The dreams we deferred… in the name of love

We used to have conversations in our final year of varsity when the thought of entering the job market weighed heavily on our minds and we worried about where to go from there.

In some of those discussions the view was often expressed that the female graduates were at an advantage because they could always look for a husband instead of stressing too much about their chances of penetrating the job market (as if marriage were a career path) while the males would have no such reprieve.

In the haze of idealism, we thought that perhaps such arguments had merit and that a male graduate might have to work years before they could own a car while a female graduate might happen upon a wealthy man and be driving within a few months.

This line of argument was further buttressed by the fact that many female students often fell pregnant and got married in the final year.

It seemed to the male students that their female counterparts would be spared the torment of agonizing about finding jobs because they could rely on husbands to support them financially.

So it was, when we graduated the majority of male students began from entry-level positions in various fields while an equally vast number of females prioritized their roles as wives and mothers superintending over their households while seeking jobs in a more leisurely way.

...sometimes you jus can't have it all...

…sometimes you jus can’t have it all…

It was not that these female graduates did not dream of occupying corner offices and commanding boardrooms or realizing long-held ambitions of rising to the top of their chosen profession.

It was just that they reached a forked road and realized they could only walk one path.

They faced the dilemma of trying to reconcile their personal career-related ambitions with the responsibilities and expectations they assumed when they became wives or mothers.

They chose their husbands and children over chasing after their dream careers taking comfort in the thought that their dreams could wait and receiving strong assurances from their husbands/partners that they would be “ungrudgingly” taken care of.

Then there were many of us who tried to do it all and be it all.

Tried to hold down full-time jobs in demanding professions, tried to be available mothers and tried to be supportive wives.

We tried to do it all and when we realized that we could not juggle every responsibility all at once, we took to desperately running our households through the conduit of housemaids who walked in and out of our family’s lives with dizzying frequency.

Navigating the professional world, some of us excelled only to deny ourselves the enjoyment of promotions because the promotion presented yet another forked road.

The promotion meant better benefits but greater responsibility. Receiving a job promotion sometimes meant longer hours and perhaps added frequency in work-related traveling that would keep us away from home for long periods of time.

So once again, many chose to pass up such opportunities for professional elevation thinking it would compromise our ability to be hands-on mothers and available wives.

We felt that we needed to be there to pack the children’s school lunches and be at hand to help the husbands locate a misplaced tie or missing sock in the mornings. Promotions could wait.

Always at the back of our minds was the hope that eventually we would be able to jump-start our career and do something that would provide us with some fulfillment outside of the joy of watching our children grow.

Yet because none of us had a crystal ball back then, we could not have known that the spouses we had so eagerly supported, stood by through thick and thin — for whom we had shelved our dreams and hopes would wake up one day resentful of the fact that we felt entitled to the money they earned, to being supported financially as we too, had supported them domestically.

Who knew back then that at some point these same men would sneer at us and talk about “yimali yami leyi, yindlu yami leyi, yimota yami leyi, wena wabuya uphetheni lapha?” {This is MY money, this is MY house, this is MY car, what did you contribute towards these acquisitions?}

Who would have imagined back then that the sacrifices we made would mean little in the face of title deeds that said nothing of us being owners of the houses we had turned into homes?

Who had stopped to think back then how getting a husband did not translate to economic empowerment even as we drove in luxury vehicles whose ownership papers did not carry our names?

Who would have known then, that we would rue the day we came to the various forked roads available to us and chosen to trust in love thinking that deferring our dreams to support our husbands would mean we would share and be entitled to every success they had?

In the name of love we gave up a bit of our autonomy at every forked road, sliding further and further into the rut of financial dependency and secure in the knowledge that out sacrifices would be rewarded by loyalty (and financial security) on the part of our spouses/partners?

Then the unthinkable happened and the same husbands we gave up our own dreams for decided that we were parasites – milking them dry and in return we gave nothing while they provided us with shelter, food, clothing and even “status’’.

Those same men could now look us in the eye and say dismissively, “you were nothing when I found you’’.

And we would lie awake enduring long nights thinking that perhaps every engine that hums down the street was heralding the return of the husbands who would come back carrying with them the scents of other women’s perfume, reminding us how we were nothing when they found us and gloating about how we can never leave them, because, after all where will we go and what will we do?

Long nights of lying awake and remembering the forked roads that represented opportunities we bypassed and the chances we chose to forgo and all the dreams we decided to defer — dreams we deferred in the name of love.

And a cursory glance will tell us how wrong we were all those years ago at varsity when we thought we had an advantage over our male counterparts because when we meet each other on the roads we know they own their cars whilst we ‘own’ the husband who owns the car we’re driving in.

We know too, that when they speak of developing a stand and building a house, their names are registered on the title deeds, whilst our houses are ours by proxy because we ‘own’ the husbands who built them.

