LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XV. PLATE TWO: BEING A BREADWINNER (PRODUCING SOCIO-ECONOMIC VIABILITY/CAREERS)
Helene was asked what it’s like not to be active in the business world, given that she chose to spend all day with her newborn daughter. She indicated that: “it’s really wonderful . . I enjoy every minute with her. She’s a great child, although there are times when I’d like to go out and do something by myself . . . the other mothers at the park are so snooty I don’t have anything in common with them.” If there is resentment here, it may have to do with her daughter’s attitudes toward Frederick. “She’s Frederick’s little girl,” Helene states, and it’s clear that their daughter dotes on Frederick and that this admiration is mutual. One gains the impression that Helene would like their daughter to be more affectionate with her, thereby rewarding Helene for her time and energy.
While it appears that Helene initially found the creative persona of a musician alluring, not every aspect of a musician’s life is dramatic, romantic or compelling. Frederick has to redefine himself as a participant in the field of music. He acknowledges that were it not for Helen and their daughter, he would probably continue his active musical pursuits. On the other hand, he makes it very clear that this period of transition was one he undertook willingly, acknowledging that this passage has been eased by the nature of his relationship with Helene and that he has no regrets whatsoever.
Frederick now functions as the breadwinner and Helene takes care of the house, the child, the meals, the clothing and Frederick when he is home. There is a division of labor here that is very clear and remarkably traditional. The danger for Frederick and Helene seems to lie in the ossification of these roles and potential changes in the perceptions of Frederick and Helene regarding these roles. Helene is already presenting some dissatisfaction with her status as the housekeeper and caregiver. Is it alright for her to feel confined and stifled in this role, or should she simply feel grateful that Frederick is out there making money for both of them? Should Helene feel satisfied in being defined primarily in terms of these domestic roles? Can she change these roles? If so, when?
Helene is receiving very little acknowledgement from either Frederick or their mutual friends for her other attributes and accomplishments, nor is she encouraged to accomplish more in her life. One wonders when the dissonance will set in. The true test of Frederick and Helene likely to come when they accommodate to their daughter’s changing needs (school, friends and other forces pulling her out of the home) and when Helene begins looking for a more challenging life style. Will Frederick support this?