to the lady at tea time.

Last weekend I had the chance of a lifetime to visit Jamaica with my two dearest friends. Amy turned 40 a couple of months ago and we continued our tradition of traveling together in celebration of that sacred milestone. I was 21 when I first met Samantha and Amy which alternately feels like an entire lifetime ago and, well, yesterday.  Celebrating our fortieths together is surreal.

So what better place to travel than Jamaica? A land that feels equally surreal as the idea of the friends of my youth celebrating four decades. Each day we wined and dined and wined again, waking to the sounds of breakfast being prepared by the house staff  (apparently this is a thing?!) and lazing our days walking the resort, frequenting the beach bar and trying not to blister by the pool. We are 40(ish) after all which means no more browning to a crisp. Coincidentally, an ad has recently been appearing in my social media feeds, trying to convince me I need some sort of large sticker device to adhere to my chest each evening to ward off…chest wrinkles? No thanks. I’ll just take the age and celebrate the laugh lines as they come.

The house we stayed in was amazing. The resort itself was a dream. But nothing surpassed the company of these friends of my heart. Sharing this time together was such a breath of fresh air amid the dailiness of regular life.

We were enjoying afternoon tea one day (apparently this is also a thing?!) when we struck up a conversation with an older couple seated next to us. We shared a few details about each other’s lives and learned that they too had ties to a service academy (which is how Amy, Samantha and I met), a fun life parallel about 35 years apart. The husband in this couple had recently retired from private medical practice and the wife had retired from a career in banking. She has volunteered for the last seven years at an inner city New York elementary school, instantly making us even bigger fans of her. They raised five children together.

As we sipped our tea and chatted she was surprised to learn that we were each married (since our husband’s were not along) and she inquired about the children at home. She asked how many times a day they had called us to ask a child-rearing question to which we each responded: none. I thought she might choke on her cucumber sandwich.

We just didn’t do that, when I was raising kids,” she said. Of course, she meant the whole thing…the leaving the husbands and children…the girlfriends…the time away to ourselves. But the way she said it lacked any judgement or back-in-my-day air. Instead, it was tinged with awe.

I’ve often thought about the lives of the women who came before me, both those in my own family tree but also those beyond. Surely there are so many things about our hopes and dreams that are the same. But the demands on women to be absolutely everything for their families was so much greater in the generations that came before me. And it’s because of those women, particularly those in the generation of this lovely lady we had tea with, that I am free to simultaneously adore my children, love my spouse, commit to my work and yet leave all three for days of leisure, knowing all will survive without me.

The women of her generation were the ones that forged the path outside of the home…while also manning (womanning?!) every duty inside of it. They didn’t take anything off of their plates, they simply added to their tasks. But because of that struggle and commitment, the balance has shifted for my generation and my peers. We are working toward sharing the care and keeping of children with our spouses. We are negotiating housework based on who is better at which tasks, not based on traditional roles. We are balancing careers and family, yes…but so are our partners. It is no longer a balancing act for women alone.

And we are all reaping the benefits. The fathers that I know in my peer group are so connected to their children, having cared for their daily needs since birth. My mom recently relayed to me how delighted she was to be in a pub and watch two young men across from her sip their beers while also bottle feeding their babies. There were no mothers in sight. I imagine the mothers were working or running or volunteering or, maybe, reconnecting in Jamaica with their closest girlfriends. No matter…those dudes weren’t making any calls for help. And those babies were staring into the faces of their daddies, not thinking anything was amiss. Because it wasn’t.

Thank you, kind lady at tea…to you and the rest of your generation.





Ellen PattonFebruary 7, 2018 - 2:21 pm

I love this post and I don’t even have kids. 🙂

Aunt LuFebruary 8, 2018 - 7:00 pm

Love this…

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