As a young teenager growing up in the 80’s I believed that I could achieve whatever I wanted. It was drilled into me from a young age that women were equal to men and that I was expected to go to University and get an amazing job. I believed that I would live this charmed life with this amazing job and have a perfect family too. I saw strong and independent woman all around me from a female Prime Minister to Madonna (my idol at the time!) and my mum. She gave me the confidence to strive for all of these things. I know that my mum especially wanted to give her children the chance to pursue a career that would help us never be dependent upon another person. Good advice.
I did go to university and I became a teacher. I threw myself into this career because I absolutely loved it. I was also quite good at it and I worked my way up to a middle management position fairly quickly. The hours were long and the paperwork enormous but I cherished the work ethic that had been instilled in me and loved my job. During this time I also got married and had two children fairly close together. When my children were 5 and 7, I then went back to university whilst working full time to get a postgraduate qualification. Although I have an amazingly supportive husband, things started to unravel.
My father died, my postgraduate paper was due, more roles were thrown at me at work and I suddenly realised that my children were at the bottom of my priorities. Why was I always pushing myself so hard? Why was I striving for more work, more pressure, more stress; the next thing? I had planned my life religiously but hadn’t taken into consideration that my children were people and that I was not a robot! Right in front of me were two little things who looked to me for everything but I was allowing them to fall asleep waiting for me to read them a story. In fact I was hearing my own class read more than my own children! In reality there really isn’t enough time in the day to have it all. Something in me changed. I thought I was going slightly mad…..I possibly was. But one thing was definite….I couldn’t “have it all” and neither did I really want it.
“Having it all” was something that I had once wanted. I now know that “having it all” does not exist. In fact “having it all” is actually bollocks. To work your way up the career ladder takes dedication and commitment but so does parenting and family life. It’s so hard to do a job well when you have sick children that don’t sleep. Equally, it’s so hard to be there for your child in the night when you have been up until the early hours preparing for the working day. I just felt crap at both, even with a partner who shared the chores. I wanted to have a life and not look back and have regrets. I was already regretting being so stressed out with my children. So I believe in choice and compromise. The choice to do what we feel is best for our families and to feel ok with our decisions. To live with compromise and know that is not the same as failure. It’s your life so make it the best it can be. Whilst our grandmothers burnt their bras and our mothers made us study hard, perhaps we must make sure that our daughters concentrate on doing whatever makes them happy?
So, just as my career was really starting, I took the huge leap and stepped off the full time career ladder and do you know what? The step wasn’t as high as I thought it was because”having it all” was a concept created by others to make me feel bad.
OH THE JOYS OF LIVING IN THE OLD HOUSE IN THE SHIRES.