Having it All.

When discussing the Kirstie Allsopp controversy with my mother, she took the opportunity to remind me that “you can have it all, just not at the same time.” This kind of follows on from what Kirstie herself was saying; we can have a career as a young professional, but that should take a back seat by the time we settle down to become a walking nappie-changer. 

In my eyes, the whole idea of feminism is about choice, and I think that’s what she was really trying to say; it wasn’t some backwards comment about motherhood or an attack on female education. Women fought to have the right for political choice, choice over what to do with their bodies, their time, their money. We have come such a long way – the classic cliché – and we should continue to discuss the different choices that are available for women so that we don’t teach our daughters that there is a certain type of lifestyle path – school, uni, work, babies, empty nest syndrome – that is the only option. It seems to have worked for my mother, who won’t be crying on the phone to me about her empty nest for a couple of years as long as my brother remains at home, but the whole idea that we have to choose between personal development and looking after children really doesn’t make me very enthused to grow up. Why is 27 the perfect age to have babies? I’m sure there are thousands of responsible, capable and parentally minded woman at that age…I’m just not in a hurry to become one. 

Also, to be honest, starting work at this age really doesn’t speak to me. For one, if it were that easy to find a job as school leaver then girls like me would probably be getting into the world of work without having to fork out thousands for a degree in what many would call a ‘pointless’ subject, just to try and broaden our horizons. Has anyone looked at the employment stats lately? Yes, unemployment is falling, but young people are still not being given the opportunities they desire to flourish in the workplace. I like the idea of finding a job at this age – 18 – but does anyone really want to hire me when my only skill set is making tea, sweeping the floor of a tiny baber shop and learning quotes for my A levels? To quote another out-there feminist, the candid Lily Allen, it really is hard out here (bitch or otherwise). 

So Having it All, “just not at the same time”, seems to be the only real choice for me here. In my case, this will mean going to university and hopefully discovering what it is I want to do with my life, before I take chosen career by the horns. Babies and husband I would hope for, but I would like to think that I can do more than be the woman in the background of every photo. As long as there is choice to be a professional, and to raise a family either as a part of that professional life or apart from it, I don’t really see what else I can ask for. So thank you, Kirstie, for inspiring this discussion of feminine choice. 

 

Advertisements

Nationality: how should we define who we are?

Is it where we are born? Where we are raised? My mother tells me

“do you feel Welsh? Then you are.”

my tongue may be Welsh, but my mind seems to be English; I can’t count the times I have turned heads with my apparently peculiar turn of phrase or opinion on the country I am encouraged to hate. (Context: the Welsh ‘hate’ the English. It does make things a little difficult sometimes.) 

this is because my father is an English, ex-public school boy from an agricultural background; I was raised not to waste, to work hard and speak correctly. However, it is my mother who confuses my self identification; she was born in Sierra Leone, to a Caribbean mother and Irish father. My maternal grandparents met in Granada, as my grandfather was a surveyor. They travelled the world, to the extent that my aunt, and namesake, was born in a country that no longer exists.

Such does pose some issues. I don’t honestly know how to react when people ask for nationality. I can cope with ‘so where are you from?’: I simply name the town in which I have grown up. Yet it would be interesting to learn how other people would define children like me; an old English family one side, yet a myriad of cultures from the other. Is my mother African because she was born there? Or is she Caribbean because that was the prominent influence in her cultural upbringing? In reality, she calls herself English, as she lived in Durham from the age of 6. Yet when I asked my aforementioned aunt on how she viewed Africa, she simply replied with ‘home’. 

i want to reach out to anyone else who feels like they are a stranger to their own identity. Those who feel like they do not have a true sense of place; perhaps it is for us to decide, for us to pick a nationality, any identification, and create our own mirror image. Own the confusion. 

Or, failing that, use it as a go-to piece of information when forced to play ‘2 truths and a lie’ because, honestly, I don’t think I will ever be able to stop myself from breaking out in a cold sweat when faced with the “ethnicity” section of a survey.