag, us poor women.
A big digression.
Back to my story of Stanford. I promise to provide a summary of this article at the end. I know it’s unedited. It’s just a blog.
It was time to TAKE BACK MY POWER. I came home from that meeting in Stanford and told my husband I’m buying a little cottage in Stanford. He just about freaked. I had dragged him around the country for years. Up the passes to Tulbach and Montagu, and down the coasts and onto the beaches of Hermanus, to a beautiful farm in Paardeberg where I could become a ‘real woman and make stewed fruit and really nice home-cooked stews ’ and to the caves and crevices in the Cedarberg, convincing him that ‘even that little pile of bricks could look nice with a little imagination’. I just wanted something. Something of my own. I had sold my little property I had worked hard for when we got married and pooled all our assets.
He had too.
We started our married life together, equally in all respects.
I was never going to be able to make enough ON MY OWN again to afford it myself but I was equally determined that this was one of my decisions.
It was hard talk. It was a long night. But we made it and we finally bought Stanford. Together. He had to balance his interests of providing for our large family, securing our future investments with proper, safe, clever investment decisions, accommodating his wife’s whimsical vision of a romantic country life and containing her determined new writing ambitions.
She was re-inventing herself. Again. From bright eyed keen law student, to professional career woman, good –income earner to wife, mother of 1, then mother to 2, then 3, then 4, (yes it’s more than the average I know) then, heaven’s what now? Back to work, what work? Let’s study a little more, flexi-time you say? They’re not paying me enough! Who’s gonna look after the kids? I want to look after the kids! But I also want to work and what about that #metime????
Stanford is a quiet town in the heart of the Overberg with plenty of water. On a river and surrounded by mountains. We’ve owned it now for just over a year. When I first bought it, he hadn’t even seen it yet but he trusted me. He trusted me. He wanted to make me happy and he tries so hard. I love him unconditionally for that. I also don’t love him so much when I feel that he’s not trying.
But he trusts me implicitly and I trust him implicitly. I know that everything he does, he does for the good of our family and that’s about the best anyone could be.
He’s also the most honest person I know. Ethical and honest. And I hope that some of these values will rub off on our children. Our son and three daughters. And also that they will learn the value of hard work.
It’s all hard work. Even in the country. Because when I first negotiated the contract and dealt with the previous owner, I suddenly had all these unpleasant, hard issues to deal with. For some odd reason, he saw me as a useless woman and tried to breach our contract. He’d included certain things as fixtures and fittings and I knew that (I was using my lawyer skills) and he knew that (was an accountant) and he starting being extremely unethical. He stole my property!We nearly got to the court steps. It was most unpleasant. Hard work.
But I won in the end and I was damn pleased with myself.
And suddenly it was happening all over again. This time, it’s a woman. I’ve trusted her for over a year with my precious property that I fought so hard for. And worked so hard for. I trusted her with it all. She ran a FB page, managed the booking sites, managed the rentals and managed my property for me. But I never checked on it all, despite many, many, many queries of delayed and late and incorrect invoices. It never really made sense to me, what she said. How can someone cancel at the last minute? Are you sure my booking was not two days but three? Why is payment taking so long? Didn’t I ask you to please confirm my booking as soon as possible? You haven’t confirmed with me? Why do you take so long to reply to my emails? I thought it was an Airbnb booking but it shows a Travelground booking? Oh, now it’s a private booking? Why does my booking schedule show a different rate? Why don’t you let me contact the tenants- I just want to check they’re okay? And why didn’t you tell me about the tenants that were there last weekend? They’re not on your schedule? So it’s never happened before?
You will note that my FB page WILLOW COTTAGE has been deleted. She deleted it when I asked her to make me the contact person. No. She just deleted it. It’s gone. Like WILLOW COTTAGE on Airbnb and Travelground. It’s been deleted. I cannot track the details of any bookings over the last year. And I’m sure I asked her really nicely not to. Just change the details, I’ll take over and just please pay me back my money. And we can both move on.
Stanford is a small village and a beautiful place to visit. Please come back. I’d love to meet you.
I’m sure she never meant anything intentionally BUT if she didn’t want me to write about it all, she should have behaved better.
If you HAVE ever stayed in my cottage and want to tell me all about it, please do because I’m not sure if you have been there or not!
If you EVER WANT to stay in my precious cottage, please contact me directly via this BLOG. I’d love to have you.
Even, better, if you want to follow more on this BLOG, then join me on my journey of life and sign up!
I’m going to be updating it soon with new categories and pictures and things and supposed to be online doing a blog boosting course with funds I have never received !
NEXT BLOG: HOW TO AVOID PITFALLS ON AIRBNB BOOKINGS!
We never stop learning!
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