My precious grandmother would have been 110 this year. In 1998, I flew to Tennessee to celebrate her 88th birthday. On the plane, I decided to ask a great-aunt how she juggled raising two daughters with church and community responsibilities. I don’t know why I chose Aunt Dottie. I liked her, but we were not close. Maybe because she was kind, cheerful, patient, modest, long-suffering, and—as an empty nester—she had started a successful home business.
My opportunity was short. I remember the exit of the restaurant parking lot where I started the conversation. I remember how much my grandmother and her sisters were looking forward to the take-out fish dinner we were bringing. More intensely, I remember Aunt Dottie’s answer and what it provoked: vindication and regret.
I didn’t take on additional responsibilities,” she said. “None of us did. We didn’t expect that of each other until our children were older.”
I had wrongly accepted the unrealistic expectations of others and myself. Women have come a long way since Aunt Dottie’s child-raising days, but we have also regressed. I wish I had asked sooner.
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