Here are a few thoughts in progress. They’ll be developed quite a bit over the next few days.
It’s about what used to be a simple ordinary custom: women helping women as homemaking friends.
That idea ignited my imagination this month at a Lent church supper.
The kitchen brigade ladies finished with dinner, and took a break to share some soup and conversation.
These are active independent retired women who have raised their families and now live alone in the family home. Each one of them confided how it feels, to manage a fixed income while watching property taxes soar. Their old neighborhood communities have gone, replaced by mushrooming multi-story apartments for young high-tech workers.
The women exchanged heartfelt questions: What about repair expenses and heating? What about living alone, with the breakins and car prowling and vandalism appearing on my street? What if I fall down, or get sick?
What a revelation for me!
Here all my life, I’d been taught that once a woman has a husband and her own home free and clear, she will always be safe and cared for and financially secure. My single girlfriends, who like me didn’t find a husband and could never quite afford a house, have these conversations too. We worry about getting priced out of our apartments.
We women can team up on this.
We have our wisdom, life experience, gift for caretaking and friendly concern, housekeeping and hospitality skills, savings and thrift. Mature single independent women can join forces to share housing and chores for more comfort, security, and enjoyment. Single women in apartments can rent from homeowning women. And, we can form networks to visit one another to lend a hand or just a little company where it is needed, day or night.
Sure, there are internet services for this. Paid agencies can collect our personal data on line, and then match elders with, say, exchange students.
But we women can organize and choose our own households, based on existing friendships.
For years, I got through graduate school with one small student loan paid off in record time, just by being a visitor from house to house. At one point I wore the keys to a dozen houses on a rope around my neck, and had a long waiting list of people looking for company for a night or a season. I’ve lived in group houses with over 80 housemates over the years, and was very happy renting a cell in a convent with 120 Sisters and single women who all looked after one another every day.
Mature single women hold up half the sky. Society can’t survive without us.
We’ve spent our lives caring for others. Yet, we are often taken for granted by our employers, apartment landlords who depend on frequent tenant turnover, churches, and even younger relatives.
But we can take our own needs seriously. We can start really paying attention to our women friends, too.
I’m thinking back on two dinner parties that I organized for a dozen older single women. I hand delivered written invitations with directions to my house, and cooked for two days. Only one woman showed up. Another tried to find my house, but had left the directions at home. All the others assumed that they wouldn’t be missed, and didn’t even call me to cancel!
Thinking back too, on three times some medical provider has said to me, “We can perform this procedure, but you MUST have someone at home to care for you tonight.” And each time I lied and said “Yes, I have someone” when I didn’t. Well, there are lots of us “someones” out there. We just need to learn how to take ourselves seriously, pay attention to our women friends, and join forces to care for ourselves and each other.
One of my neighbors pointed out that we already pay home visitors such as doulas, au pairs, and dog sitters. If we can find ways to care for babies, children, and dogs, then we can do it for ourselves.
Wondering what existing systems are in place, I just looked up the website for OWL, the Older Women’s League.
Well, the local and national chapters are now out of business!
Unless this country has run out of of older women, it’s up to us to carry this idea forward.
After decades of praying to God to help me to find a family and a home, maybe what He wants is for me to go out and build my own.
Today is the best time to start working and talking about it.
To be continued! -M