I am not a natural nurturer. Wait a minute, I hear from those who feel the structure of the world as we know it crack a little at this pronouncement – don’t all women get born with the nurturing gene? Nope, seems not, but admitting that is akin to admitting a horrendous character fault. Add being an older woman to that, and suddenly there’s a question mark over one’s whole purpose of existence. Our physical capabilities are waning, so if we don’t feel like nurturing and serving, what else are we good for? Oh, yes – grandchildren, and the unspoken expectation that nana now lives to babysit them. I have heard more than one complaint from a woman with children about her own mother not seeming particularly interested in the grandchildren. Here’s a thought – maybe she’s not interested in making her life about children again? Maybe she’s just not a natural nurturer, either. However, the expectation is that she will swoon over the grandies so graciously produced for her. As older women, we are relegated to the zone of being useful by serving others, because what else should we be doing?
I don’t really know of anyone who doesn’t love their grandchildren. Those people might exist, but I don’t know of them. I know of women and men who don’t particularly like how their grandchildren have been raised, or how they’ve turned out, but in spite of that, there is still an element of love and attachment. I know of women and men who are completely immersed in their children and grandchildren’s lives, because they can’t think of anything else they’d rather be doing. I also know of women and men who can definitely think of things they’d rather be doing. I have neither children nor grandchildren – because I didn’t want to – so those pressures don’t apply to me. Regardless, I still feel an unspoken expectation to be of service from young and old alike, simply because I’m an older woman, and my value has been transferred from that of having sexual currency, to that of being of service. And it’s normal that I will want to look after others now, because that’s what older ladies do, isn’t it? After all, I have to be useful in some way – I can’t just be selfish. I am, and have always been, very fond of my nieces and nephews, and now great-nieces and great-nephews. I don’t feel the need to be fully immersed in their lives, though, and they don’t have the expectation that I will be.
Personally, I find being of service a tad boring. I do it now and then, though, because cooperation greases the wheels, and solidifies the connections between families, communities, and networks. I have no problem with that. As a regular activity, though, there are more interesting things to be doing. The nurturing qualities of feeding, looking after, taking care of, and tending to needs just aren’t wired into me. I have little enthusiasm for being in the background getting meals ready, dishing them up, and doing the dishes, but will make myself step up every so often for these duties, if they’re for the greater good.
What I am, however, is kind, thoughtful, and empathetic – to all beings. There is a blurring of lines sometimes between the qualities of nurturing and kindness, but they’re not necessarily the same thing. I looked after my elderly parents from my sense of kindness and duty, when all I wanted to do many times was run away and get my life back. I wasn’t the best person for the job, but I was there doing my best against all that came naturally to me – and still am for my elderly mother – and they knew I would always be. I took on my mother’s rat-bag cat when she went into the rest home, and he continues to have an indulged life, in spite of his predilection of ambushing me at any given moment, and scratching furniture.
Don’t expect me to be a mother-nurturer just because I’m an older woman, and this is now the role I should take on. Not going to happen. I will be kind, thoughtful, and empathetic as much as possible, because that’s my nature, but nurturing and being of service are way down the list of things I want to do.