Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Room of One's Own

'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction'

Virginia Woolf's extended essay, "A Room of One's Own" had it's effect on me as a college student deciding to make a life out of studying and writing literature, and I reread it every few years. I love her passion, I admire her strength, I want to emulate her talent, and I took to heart several of her ideas on womanhood, which were quite innovative (as so many women writers were) for her time. If I could have the deepest desires of my heart, it wouldn't be to be the teacher I am (which I adore), it would be to be a full-time writer and artist...something I am hoping to make happen in the next decade.

I've always shied away from thinking too much about marriage now that I am older. When you are 20, you don't worry about all the things you would worry about at 30. I don't know how I would feel marrying someone, letting someone support me if I decide to stay home and have children, giving up my own salary, and adjusting to all the things it takes to become partners. Thoughts of this terrify me, as I think, what if it doesn't work out, what if I am left without anything? What if I spend 20 years raising children and putting my career on hold and then we divorce and I am left with starting all over again? What it, what if, what if.....did any of you feel that way when getting married or committing to a partnership? How did you adjust? How did you handle it? Did you keep working, do you have a separate bank accounts (is that blasphemy?) (My real question is do you have to justify every beautiful pair of shoes you buy with your husband's money?)

In another life I would have been an interior designer...with a Southern accent and spent my days decorating homes and making them beautiful for the families that would be living in them. I think that a person should find their home the most beautiful and peaceful and romantic and enjoyable place on earth, no matter what they own. I have always delighted in creating elegant and chic homes for myself, whether it be my first tiny one bedroom apartment in Florida that I decorated with vintage flea market finds, or my airy room in Harlem with long white billowing curtains on the windows, or my attic bedroom in France where I would treat myself to fresh flowers often, and recently my new home here in Salt Lake that has such a homey feel to it.

I've spent many a wistful hour imagining a house full of children's laughter, and a husband's strong presence, and the chaos that comes from being the mother of a family. But, in that setting, there was always one room, just for me. It would have large floor to ceiling windows so that I could have the sunlight to tell me the true colors of my paint. It would have beautiful built in bookshelves where all my books could be housed in one place (not in drawers, and stacked on floors, and shoved in nightstands, and piled on end tables like right now).
When I look through catalogs I continually tear out pages that feature aspects that I love and I have them all in a folder that I will one day put into action to create this room. I love the light colors with rich accents, the softness and elegance of it all.
I am not one to make crafty things out of wood blocks or hang wreaths with hay sticking out of them on my walls. I love decorating with beautifully framed original photos.
As Woolf makes clear...three conditions are mandatory for a woman to become the writer she was meant to be: leisure time, privacy, and financial independence.

"Life for both sexes—and I look at them, shouldering their way along the pavement—is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion that we are, it calls for confidence in oneself." Virginia Woolf


Stina said...

Financial independence. -- YES! In my opinion, a woman must always be able to take care of herself (and children) on her own. I don't think this is unromantic at all, just a very practical and realistic necessity. Until I recently stopped working, I always made more money than Dave (although, yes, he has been in graduate school longer than me). But I know that I have created a strong enough foundation in my career that I could always find a way to go back and earn my own money. In fact, I knew before I had children I wanted to have a strong enough background in working outside the home that I would have something to fall back on. This is so important psychologically too, I think. It sounds so femi-nazi of me to say, but I don't need a man to take care of me and I take great comfort in that.

We have a joint bank and savings account and our investments are held jointly, but I still have my own checking account in just my name (and credit cards only in my name). A woman has to protect herself!

Interior decorating -- I love that you collect images of your favorite spots. That is so Secret/visualization-y of you and I know that your home definitely reflects the qualities you love. I am not a big decorator but I do have strong opinions on what goes in my house and cannot stand clutter. I hope to have you over soon so you can see how I live!

Alisa said...

D'Arcy, you have such a beautiful home. I was just thinking yesterday, what a great bookcase you have around the wood-burning stove in the front room. It's gorgeous.

This post is very timely as I have been reading a book about Virgina Woolf this week (Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History). I think it's interesting that the unique part of her quote is "a room of her own," but the money part is obvious (and universal). If what a woman wants is *security,* she has to have the power to earn money. That comes from not only receiving an education, but receiving relevant, post-graduate work experience in a career. I don't think that a college degree in any random subject will give any woman earning power by itself, particularly as the years separate her from the date of her college graduation and the work force. As someone who is constantly interviewing job candidates, I believe that both education and a resume of work experience are essential to having that immediate earning power, especially if one expects to equal the pay that her husband has after decades of experience. Entry-level jobs just don't pay well.

