Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Dog House

This afternoon I ran into a neighbour while walking the dog. The weather was cold and wet - something between very wet snow and slushy rain fell on our faces and the chill wind kept our hands in our pockets. We hiked through mud and deep boggy puddles of black goo. We hiked for two hours - both of us knew a lot about being out in the woods and not going back to the house. But I didn't realize that yet.

Her dogs were unruly and poorly trained. They barked at everything and leapt about. They were a constant demand on her time. Why would she want to put up with such an irritation?

My friend has 6 children, now in their late teens and early adulthood. Her husband works hard and makes a good living, while she stays at home and manages the house. They have recently moved into a large and beautiful home, but one without a basement.

Now nobody wants three muddy and noisy dogs in the house, not even her. So she put up a shed in the back yard for the dogs to live in. And then she put a chair, a light and a heater in the shed. And now she spends every evening in the shed with a blanket over her knees and her favourite novel in her lap, so the dogs "won't be so lonely."

What is wrong with this picture?

Finally it all came tumbling out. Her husband's other children, the yelling, the fights, the violence, the police. She has endured all that, but she is still hanging in, hopeful and caring for her family, spending each evening out in the shed with her dogs, doing what she has to do to survive. Out there she is the mistress of her dog house, there is no one to harass her and complain that she did not get it right.

... so she spends her evenings in the doghouse.

She explained all this to me with a cheerful voice, but full of questions - were women really created to be servants, wouldn't it be better to live alone all one's life and never marry, be a servant or remain single, what do you think?

I recognized her voice, her questions, her cheerfulness, because it used to be mine. It's pretty normal isn't it - to spend your evenings in a quiet place with those who love you most. Don't you think?

This isn't fiction, who would invent a story like this?
    Today's young women are disillusioned with their mother's inability to sustain marriages.
This morning I read this quote above from Mary Kassian on Gender Blog. I want to tell the untold stories, the stories that won't be told.

Men have their own stories, but I don't know those stories as well. I just get a glimpse once in a while. Here is one story I do know and have written.


Anonymous said...

Every mother who was unable to "sustain" her marriage has a story. And sometimes when you hear those stories, you realize that the assumption that it was an inability to sustain a marriage was not the issue at all.

I weep for my children, and my daughter especially, who cannot yet know or understand the reasons I left her dad, and who already, at age 10, has no certainty that marriage can be sustained. She sees good marriages around her, but that can never erase the shock of knowing that marriage is not as solid as she had assumed and been taught.

And which is worse--for her to grieve now that marriage isn't always permanent and can't always be "sustained"? Or to realize that there are marriage relationships so dangerous and wrong that the word "sustained" shouldn't even be in the picture.

And if she understood that, would she ever want to be married? When she was 9, she told me that she didn't think she ever wanted to marry because it is too awful to have the possibility of breaking up and splitting a family like ours has done. Recently, she said that she's not so afraid of that anymore.

But, my heart does weep for her disillusionment. Can God redeem that disillusionment in a way that protects her, but does not leave her hardened and shut off from relationships, including, but not only, marriage? I hope and pray so.

Anonymous said...

What a good thoughtful aching post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne,

I'm glad she found a place to have peace... For me, I find peace in the presence and embrace of the one who LOVES me.

I have recently realized that my understanding of Biblical grounds for divorce and freedom for remarriage "in the Lord" is far too narrow. Abuse and neglect is biblical grounds. GOD does not want HIS precious children trapped in a marriage which has the atmosphere of a concentration camp.

Here is a link to a post which will get you to an excellent scholarly work which is required reading in many seminaries these days: