My mother’s generation of women was raised to expect that families would depend financially on the husband’s income. My mother is lively and creative, and as a child she wanted to be a doctor—but women just didn’t do that. When her husband left her, her creativity and energy were channeled into supporting three children on the small income from a job initially intended to supplement the family’s welfare and provide a personal challenge. She did her best, but it was impossible to hide how worried she was about money.
I had a keen sense that my older brothers and I were in constant competition for meager resources, which added to the sting of every small denial. Relationships between teenage siblings are rarely the model of family harmony, and every conflict was heightened by our sense that there was only so much, not nearly enough, and that what one got another would lack.