SEPTEMBER 4, 1954
NEW YORK, Friday—I had a letter in the mail recently which reminds me of so many things I have heard middle-aged women say in the past. "I am 54 years old. My family is grown up and as I review the years and look into the future I feel so terribly useless. I have heard all the nice things about raising a nice family, etc. But somehow they seem so commonplace and a little false. Besides, there were other things I wanted to do too!"
Only initials are signed to this letter, so I cannot answer it personally, but I would like to say something about the problem. It is a problem that faces almost all married women once their children are grown.
I don't know whether my correspondent is a widow or still has a husband to look after. But I would like to say that it never seems to me false to be proud of having brought up one's children, if one has done the best one could for them. All of us, as we look back, can see many mistakes that we made, and we may wish that we could change the way we did things when we were in our twenties. But that is out of the question.
If we loved our children, and did the best we knew at the time, all we can hope for is that, if we are blessed with grandchildren, we may be able to help a little out of the wisdom which the years have brought us. It may be possible, when the children who took up so much of our time and thought have gone, to create new associations with one's husband and perhaps learn together to enjoy new things. It is also possible to develop new activities out of interests that have been very slight in the past. And if one is alone, this is essential.
I have seen women become a great influence in their neighborhood, both in city and rural areas, just because they had free time to undertake a number of little civic, church or philanthropic chores—things that none of the younger women felt they had the time to accomplish. I will give you an example.
I know of a retired school teacher who is active as treasurer for a fund in her village from which money is loaned to students who could not quite cover their expenses. It fell to this woman's lot to look into each case. She became interested in the young people, kept in touch with them, watched them, not only through their college days but through their first jobs.
She saw them repay the money they had borrowed and go ahead with their careers, perhaps into married life. For that teacher the little job she undertook, without pay, has brought her endless interest.
She also has found jobs in the neighborhood that could bring her in small sums of money now and then. I think one can multiply the number of middle-aged people who are doing such things. So, I would urge all those who find themselves facing the same kind of frustration and despair, because their main object in life seems to have come to an end, to realize that new interests can be created and life can be kept exciting and useful.