This is Rosie. Rosie the Riveter, for those of you who don’t know her. She is a widely recognised image in American cultural and feminist circles; the poster girl for self-empowerment and self-reliance.
I stared at this poster for the better part of three years. It was hung in a classroom in which I often taught British Literature by the History teacher whose space I shared. She was a staunch feminist. I, in comparison, was a mouse.
But that soon changed. As the role demanded more of me, I met it and became an outspoken champion of whatever needed championing. And it felt good. To help someone out, to shout loudly about something that was ignored, to participate in the human debate. And I’ve been that way ever since. Looking at Rosie every day, I felt solidarity with that idea. Yes, of course, I could do it!
I also lived on my own then, and that meant doing whatever needed doing–fixing an in-sink disposal unit, changing the headlamp on my car, paying the bills, wiping and reimaging my PC. I did it myself. I didn’t even think of asking for help.
And then I got married. And left Rosie on another continent. For a while, I still carried on doing my thing, being myself. I pulled up carpets and replaced them. I dug up our entire overgrown back garden and landscaped it. And I enjoyed doing those things as I enjoy working with my hands.
But motherhood and the feeling of depending on another soon took away my hard-earned independence. It wasn’t my husband’s fault. He is an advocate of finding your own solutions to problems and we give each other the space “to work it out” before calling for help. That’s very much why we make good partners.
Nonetheless, I have often felt, since becoming a mother and a wife, that I should just let him take the lead when something needs fixing. Because I am busy doing other things. Because I can’t be bothered. Because it is part of this role of mother and wife to defer these things to your husband. I lapsed into this paradigm in which I take care of the children and he takes care of the house.
Thankfully, our washing machine broke down again the other day and I snapped out of it. Previously, I’ve had electricians and servicemen in. DH has had a turn at fixing it as well. This time around, he tried and couldn’t fix it. Muttered something about not knowing what else he could do. A little voice spoke up in my head. Why couldn’t I try to fix it? What could possibly be so difficult if all these other people had done it? And I realised that I had lost my mojo and that the little voice was calling it back.
And so I Googled the error code, shut off the power at the mains, found the hexagonal spanner, dragged the behemoth out from the cupboard, loosened the bolts on the top panel and had a look. And I saw nothing wrong. [Shit.] But I fiddled with a few wires and Eureka! it was working again.
Of course, it has since relapsed and I’ve had to call my father for advice on how to fix it properly, but hey. At least it feels like I am back in the saddle again. And Rosie and I have found each other once again. I have put her (a postcard) on the fridge as a reminder. And as a good example for my little girls who will see Mom and Dad using both spatulas and hammers equally.