Over the Back Fence
Bert Hardy/Getty Images
My mother used to spend part of each day, more or less, chatting over the back fence to one or more of her neighbours. My husband remembers his mother doing likewise. I'm pretty sure their mothers would have done the same. Back then - and it was really not so very long ago - fences were almost always about waist high, so you could easily see one another, and have something to lean yourself, or your basket of washing, against.
I suppose that these women would discuss their children and husbands, a television show they had enjoyed, cooking and recipes, their housework and homemaking tips, world events and local news, and their personal thoughts about Life, etc. Over the back fence you could admire a new baby, exclaim over how much little Jonny had grown, and be invited in to see the new lounge suite.
When our children were little I had a close neighbour whose brother commited suicide. I think she and I spent at least half of all our weekly daylight hours together after that, for at least six months, at her place or mine, while our children played and I mostly just listened while she talked it all through; enough for her to come to terms with what had happened.
Then six-foot high wooden paling fences gradually divided our properties, and women began to go out to work more and more anyway, and to stay home with children less and less. Those who were still at home began to stay inside more too - enticed by larger, more comfortable homes and colour TV's and year-round air-conditioning. Women who did stay at home were in danger of becoming isolated, lonely, and sometimes depressed.
(I've always thought that Motherhood and Homemaking as a profession, if you will, is not for the faint-hearted. I remember how keenly I would clean and tidy every morning, and how I was the only one, aside from our beautiful children, who ever saw the bathroom in all its perfection - before the four o'clock bathing tsunamis that drenched all the surfaces I had shined so assiduously that morning! No one is ever going to come along to a hard-working mother and say: "Wow, You have been doing such a Great Job that I am going to give you a Promotion, and a well-deserved Raise! Nope. You have to really believe in what you are doing yourself. But there is still nothing else that I would rather have been doing. What is helpful though, is to have some understanding, encouraging and supportive friends to share the ride with... )
Most blogging Mums I know, (admittedly, not a gigantic number), worry to some extent about the time that it takes to blog and to 'blog-stalk'. 'Is it a waste of time?', we guiltily wonder. I'd like to throw this thought out there, as an answer to those worries: Through blogging we are merely re-introducing, with a modern take, the cameraderie our mothers and grand-mothers enjoyed quite naturally and happily over the back fence everyday. Everyone knew that you weren't supposed to be outside nattering all day; but the usual amount of chit-chat was seen as a positive and emotionally healthful endeavour. I think it still is.
I like that women have a new way to connect; a way that suits our lives and modern living constraints.
(Of course, a one-sided conversation with yourself doesn't do so very much to alleviate feelings of alone-ness, or add as much as it could in the way of encouragement or understanding either, so I think it's always nice to leave a comment on people's blogs too :)
While looking for a picture to illustrate depression, I came across this photograph...
Photographed by Dorothea Lange
The caption read:
'Migrant Mother 1936 This California farm worker, age 32, had just sold her tent and the tires off her car to buy food for her seven kids. The family was living on scavenged vegetables and wild birds.'
I know it's really another post, but this photo..
for what we have today.