That being said, many women don't have these issues with security and have different priorities. But, some women are different.

I actually never thought about these things when I got married. When I got married, I was teaching at the university where I was a graduate student, and my husband was finishing his freshman year. I was the provider, so I never thought about the risks of being provided for.

Boquinha said...

Cool pictures, D'Arcy. I can imagine your place full of pictures (I totally agree about that by the way--so much more interesting than raffia)!

The Spradlin Family said...

D'Arcy, I am so glad you left me a comment! I do remember you catching the bouque. It is so good to read your blog. As far as the kids thing goes, I may have less than Stacey, but I had one first. Ha Ha. Tell Holly hello for me.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

I've been married for 16 years and have never been supported (financially). Personally, I don't feel comfortable with being financially dependent upon another person. That's just my choice and my opinion. I have been the primary breadwinner in my marriage, for the vast majority of the years we've been married, and it works for us. However, we don't have separate bank accounts. (Although I have been SORELY tempted, considering what an Impulse Purchaser my husband can be!).

I treasure my independence, and my ability to take care of myself and my children, if anything were ever to happen to my husband. I've seen far too many women sacrifice their independence only to wind up divorced, broke, scared, and looking for the "next man" to support them. And THAT is depressing.

But onto a lighter matter: I do LOVE the idea of a room of one's own. Despite the fact we live in a decent sized house, I really don't have that (crazy, I know....) My office I guess is sort of "my" room, although it doubles as a guest room, "flophouse" for my dog Ruby (who is right now asleep on the bed behind me as I type), and also a storage area for blankets, Winter clothes, etc.

I too would love a place where I could have all my books, my music, some furniture and pillows that are comfortable and soothing to the eye, walls and window treatments that are lovely, and just a serene place.... just for ME.

Maybe I can make that happen.
You have given me some inspiration, D'Arcy. :-)

Chelle said...

I have always had the independent streak as well. Maybe more than a streak. As I have negotiated single life up until this point, I have always felt somewhat odd in that I still want to retain more independence than some in certain ways in a relationship, and have no desire to be taken care of. It's refreshing to know there were women who felt this way earlier, even long ago.

There is something so important about having your own space, somewhere that can feel like yours. I haven't had this in several years, but am moving into my own place in a couple of weeks, and am THRILLED. There is something about having somewhere that you have decorated, that it has your style, the things you love, and you can feel peace.

D'Arcy, I love your house. It is very homey, and easy to be comfortable there. It shows your artistic style in a beautiful way.

D'Arcy said...

Stina! If that's femi-nazism--bring it on. I loved having you over on Tuesday! I can't wait until baby Theo arrives and you get to host book club!

Alisa:That bookcase is my favorite thing in this house! I adore it. I just wish that little fireplace kept me warmer in the winter.

I agree, education is the most important thing (although TEACHING isn't the most lucrative!)

Boquinha: Down with Raffia!

Carli: It was fun to discover your blog the other day. And yes, you did beat Stace to the punch!

HWHL: You rock! I love your huge spirit that seems to fill up the world! I love your energy and your smarts and your ability to care for yourself. Good luck with that room of your own. We deserve it!

Chell: Honey, I know your independent streak, and it runs deep, and it's one of the reasons we are still friends (especially after TWO cross country trips!!)

I can't wait for your new place. Count me in on flying to NY and helping you move. I got your back (like you've had mine the past three times I have moved!). We will have to do things cheap...two dollar slices of pizza, getting your apartment just right, and I really want to go on the carousel in Central Park again....despite the rat warnings!

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Interesting post. So, I've noticed no one else really did things the way I did. (And you, D'Arcy, know how I did things.) Every woman must, at some point, figure out how to plan for emergencies, how to take control of their own happiness (and not rely on one single person to provide it), how to find artistic and creative fulfillment, no matter their situation. That is the key. Whether you married young, married after starting a career, or never married at all, that should always be the case. You, as the woman, ought to be the one to be in control of those facets of your life.

Anonymous said...

