I’ve seen lots of pictures of elegant, gray-haired women who are the images of widows for different support websites and products. I am not one of those women. I’m in my mid-forties. My gray hair started growing in as glitter strands when I was in my twenties.
I know many little, old ladies who were widowed in their seventies and eighties. Most of them knew nothing about their finances or even how much money they had in the bank.
I’ve been doing almost all the household chores by myself for most of my marriage. While we did financial planning and taxes together, I did all the banking. I set up the utilities, completed the school forms and arrangements, took the kids to their activities, trained and took care of the dogs. I also worked full time in a corporate position, worked freelance on the side, and volunteered at the school. (I was lucky if I got five hours of sleep each night.)
Shorty after he passed, people would ask me how I was handling doing all the things by myself. Oh, please. Did I suddenly become helpless?
Considering that I did all the things (and was often yelled at because I didn’t do them perfectly to his sometimes-incomprehensible requirements), I was pretty confident that I could continue doing all the things. Then, there was a freeing moment when I realized I wasn’t going to be criticized about my choices anymore.
There were a few times when I asked my former father-in-law to help with technical or physical things in my house. He fixed a lose wire, which I could’ve done. But I was grateful for his assistance. But there were many things I didn’t need help with. A problem with the shower? Call the plumber. Flooding in my kitchen? Call the insurance company and deal with contractors.
On another day, when they wanted to give me unsolicited advice about a house repair I was working on, I told them I’d already dealt with all those particular issues. My former mother-in-law said, “Well, dear, she doesn’t need us at all.”
One day he berated me for not getting things fixed at my house fast enough (stuff that I’d asked him to help me with but he couldn’t figure it out). This degrading lecture was without his even knowing all the calls and research I’d been doing. Without asking me what I’ve done so far, he criticized me. Hell, no. I snapped at him and left.
Later, she told me his feelings were hurt because I didn’t ask him daily or weekly for help with “all my needs” since my husband died. What does that even mean? I didn’t need a man to tell me what I was supposed to do.
I’ve never been helpless. What needs did he expect me to turn to him for? I know how to change the air filter. I know how to pay my bills. I know how to set up a computer. I know how to call a plumber…
I told both of them that I didn’t visit them to be judged about how I manage my house or raise my kids… all by myself, thank you. Their hurtful criticism under the guise of worry was unwelcome and rude.
Is it too much to be friends with them? I don’t need parents (I have my own) or a surrogate husband.
Perhaps I need to be brave enough to say those words to them.