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.

Not now, not yet and maybe – not ever

With all due respect Mr Cupid - you should consider retiring if you can't aim straight... or try taking a refresher course and just stop hitting the wrong targets!

I want to know why I love you; so that I can find the eject button and flush you out of my system.

I want to know how you crawled under my skin so that I can find the tear and extract you.

I want to know when I fell for you so that I can replay the sequence of events in my mind and find a different ending to the narrative.

I want to know why you matter so I can reason you out of my affections; using logic to drive out sentiment.

I wish I knew you better so that I could have things to hate about you.

Like maybe if you always leave the toilet seat up – I could hate that about you. Or maybe if you snore in your sleep – I could learn to loathe you for it.

I just need to know one thing about you that I can hate. I would latch onto it, make it a fixation and use it to obscure whatever qualities that attract me to you.

I want to know why it’s you and not someone else?

What qualified you to be the recipient of my affection and why are you such a frequent pedestrian in the corridors of my mind?

The things I know about you wouldn’t fill a restaurant napkin and yet here you are; nestling nicely in my heart without my consent.

How did you get here?

Which room in my heart did I leave ajar, for you to stroll right in and make yourself at home?

I want to un-love you but first I must figure out how I came to love you.

I want to reverse it – this feeling I have.

I want to grab cupid’s arrow, yank it out of my chest, tell him to keep his aim straight next time and then break the stupid arrow to pieces!

I guess what I mean to say is you’re not the one.

And I know you’re not the one because I can’t be the one.

Not now, not yet and maybe – not ever.

Dear Cupid, I don't want to tell you how to do your job but next time make sure you keep your aim straight and spare me the grief...