Great post D'Arcy, as always. I think so much of how a woman feels about these issues has to do with how she is raised. For myself, my mom was a single mom for a while and a full-time working mom always as I was growing up. She was independent and taught me to be the same. I don't believe and have never believed that I need a man to take care of me. I have worked outside the home, worked from home, and stayed at home since I started having kids. I prefer staying home. I do not feel like I am "being supported" financially by my husband. I guess maybe it depends on who you marry and what kind of relationship you have, but from the very beginning of our marriage (when I was making more money than him), my husband and I have looked at our money as exactly that, "ours." We are a full partnership. I have never felt guilty spending money on myself because it is not his money, it is ours. I do miss working occasionally, but for me it has to do with the social interaction and intellectual stimulation, not the money. So, that's my two cents, FWIW.

Your house is beautiful, by the way!

Rowena said...

Oh, baby
D'arcy, you are me a few years ago. Oh yeah.
I struggle with just the things you imagine struggling with. And I don't buy lovely shoes, but I do have to ask for the money for the flip flops I buy. (haha, but I'm not joking.)

I get to stay at home with my kids, but not because S makes so much money, because I am willing to live small and give my energy and our resources to my kids and my art (instead of a job and full time daycare).

I think it's worth it. I don't really need Manolos anyway.

And I do think I have been working on my career right now in a bit of a panic, hoping to get something going before the kids go to school full time and I have to go back to teaching. If I can make money with my writing and art, then THAT will be my career, not just my calling. And I won't have to worry about being independently wealthy.

D'Arcy said...

Jenn--I see the beauty and finesse with which you raise your family and I am in awe. I don't know how you do it.

Whatever you and Steve decided at the beginning of your young marriage seems to be working for you!

And your home is a lovely place.

Toni--I think that is a healthy way to be. It makes sense, when raising a family, for one of the parents to be home with the kids. And if you have that partnership where you are both willing to look at the money as yours together, that's really admirable.

Rowena!! So glad to see you back in the blogging world. You've been an added treat on my blog lately, and I feel we have much in common. I am in awe of how you are a mother, how you are making it work and the steps you are taking to create a solid home life for your children. They will forever be better people because of it.

By the way, the pictures on the site are NOT of my house. This is my idea of my dream room (stolen from the pages of Pottery Barn). I do love my house right now though, it's much more low key, but still as charming!

Sugar said...
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Sugar said...
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Sugar said...

So, a room of one's own... yes! Absolutely necessary... even if that room is merely space on a calendar in the form of quiet time or a weekend retreat away from every distraction.

As for the financial room... well, that's where it gets a little murky.

My husband and I have had a few (*ahem*) issues with this. We were fine until we had kids and a mortgage. We were NOT ready for the emotional impact our commitments were going to take on us.

We were like deer in the headlights!

The trick, we are learning, is to maintain some level of independence while learning to work as a team. We are understanding that both husband and wife need to measure equality NOT by the dollars earned outside the home, but by the contributions each makes to the partnership.

Easier said than done.

Gustav said...

Dear D'Arcy

Every woman and every man should have their own room.

Women who are independent are much more attractive to me than women who are dependent.

Maya is already independent in many ways, the world is her oyster.

fromthestecherbush said...

A room with memories in it. I keep mine boxed up for now until I have that room with nobody to break them. I recently made a collage for over our bed with pictures of Matt and me with no kids to remember the couple that we are. I think that can bleed over into the room of your own to remember the person that you are independant of other responsibilities whether it's children, school, or work. It's probably also important to remind yourself in your space about being your Eternal self.

I have no problem being financially dependant on my husband. It's a luxery I enjoy. I hope that I'm a well-rounded human being and I'm sure I could take care of myself and my kids if that was taken from me but we've never struggled to sort his/her money. I feel like I'm earning the money just as much as he is doing what I do. Just because the paycheck has his name on it rather than mine hasn't ever really been an issue. I don't see it every being an issue. Maybe it helps that we started with nothing and then as we go along and actually have a little money we've pretty much got the same goals in mind? I don't know. I have every intention of going back to school someday because there are still things that I want to do but I feel really lucky in today's world that my husband works so hard and still loves to come home to his family. Can't imagine better than that really.

Hey, It's Ansley said...

I haven't read the comments yet but I might bookmark this post. I have no idea how to make the financial aspect of marriage work. My mom hid all her and my purchases from my stepfather and he emptied the bank account and went to Vail with his friends. Not the healthiest example. But I think some of the same feelings that empower a good writer, a strong sense of self, would help someone be a good stay-at-home mom. Having a sense of what you are doing and adding to a relationship would help erase those feelings of spending "your husband's money."

Hey, It's Ansley said...

Plus I think the greatest compliment I could give my husband, when I find him, is that I don't love him for the monetary security he provides but simply for who he is.