Me singing some karaoke - like opera but more shouty and with added vodka
So a recent Twitter conversation with Editor Rebecca went something like this…
Me: I have just viewed your Linkedin profile - your degree is in war studies? How did I not know this? Brilliant
Rebecca: Did you really not know that? Why did you think I kept insisting on going on holiday to places like Ukraine and Auschwitz?
Me: I just thought you were weird
Rebecca: If it makes you feel any better, I only did War Studies because the course was 80% male…
Me: Now it makes sense.
Now I don’t really believe Rebecca’s sole factor in choosing her degree was the number of males on the course and hence opportunities to have sex/get a boyfriend while studying but there is most definitely an ember of truth in there. And she is not alone. If I look back over my life I have made countless (bad) decisions by basing them on outside factors ie men and hoping to bag Prince Charming, rather than what was actually best for me and my future.
Sometimes they are frivolous decisions that really don’t impact on my life greatly, such as choosing which bar to go to based on how many men we think might be there. Hence I’ve spent a few too many nights in shit sports bars and/or pubs showing the footie knowing that there would be tons of men there and once they’d stopped shouting at the TV they might show us some attention. Urghh. I hate my younger self sometimes. I’d much rather have been in a karaoke bar singing Heart songs.
And then there have been the more important decisions. Like having a baby with a man who told me he didn’t want a baby till he was like 40. He was 31 when I got pregnant. Even I can do that math. But all those stupid films/fairy tales I’d read and watched told me that men step up when the going gets tough because they are MEN. And men are strong and will take care of us and give us a home and love our children. That is a big fat lie. But so many of us still believe it. I did.
Even though we have good jobs, earn good money, can take care of ourselves even with a hangover, have an ISA, may even have a pension. When I look around so many of my friends still don’t own their own homes, including myself. And when I dig deeply it’s because somewhere inside I always thought I would get married and then we would buy a house together. Don’t hate me for being honest. I cannot be the only one who believed it.
I would say 95% of my single friends in their thirties do not own their own home. The ones that do were helped by their parents/grandparents and the only women I know who do own property are married. What are we waiting for? A man to rescue us? Still?
Leslie Bennetts author of The Feminine Mistake: Are we giving up too much?, wrote this amazing book on just that theme: women using men effectively as banks. And then the men leave and the women realise they have shit. Admittedly this attitude is changing but if I, a woman of 30 raising a child alone, working to pay my bills alone, enjoys life still thinks deep down a man will provide the rest, we still have a way to go.
If any of you have been watching The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet (would highly recommend) Leslie gives an amazing interview talking about her husband’s financial ‘infidelity’ and the way in which women have been brought up to believe that being a mother is the be all and end all. It’s not. It’s just a passage in your life and your children grow up and then leave, so if you base all your worth and get all your satisfaction from bringing up your children at some point, whether you admit it or not, you are going to have a massive hole in your life. You will be 50 with an empty nest, possibly another 40 years on the horizon and no idea how to make yourself happy.
And that is why it is so important not to concentrate solely on getting and making a man happy but discovering what makes you happy as a woman first and foremost. Not a mother, or a lover or a wife. You. Yourself. Find the things that make you happy and keep doing them throughout every passage of your life.
For me it was singing. When the man left me three months pregnant I went back to singing and got my recital diploma with the Guildhall College of Music. Forty minutes of me singing opera, seven months pregnant.
Me singing some actual opera
I practised those songs every day and when I thought I had made a massive mistake going through with the pregnancy alone, ruining my life, taking away my choices, I gave myself back the things that were important to me. Getting that diploma remains one of my proudest achievements to date because I did it for myself, by myself in the midst of a massively difficult period of my life and it made me truly happy.
What have you done recently that is just for you? Do it again tomorrow. And keep doing it. Even when time is tight and you think you can’t. I dip in and out of singing, I won’t pretend it’s been easy finding opportunity to practise while bringing up baby alone but I know I can’t give it up. And neither should you.