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Monday, January 9

Model Housewife Turns Feminist

.... after her husband leaves her.

Well that's a wakeup call. It's your 40th wedding anniversary and you are congratulated with divorce papers because the husband found a younger model. What is a 67 year old woman to do? A woman who devoted her life to husband and family?

This is story of Terry Hekker who wrote a book in 1980 which made her famous. Ever Since Adam & Eve was a passionate defense of her decision to eschew a career and spend her life as a wife and a mother.

She ended up selling her engagement ring to pay for roof repairs and discovering she was eligible for food stamps. Her ex-husband, meanwhile, was holidaying with his new lover in Mexico. Hekker, once a role model for young homemakers, is now rapidly becoming an icon for so-called 'silver divorcees', older women who suddenly find themselves alone without skills and with a much reduced income.
It's not only divorce that can devastate an older woman who finds herself alone. Husbands die too. Job skills other than motherhood are needed in this world where people are living longer. When my dad died, my mom realized that she didn't even know how to do the checkbook or pay bills. Fortunately she was left with some money and she had me nearby to help her as she had a stroke about the time Dad died which left her legally blind.

But Hekker's story reflects something new for our times. The divorce rate for people in their in their late 50's has jumped from 4.8 per cent in 1970 to 18.7 per cent in 2002.

22 per cent of divorced women over 65 live in poverty, five times higher than the norm for married women. Experts expect the number of poor elderly divorced women to grow. Employers do not want to hire elderly people, and it is hard to start training for a job when you are almost at retirement age, or even above it.
Hekker's tune has changed a lot since she touted the importance of good housekeeping in the 80's. Women have to look out for themselves because there is always the chance of abandonment. Marriage doesn't last forever.

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