Friday, 26 November 2010

From a rock to a hard place?

Look at this - a whole month almost since the last post. How crap is that. I'm so impressed with the bloggers who get something up every day. Could it be that I'm losing enthusiasm since my last post got no comments? Yes, I think that's it - yet I know that it's no good just writing the posts, you have to market yourself to other bloggers if you want an audience, and that takes time - time I just do not seem to have. In addition to work, I have spent November xmas online shopping, sorting out two new cars, researching car & life insurance, driving Lily to extra ballet lessons for exam, home-coaching for said exam, home-coaching for drama presentation, revising Erosion, Tectonic Plates and Volcanoes, having new bedroom furniture fitted, digging out various dirty sportswear from wash bin I haven't had time to wash, entertaining 8 adults and 9 children for Sunday lunch, pleading with my son to do x, y, z without being told......

I watched a great programme on Sky 3 the other day. 'The Real Desperate Housewives'. It made me feel a whole lot better about my life! Basically featuring women who had given up careers which they had thought were crucial to their self-esteem, they found they were more content with their lives having stepped down from the ladder. Most of them were in their 40's and had been brought up in the 1980's, told by their frustrated mothers or academic girls' schools (both in my case) that we owed it to the pioneering feminists to have it all.

I bought into this completely. I had seen what staying in the home all her life had done to my intelligent, opinionated mother. As with most women brought up in the 50's, she married young to get away from home, giving up a place at university to start a family. She missed out on the liberation of the 60's by three years. By the time skirts went above the knee and The Beatles to the top of the charts, she was a housewife in Suburbia with two children and a husband planning a year's trip to Tanzania 'for work'. Why she had me in 1967 I have no idea (well, as a teenager I did hear them arguing once about the merits of that decision - yes, I was a slip up).

I was completely seduced by the media of the day too - Cosmo was forever printing articles about 'How to get Ahead' at work, illustrated with images of beautiful power women with glossy hair and slimline briefcases, knee on desk, perfectly manicured hands around the tie of a weak and feeble male colleague. Advertising was also littered with these depictions of the modern female in charge - Charlie, VW Golf, Clarks, Kenco - this was our destiny, and lo and behold if you even considered the possibility of a family.

I was very good at biology - my mother spent a long time counselling me to go into physiotherapy, chiropody etc. on account of the fact I could do it easily part-time once I had kids. Huh! I wasn't going to work part-time! I wasn't going to have kids! And anyway, I had never seen anyone in the NHS in a shoulder padded suit and heels.

So I took a law degree, began a career in marketing and lived the life. It was no-where near as glamorous as I had been led to believe. There was a lot of stress, not a lot of money, far too much alcohol etc. I still loved it tho' and frankly, felt smug that I had ticked all those boxes.

Then I met Mr G. Now, after a couple of painful relationships, I hadn't had a boyfriend for three years. I was never getting married, or having kids. I was about to buy my first flat, and was interviewing for my next step up the ladder. So getting engaged after eight months, married after a year and pregnant the following winter (just before Millenium eve.....) had definitely not been part of my plan.

Neither had staying at home. But that's exactly what happened. Back in 2000, 6 months maternity leave was the max. I wanted a year with my baby, and my boss said he would have me back part-time any time I wanted. Perfect. Then he moved, there was a re-shuffle, and I was left with no career, and a mortgage we were struggling to pay on one salary. However, the main issue for me was that I was now a full-fledged 'stay-at -home mum'. I had loved my year 'off' from work, but there was no way I wanted to make it permanent! There was only one thing for it - get pregnant again, and at least justify the 'sacrifice' I was making.

And that's the way it stayed for another 8 years. Slowly, slowly, I began to embrace my new role. I was a mother, yes, but a home-maker too. This encompassed all the financial admin, holiday organising, house buying and selling. I hated not having my own money, but I had a husband who never kept tabs, and we shared everything. Money was very tight and we had our fair share of ups and downs adjusting to family life and my role within it. We had always agreed that I would work again, and I'm incredibly lucky to be doing what I'm doing now, but I would be ok with my life if I wasn't. I had a great career and then a family - that is having it all. Bringing up a family is the most important and rewarding job there is, and I really think that it is finally being appreciated as such.

What are your thoughts on this? Are our teenage girls still getting the 'be ballbusters' message or is there now a more measured response to the dilemmas of being a woman in today's workplace?

I know I've only scratched the surface of theses issues - but look at the length of this post! Not the best way of securing comments... I know, I know!


  1. You're right, we're just scratching the surface here.

    I think the idea of "having it all" only creates stress. Like having a newborn and being determined to get into a routine. Great if you can do it, not so good if you're busting your arse trying and not getting anywhere.

    I think feminism has a scary connotation for many younger people, which is a shame. I hear things like "I'm not a feminist b/c I like to be a woman." Eh???

  2. Yes - I hate it when you hear young women saying 'I'm not a feminist' - why not? It's about freedom of choice!

  3. It's very typical of women brought up in the 50's and 60's (let's not go to the 40's!!) to be very opinionated about having children and the woman staying at home. My mum's terrible for it. She thinks my writing is just a hobby to fill in time while Amy's at school, and of course my husband, the Farmer, does all the work. Ha! She has absolutely no idea. No matter how much I tell her differently, she only believes what she wants to. She stopped working aged 22 when she got married to my dad and he was the sole bread-winner. In her eyes, he was important, she was just there to look after him and their 3 children (incl me). My dad's dead now but she has a man-friend who she adores. But again, he's the important one and she's just the little woman. She's more or less evolved her life around him.

    I don't think women were allowed to be independent once they got married back then. But they did stick by their husbands in most cases. Today, it's a different story. Women only need to find the toilet a bit mucky and they're looking through the phone book for a divorce lawyer!

    CJ xx

  4. Actualy, it's a great post, and all very true. My mom got a degree, and ended up alone at home, 2 kids, husband never home and emotionally unavailable, and she hit the bottle.
    I ended up believing Cosmo and climbing that corporate ladder as fast as I could. Kids were a real surprise (never intended to have, but when they sat 99.9% they MEAN IT!), and my whole life changed.
    So, you are right. It's basically all about priorities though I think. I've changed mine, and I'm pretty happy. Miss the huge salary though! ;-)