The problem, as Elly herself saw it, was that no one in her life really appreciated her sacrifices she'd made on their behalf. This bothered her no end because she very much wanted to feel needed, as if her existence mattered, as if people wanted to hear her voice. She never really got that at home. It seemed to her that John simply didn't understand anything that might lead to his having to change his mind on anything; she loved him and couldn't imagine a life without him but there was just that little thing that bothered her. Well, that and his need to pal around with that awful Ted McCauley. Elly had little real use for organized religion because it seemed that the point of church was to tell her to shut up and not have an opinion of her own but if there were a Devil, he clearly seemed to have brought Ted into the world in order to make life miserable for women. He certainly made life hard for Phil and Connie. Elly had always sort of wanted Phil and Connie to get together; first off, she'd always sort of liked the idea of having Connie be family and, well, Phil needed to grow up and stop playing that annoying 'jazz' of his. What was the point of music that everyone couldn't sing along to anyway.
Well, Georgia was an acceptable substitute despite being far too young. What really bothered Elly was that her children never seemed to be satisfied with anything she did. Michael, you see, seemed to think that her need to be something more than this man's daughter, that man's wife and some boy's mother was a bad thing, like she wanted to punish him for existing. And the mouth on him, too. Never a bit of respect from him. She fed the children, she and John provided them with a home and did they get any bit of gratitude for it. Nope. They seemed to think that they didn't have to pay a bit back for it. Annie next door was little help. She and John's dad loved to say the same unfair thing about how parenting wasn't a loan that needed to be repaid. The fact that that awful voice that came to her in the night and said that she was a bad word for thinking like that said the same thing. Why couldn't she be like John and sleep like a baby. The fact that this would have meant that she too would be devoid of a conscience or the least shred of empathy never occurred to her.
The need to silence the voice inside her that told her that she was embarking on a folly had the nasty side effect of deepening the sense of isolation that Elizabeth felt. The part of what was wrong with Lizzie that didn't involve her thinking that her looks were all that was important about her had to do with the fact that Elly's poor time management skills and need to have her children help out meant that Michael was a third parent in all but name to the girl. Given that he was a typical small child, the age-inappropriate task meant that he couldn't bring himself to like Lizzie much. Elly didn't want to see that he saw Lizzie as a means of punishing him for being a child. She also didn't want to see that the toxic relationship that the two of them had wasn't normal. What ended up happening is that she did something that most of the child care books recommended against: telling Lizzie that she was pretty. They also recommended against resenting being told that it was her job to say that.
Still though, her life was pretty good. It looked to her that she had a role in life that wasn't "MOOOOOOOOM" or "the little woman", her children would soon be out of the house and she'd be able to finally get her degree. Then IT happened out of the blue. It was the first in a series of sucker punches that derailed all her plans for the future. There she was, pregnant at thirty-nine. Her life as she'd hoped it would be was over. Where other women would be coming into their own after motherhood, she was to be tied down until she was old and life would have passed her by.
The next thing to have happened was that she lost her job at the library. She blamed this on not only being shackled to April but on the town council wasting its money on sports when the arts clearly needed the money more. Elly, you see, lived in the same sort of fear of athletics as she did mathematics. Team sports terrified her because they seemed to encourage the more violent forms of male behaviour and disgusted her because most sports aficionados regarded busy women as slaves whose purpose it was to feed them beer and snacks and to shut up about it.
Well, she'd gotten a job at a local independent bookshop in a few months but that didn't mean her problems were over. Far from it. First off, her children were starting to discover the opposite sex. While her own parents were out of line with their constant and irrational fear that she'd disgrace them, she had to make sure that some girl with dangerous body language didn't destroy Mike's future or some boy didn't prey on Lizzie. Thus, she sent them to Bev's farm of a summer to get them to see that they were too young for romance.
The third blow came out of the blue. She'd come home from her vacation only to have to stand there in horror because, for reasons that escaped her, April somehow managed to fall into the river. It wasn't her fault, of course. There was no way anyone could have foreseen that or old Farley's death. The childless people who hectored her about properly securing the gate clearly didn't know what it was like to have children.
The last blow came a few years later when her mother's heart condition had caught up with her. One of the last conversations Elly had had with her was a rather unproductive one in which Marian said that she really didn't after all regret the way she'd raised her. It was nothing personal, of course; she just didn't want Elly to turn into a frustrated, ignorant, belligerent, scowling tyrant who thought that the world owed her a living like Grandpa Barclay.
Ah, well. Nowhere to go but up from there, right?