So where would we be had we followed our dreams and deferred the marriages and delayed the pregnancies and waited until we had secured our own financial stability?

It is a scary thing to trust so completely in someone else and hope that they will not betray you tomorrow or decide you are no longer good enough . . . but it happens all too often.

We forget to love ourselves enough to do what is best for us first before laying our lives down for the ones we fall in love with… every now and again it would serve us well to remember that love is sometimes a fickle thing.


18 thoughts on “The dreams we deferred… in the name of love

  1. Denny says:

    This is to some extent my grandmother’s and mother’s stories. But they both realised the importance of having their own careers at some point after making the wrong choice and now they are fully independent, happy people. Many women need to remember that poor choices can be rectified if you are determined. However, I am lucky to have had these lessons taught to me at a young age, so I have grown up with no intention of sacrificing self-sufficiency for a husband. Anyone hoping to marry me needs to address me as an equal, love the whole me, and contribute their 50% to domestic tasks. Just as I will contribute my 50% to the household finances.

  2. sanesibanda says:

    Am most inspired by your last paragraph…..We forget to love ourselves enough to do what is best for us first before laying our lives down for the ones we fall in love with… every now and again it would serve us well to remember that love is sometimes a fickle thing.

    So very true, we rarely give ourselves enough credit, we are so quick to think that all the sacrifices we make for our husbands and kids will translate into complete happiness and contentment. Forgetting that our careers, ambitions and dreams are equally important.

  3. The Jugling Act (between dream-chasing and home-building) is obviously a difficult one, but one which none-the-less makes the best role models for girls world wide if successfully carried through. Hope some positive experiences will be shared on here. Keep your heads up girls!

  4. Mduduzi [Dudu] Madlela Ndlovu says:

    Tjo Delta,a harsh reality,many a times we seem not to want to address that or yet alone admit that the choices we made have failed us.We (as women-educated women-enlightened women) still have that tendency,that softness,that area where we always want approval from our spouses.Makes sense to me why when I grew up the trend was most educated and independant women we either single(never married) or divorcees.It hurts.I for one was stuck in a marriage where by my husband(can gladly say ex with a broad smile and a great sigh as i feel so free from the bondage of 3 goodyears) felt like he did not owe me any responsibility as his wife now that i chose to work instead of being a house wife and happened to be one of those fortunate ones with a good job.I was made to pay dearly for being independant,had to pay all the bills,had to cater for all our son’s needs,had to literally do everything while Mr Man chose to use all his earnings to please himself and the women who had no jobs out in the Cape Streets.I was tempted to give up my job so i can be the stay at home mom that he wanted but i was quick to think-me and my son would be eating in the bins if i did,what guarantee did i have that he will take care of us?Now that i had been taking care of me and my son and him,i thought let me do me a favour rather,drop one of my dependants and stick to my career,its been 4 months after i brought the oppressive union to an end,the difference that i am seeing in my life and shaping my dreams is so vast,the dreams that i personally deferred in the name of love……………………………………

  5. Regrets are the worst thing. Shoulda woulda coulda. I try to live without regrets and yet the older I become, I seem to accrue more and more of them. Sigh. I just wish more women felt like their lives could be theirs and theirs alone.

  6. pfimbiyangu says:

    You have hit the nail on the damn head with an honesty I admire that is so characteristic of you. Something has to give though, now-soon-soon. The system has to change quicker than it is. I have admiration for the women demanding that their workplace fundtion differently to remove the glass ceiling, those who go for it anyway hard as it is and those who choose to lay their own dreams aside but keep the longing.

  7. mamoyo says:

    Thought provoking

  8. Wow! Such food for thought and already partly true of my life and i am just 27. Its such a scary truth that is the reality of countless women. I like what Denny said. Taking back the reigns and rectifying that now

  9. […] The dreams we deferred… in the name of love ( […]

  10. Pam says:

    It all cascades to our social norms and values. As girls growing up we are expected to get married at some point (the earlier the better) and be dutiful wives. So you find that despite having a bright future, a woman can steal forsake her dreams because they are scared they will die alone, without being married and with no children. Our society perceives that to be a fulfilled woman and secure in life and be respected, you must be married and have kids….thought provoking indeed.

  11. Mark Suji says:

    Great article you post i really like this.

  12. rosebell says:

    Reblogged this on Rosebell's Blog and commented:
    As i think of an article about the Marriage and Divorce bill which is currently being miscommunicated in media and by our male MPs with backing of churches, my Zimbabwean inspirational sister Delta penned down a good one. These experiences from Zimbabwe are not any different from those of us who have grown up in Uganda.

  13. You state so eloquently the choices that women all around the world face everyday.

  14. Jolly says:

    Delta you are great poet and know to the bone women’s struggles in life about career and marriage

  15. davidhabba says:

    Nice one. Really nice one.

  16. cliff letts says:

    Beautiful, sad and yet uplifting with the promise of realisation to be a lesson for us all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s