My mother, Madeleine Pauwels, was a smart woman. We had many long conversations at the kitchen table about her philosophy of life – both spiritual and secular.
She had in-depth understanding of, and commitment to her Catholic faith, and was my most profound teacher. In the secular realm, she had a very simple and effective philosophy: Papa’s responsibility was to focus on his job – to get promoted to higher paying levels – to maximize his income. Her job was homemaking and the management of their household and family finances. As she explained it, after their early years, she did not burden my father with household projects. If she and her children couldn’t do it, she hired it done, or simply didn’t do it.
As a result, Papa (Remi) worked 58 hours or more every week, year-in and year-out, at “the shop” – “as much overtime as possible,” as she put it. All of us kids had jobs to do, especially on Saturdays. There were few exceptions. And when Papa came home on Saturday afternoon, there was a warm bath, dress clothes, polish shoes waiting for him. (They went out with family and friends every Saturday night, and “dressed up” every Sunday.)
Sorry for rambling here – but the memories are coming back.
Mama’s key philosophy was to optimize what they did as a couple. Keeping Papa focused on his job, his career, his time allocation – while doing the same herself, was a key strategy. And, of course, they lived simply – one old car, one TV, one radio, one clock, and a lot of mended clothes and hand-me-downs. I can still see Mama at the bottom of the basement stairs, working at her foot-pedal Singer sewing machine, mending stuff.(They used to tease Papa as “patch-up Remi” at the shop.)
This is not to suggest there was no pain. Mother worked in her early days until Betty was born. Thereafter, she often found herself resenting her neighbor’s “coming home after an eight hour day, getting “dressed up,” sitting together in their backyard drinking beer and chitchatting.” (Of course, they ended up impoverished, while my parents ended up well off.)