My computer is giving me lots of problems and I’ve been trying to post for days, without success. I don’t think it’s New Blogger’s fault; I think it’s my computer’s. So I’m doing this on my husband’s – which is why I haven’t put a photo on the top. I’m on holiday (mid-term) and he’s not here to show me how to send his computer one of my photos. Technologically challenged and deeply frustrated is how you find me. Also amazed at the whizziness of his computer. Wow.
However… deep breathing, sense of proportion and other such sensible reactions…
I’ve been having lots of chats recently with my mother, and when I compare my her life to my own, I’m aware of huge differences. She was born in 1922 and was 17 when the war broke out. She had just gone down to London to work as a Civil Servant (government worker) and was there throughout the Blitz. She had many long-distant friendships with young men who were in the forces but life was so uncertain that she didn’t commit to any relationship till the war was over. That must have been a hugely difficult time in her life.
Then she got married to my father and they returned to Edinburgh. They had actually known each other since their mid-teens, since my mother and his sister were good friends.
After marriage, she never worked outside the home. My brother and I came along quite soon and of course housework was much more time-consuming then. But later, when we were off to school and when labour-saving devices were available, she had a lot of freedom to do as she wanted, which turned out to be church committee work and coffees with friends. She says, however, that she would have liked a job. She’s a very intelligent woman. When my dad retired, they took a lot of holidays.
I also met my husband in my mid-teens; I started going out with him when I was 17. I continued to live at home while I was at university and teacher training college. Indeed we lived with my parents for a year after we were married at (23 and 25) because we couldn’t afford to buy a house. Having taught at a tough comprehensive school (never again) for six years, I was then a stay-at-home mum for the next nine, though did some tutoring and taught evening classes. When our son, the youngest, was four and went to nursery, I started teaching at college part-time and then steadily increased my hours. I’ve been teaching full-time plus an evening class for years now, which means lots of marking and preparation. Life is very busy, ridiculously so; like the lives of so many of our friends.
I enjoy my job most of the time but would rather not have gone back to work – or so I think. Life has been far too busy and I believe that I’d have been happier as a housewife, doing the job properly and having free time for my own projects. But maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe I’d have been bored.
My generation of women had working lives pressed upon us; it was possible for us to go back to work and it therefore became expected and indeed necessary for most women. House prices soared but dual-income couples could afford to pay more, which meant that it became hard to buy a house on one normal income. It was stressful then, as it is now, to be a working mother when the children were small; lots of guilt and lots of juggling, especially when they were ill.
However, I do feel very lucky that I had those years with them when they were little. I wish I could think that my own daughters will have that privilege. Young women now seem to have to take a few months off and then go back to work. Of course, being at home with toddlers isn’t a picnic – I do remember a lot of days mainly spent picking things off the floor. But ah, the little chubby arms round one’s neck…
Would I have my mother’s life if given the choice? Would she have mine? And my daughters – what sort of lives would they choose?