I still cringe when people describe me as a housewife. I suppose managing the house is one thing I do, but I hesitate to list “housewife” as my occupation. I entered India on a tourist visa with the intention of adjusting my status to Person of Indian Origin (PIO) through my marriage. Long story short, it didn’t happen. We ended up completing the paperwork on our visit to the US in June, but the PIO card did not arrive in time for me to bring it back to India. So for the last year I haven’t earned a salary, maintained a bank account, or basically been recognized on any financial or legal documents. In these ways I’ve been a very typical “housewife”.
This change in status is something that has haunted me. At first I felt I was living in an existential vacuum and grasped frantically at threads of identity. I busied myself with unpacking boxes and arranging the life we transported across the oceans. I was dismayed when I realized that my attempt to resuscitate my previous life was unsuccessful.
I found myself at ladies’ luncheons and coffee mornings, often feeling awkward and out of place. I had to ask Sam for money when my wallet emptied. I watched with discomfort as the maid who came daily washed my dishes and scrubbed the floors. For many months I felt guilty about all my free time and leisure; I denied myself any activities that might be pleasurable.
I wish I could say there is a neat and tiny resolution to this inner dialogue, but there isn’t one. I began volunteering at a local orphanage and found fulfillment in being with the children there. I also met some terrific women who have been really kind and supportive friends. I found some peace in meditation. I often walk along the sea face, watching the tide roll in and out along the rocky shore. I imagine in those moments that each step brings me closer to understanding and accepting myself, no matter my job description.