January 2017, standing in my kitchen amidst the post tea time pots and pans, I received a text message:
“Hi girls, this is really short notice, but I’m joining some colleagues tomorrow at the Women’s March in London. If any of you fancy it, come with us!”.
Wow. A Women’s March, that sounds a pretty incredible thing to be a part of. My mind races ahead to our plans the next day. We have no plans, except I need to do a big Aldi shop that I’ve been planning all week. We are totally out of laundry gel and Tigs uniform needs washing before Monday.
“Sounds amazing hun, but yes, a bit short notice. Tricky to be spontaneous with littles! Next year definitely…”.
But it bugged me. Women’s March. Laundry. Women’s March. Laundry. The irony was almost too much to bear.
In fact, there was of course more to it than that (before I leave you all imagining me chained to the kitchen sink) – I was actually out with friends the Friday night, and had plans on the Sunday too, so to leave my husband and the kids ALL weekend felt a little inconsiderate; and there is a huge difference in suppression and consideration. I’d probably (definitely) have the right hump if he declared himself out from clocking off Friday through to Sunday). In hindsight I could have taken the girls with me, but in all honesty that’s a headache I wasn’t even going to contemplate with less than twelve hours to stress over it.
It sparked something in me though, and that was a feeling that I do need to put some of my own personal wants and needs ahead of the laundry more often, and also be open and make sure both my husband and I aren’t holding back on the things we want to do, in the constant battle to be good parents, and good to each other. It applied to both of us, as equals, not just to me as a woman. That day we talked – he planned a golf day and I planned a brunch in London with some blogging friends.
Feminism isn’t a term I’ve really thought much about, and ever really labelled myself with. But, in the wake of March-Gate, it’s something I’ve been reflecting on a lot.
When I really delve into my psyche, and my past, it is something that has, absolutely, always burnt brightly inside of me.
As a child, at a mixed school, I had loads of friends who were boys. This instilled into me a mentality that friends are friends, regardless of their gender. As I grew up and entered my teens I encountered loads of people who couldn’t see guys as ‘one of the girls’, and I always found it a bit strange. To me, guy or gal, we were buddies and that was that. In my teenage years I had a big mixed group of friends who remain close to this day, as are our kids.
Growing up around a Rugby club, I was exposed to a very male dominated environment. A world where men were men, and the women stayed at home with the kids (whilst the Dads enjoyed the post game celebrations). Entering my adult years, my girl friends and I totally believed we were equal to the lads, and spent many a Saturday afternoon watching the game drinking pints of lager and playing daft games into the evening. It’s actually a really funny and lovely thing to imagine now. We were real ladettes of the nineties, albeit wearing a bit of lippy and boot cut Miss Sixty Jeans with pointy toe heels. We so wanted to keep up with the boys, and for what it’s worth we gave it a good shot. When it came to drinking pints though, I learnt the hard way that I definitely cannot keep up with a fifteen stone prop.
We got really riled about anything that excluded us girls. We even arranged our own Easter ‘girls’ tour to Amsterdam, being so sick of hearing about the annual Rugby tour. We arranged a ladies charity game in aid of a local women’s shelter too. We were definitely feminists; we just didn’t really know it.
As my years on the touchline drifted away and I settled into my career, and my relationship (which was to later become my marriage) that sense of girl power was never far away.
I always made a point of letting the waiter in the Indian restaurant see when I switched over the lager and red wine from the places he’d laid them on the table. I had also found a new found inner confidence which evolved from learning about myself through the first serious relationships of life, and I felt stronger than ever as a woman, and being one half of a team that is a couple.
In work, my field was a heavily dominated by females, yet it never escaped me how the majority of the senior management were men. As my roles evolved over the years, and I entered the management circle, it never for a moment crossed my mind that I should be held back being a female. My work place was incredibly flexible towards mothers returning to work, and I never heard of anyone being turned down for a flexible working request post pregnancy, and I was fiercely supportive of that.
I did encounter some moments at work which stayed with me – I will never forget a conversation with a lead trainer who asked me what choice I would make; family or career. I confidently answered both, without any hesitation. In truth, the women who made it to the top of the career ladder at that business were the ones who returned full time to work, and quickly too. Whilst I would have loved to have believed you can have both, I did find out that for me, something had to give. I couldn’t imagine juggling a stressful and time consuming role around being a Mother, so I did step down to a different role on a part time basis. I was happier than ever – they paid me the same salary for doing an easier job, and I got to spend 4 days a week at home, and 3 at work. It was as good a balance as I could have hoped for. (I do however respect and appreciate as women we all have hard choices to make, and would never disrespect a Woman’s choice to return to a career she worked hard to achieve after becoming a Mother).
I also once witnessed two senior male staff members discussing one other female team member in a really derogatory fashion whilst waiting for a meeting to start. I think the look on my face said it all. Not on my watch serge.
When I applied for my first managerial position I noticed how my mentor took great interest in the fact I was getting married, and I always wondered whether he was working out if I was worth promoting, as potentially I might be lost to Motherhood imminently. I got the job, and maybe he knew more than I did because I was able to get a good few years of managerial experience in before the site was closed down.
So here I am, all these years later, now a stay at home Mother raising two girls of my own. Some could see the role of a stay at home Mum as a place for no feminist; her worst nightmare perhaps. A place where it does at times, feel like I’ve slipped back in time to the 1950’s. My days do consist of laundry, shopping, cleaning and raising my children, but the key here is that this is my choice.
I’ve never lost my work ethic, thus whilst blogging through the madness I have in effect started my own business, something I never dreamt possible. So, I feel more empowered than ever. I am making a small income, doing something I love, where I call the shots. For the record, I’m working harder than ever.
I could return to that career I fought hard to achieve, and it’s something I’m not ruling out in the future. But, for now, I’m content and at times feeling like the luckiest person on earth as I get to be here to teach my kids the values at my core, first hand.
Yes we love Disney. And there’s no doubt that our home is filled with glitter and princesses. But we also love dinosaurs, car mats, fixing things and train sets. In a house filled with girls (apart from Dad and one tortoise) it’s important to me to raise women who understand that being a woman cannot stop them from being anything they want to be. Playing with stereotypical ‘boys toys’ is the perfect place to start, and we often chat about whether boys can be dancers and girls can be firefighters.
I make a point of letting the girls see Mummy getting ready to go out, so that they understand Mummy has a life outside of being at their beckoning call, much to my husband’s despair as it sends them into a meltdown as I’m leaving the house.
Ultimately, I try to live with the mindset of setting an example to my girls – I never want them to feel held back, suppressed, without choices. I don’t want them to feel they are worth less than a man, or for that matter, more than a man. I want them to feel equal, to believe they are equal and to be treated equally.
I think it’s fair to say, that I am a feminist.