‘glory be!’. We continue to feature the thoughts of Gloria Bertrand in this series of reflections by retired housewife, married for 65 years and long-time CTCT ‘pots and pans’ theologian.
Someone called me today and in our conversation she began to tell me how difficult it is for mothers working from home because of the pandemic; we are all aware of the fact that for the past year or more, children and parents are under enormous pressures, and no one knows how or when it will change.
Now, I have been referred to as a housewife for all of my married life, to many people including my siblings and friends. I have not had to battle the outside world. I have had the privilege of staying at home with our children, and all of that has some truth, but this morning, during our conversation, the pieces began to fall into place, and I said to her:
“ I have been working from home all of my married life”, it hit me like a bomb. Let me put it together for you,
I went out to work at 17. My father went bankrupt as a result of cocoa prices. he was an agricultural man. There was no more money coming in, my eldest brother was learning a trade, my sister and myself went out to work. Mother had a small dressmaking business and my younger brother was at college, so we had to look after our selves as a family, every week we pooled our resources together. the motto was( you don’t beg ,borrow or steal) and also nobody must know you business, mother ran a tight ship, we had a good life, we had family, uncles and extended family.
I worked in a business establishment and made very good progress. At that time one had to learn everything, however I did not want to be a career woman, unknown to my mother and others, I always believed that being a stay home wife and mother was my calling. Mother was furious with me. She told me I was wasting my talent and I would get fat and sloppy if I made such a choice.
Nevertheless, I made my choice and gave in my resignation after 5 years with the company. My Boss assured me that if ever I needed a job, they would find something for me.
So how did I work from home, Harold was the sole earner, and we had to stretch the dollars to care for our 5 children and sometimes our extended family when there was a need. I began by developing my sewing skills which I had learned from home. I went to courses and eventually developed a small sewing business. I kept it within the hours when the children were at school. I also began to plant a vegetable garden; it was hard work but we ate what we produced and bought only what was essential. The oilfield men who had gardens in the forest, taught me how to grow dasheen and plantains and many other things. I also sold the extras and put the money back into the garden.
At that time and because we lived in the bush, there were no preschools. So the children never went to school until they were 5. I had to find ways of teaching them, it was mostly through our normal everyday life. They also learned how to create their own entertainment. it was not easy but the reality challenged us to find ways that were inexpensive and enjoyable.
I am fully aware that these are different times, and parents are in different situations. Homes are different. sometimes the extended family is absent, but we must find ways of living which can and will give us life. we cannot wait for the good times to return. my father never regained what he had, but we all kept on living and being thankful for life.
by Gloria Bertrand