So, before we get boob-deep into this discussion of women’s roles, I’m going to share a
personal secret with you. I was a total tomboy growing up. Total. And, at about 12 years old, I
was not particularly happy to discover my body suddenly conforming toward its predestined,
genetic course and start making a girl out of me. Not happy. At. All. Which of course made no
difference to my internal engineering, and, despite my objections, my decidedly stick figure
began mutating to form lumps, bumps, and overtly obvious, ridiculous, and embarrassingly
curvy new places. Now, you may ask what precipitated my reluctance to turn into a woman? I
had a simple enough reason: boys had more fun. At least from the vantage point of my young
As I grew up, I always found it fascinating to observe the roles we women – wittingly or
unwittingly – ended up playing in this game called Life. By and large I would say most women
have, at least historically, leaned toward the Supporting Role. This is not to say of course that
women have not made great strides and in some ways completely redefined what it means to
be a woman today. But still, overlap continues.
It appears to be in our very nature to nurture. We tend to tend. This is not to say all women are
necessarily maternal. Some are not. But the underlying urge to care-for in some respect seems
to remain in most of us. In my novel No Story to Tell, my protagonist, Victoria, doesn’t have
children of her own. She doesn’t have a dog or a cat either, as her husband Bobby cannot grasp
the idea of having animals to feed just for the sake of having a pet to love. But Victoria does
have chickens. Laying hens that provide eggs and satisfy Bobby’s expectations that all animals
should earn their own keep. And, in the absence of a conventional pet to nurture and love,
Victoria forms a strong bond with her Tilley-hen.
Plants sometimes also absorb our need to nurture. Some more successfully than others.
Obviously, most houseplants are, for the most part, a bit of a waste of time, space, money,
water, and energy. And yet most of us will fill our rooms with at least a few lovely, living
sculptures. In return for our care they (hopefully) will supply us with the pleasure of their
aesthetic beauty. Realistically, a picture could provide this just as well and, depending on what
shade of green our thumb is, probably better.
So, why do we insist on loading bucketfuls of dirt into our clean homes and then planting
flowers, fronds, and trees into them that would more naturally thrive in the outdoors? Why not
just switch on the Nature Channel? I can only think it is because of a hard-wired, deep, invisible
root that connects us to some sort of ancient maternal trait that calls us to give life and then help
the life flourish. To nurture.
In No Story To Tell, Victoria, who is forbidden by Bobby to have pets in the house, attempts to
grow plants instead. (Bobby may not be my favorite character – you should really meet him; I'm
sure you won’t like him either!) But the trailer they live in is cramped and dark. The sun is
blocked from entering the windows by an application of tinfoil that blocks the summer heat. The
plants struggle to survive. Victoria struggles to help them. Her efforts and energy could be used
for more productive endeavors, but something in her is drawn to keep trying to coax her plants
forward and thrive.
As I wrote No Story To Tell, I discovered an interesting thing about us women. Our desire to
nurture can translate into our greatest strength. Or it can translate into our greatest weakness. It
we can become weak, used-up, resentful, and ultimately unhelpful to all. I’m sure we all know,
and have experienced, examples of this ourselves.
But consider what happens when we – and I include men in this as well because the need-to-
nurture arises in both sexes – choose to own our roles as nurturers? We become strong
advocates, supporters, and protectors. And, if we allow ourselves to embrace the gift of
needing-to- nurture, if we are not afraid or apologetic to apply the self-love to ourselves, we can
lift ourselves through incredible adversity. And we can lift others along with us. By taking care of
ourselves we retain – or gain – the ability to care for others.
And this is exactly what I discovered as I wrote No Story To Tell. Victoria, who in the beginning
of the novel is caught in a cycle of outpouring – or giving away – her gift of nurture, begins to
find reasons to love herself. To value herself. And, as she does so, as she allows herself to
redirect the love and care she offers others back toward herself, her world begins to open up
and change in unexpected and dramatic ways.
To nurture is to offer love. I believe it is a fundamental role we women play. We may offer that
love in many, many ways. Supporting, scolding, cooking, communicating, etc are all an ancient
draw back to offering our love. Nurturing is love in motion. The visible side of love. As women it
is important to ensure we also direct that love back toward ourselves rather than give it all away.
Too often we can end up feeling depleted. Resentful. That is not a role that is helpful or
honoring to play. Nurturing is a gift we must all learn to give to ourselves as well. By learning to
do this myself, I have learned to more fully accept and appreciate my role of being a woman. I
no longer think boys have more fun. That was only what was modeled to my young self.
Instinctively, I am a nurturer. But now, if I decide to plant a tree and care for it, I see no problem
with climbing it as well!
K.J. Steele is the author of the novels No Story to Tell and . The e-book edition of
No Story to Tell is only $2.99 for the entire month of September 2017.