I read with interest yesterday’s Telegraph article in which new Dragon’s Den member Hilary Devey comments “women can never have it all – it’s how God breeds us”. This is actually something I’ve been pondering a lot recently. I was born in the 60s, grew up in the 70s and have never questioned the assumption that women can have it all. The feminist movement, socialist politics and general optimism of those eras really did inspire girls to see their lives as full of unlimited possibilities, which to an extent they were.
I attended a large comprehensive girls school in central London where despite being a single sex school, almost all subjects were available to study. Suddenly the prospect of university education for working class girls was a reality and no longer was the prospect of a House wife’s life considered the norm. However, now in my late 40’s I sadly have to admit that Hilary may be right. Having worked full time all of my adult life, been in a long term relationship and having children I now realise that I haven’t been able to climb to the heights that I expected I would. When it comes down to it, the ultimate responsibility for childcare rests with me and quite honestly that feels right. I never had any ambition to be a career mum and certainly don’t consider myself to be a helicopter mother but childcare is always the first consideration both in terms of how I juggle my time, the employment I take and the salary I accept.
My own parents both worked full time and I remember mum working all day in one factory, rushing home to give us four kids and Dad our tea, then rushing off to work in another factory at night. She did all the shopping, housework, everything. I remember being ill and mum taking me to school and telling me not to tell anyone I felt ill because she had to work. That’s the way it was then and I’m sure mum never felt she had it all – she was too busy and knackered to stop and think of anything like that.
I am a lot more fortunate than she was in many ways and can’t say my life has anything like the slog hers had, but it is extremely difficult trying to carry on working because I enjoy it and achieving anything like what I could have if I didn’t have to spread myself around so much. Of course it’s easier (logistically) for women who are in high paid jobs because they can afford the Nanny, Cleaner, Personal Assistant but is it really about that either?
I can remember being sent to school holiday clubs because mum worked and absolutely hating it, being envious of friends whose mum’s didn’t work and were with them during school holidays. I remember school friends who used to go home for lunch because mum was there to cook for them and sometimes I’d go with them – it was lovely. That’s why I really want to be with my children during school holidays, after school, when they’re ill. Actually I enjoy being with my children and feel that they’re my greatest achievement.
I don’t know if Hilary is right in believing that mother’s feel this way because it’s the way God breeds us. For myself it could be my own childhood experiences or it could be genetics but I suspect it may be a combination of both. Certainly I feel at the age of 48 I am heading for burn out in trying to achieve it all and rather disappointed that it appears to be impossible but I would still encourage young women to try. What do you think? Add a comment reflecting your opinion!
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