My life looks nothing like I thought it would. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s worse, or even better. It’s just different.
As a child who grew up on Disney, my expectations were very simple. I would find a man, have children and, well the rest is very blurry. Games as a child consisted of Barbie, ‘Mechanics’, where we would sit in the car and fill out invoice books at a desk in the garage as well as David Jones. I’ve been a capitalist from a very early age. There was Meccano and some sports in the yard, but the latter only made up a very small portion. Why would I play cricket outside when I could watch It Takes Two with The Olsen Twins inside?
I was never particularly ambitious. I had things I wanted to be, such as scientist, fashion designer, florist, journalist as in Editor of Vogue or an optometrist but I never had any know how to get there or any drive to do so. My role models were Jenifer Lopez, for what I am not sure and fashion designer Alannah Hill who I have since heard lots of wild things about. And not in a particular good way. I watched shows like Neighbours and for a large portion of my childhood Material Girl by Madonna was my favourite song.
It’s interesting looking back at this now. I didn’t see Madonna for the businesswoman she was, but just how well she sang the songs I loved to dance around to. Likewise, Gwen Stefani from No Doubt or Shirley Manson from Garbage. I knew these women had grit, but I didn’t think it had any place in my life.
I had and continue to have strong women in my life, but their strength was for their family. My mum continues to work to this day, but her job would often fit in with the rest of our schedules and it was assumed that hers was flexible, where my dad’s was not. As a result, I have been left with a strong feeling that my job was to be the same. It’s not even that the woman’s job was at home, but that her job was just a job, and she would go out and work and do everything around the house too. Well because if she was going to spend the money (as women are known to do) then she better earn some too.
My partner recently sent me this Betoota Advocate.
But if Betoota are making fun of it, it’s a shared experience. But my question is why? After giving much thought to this and having many discussions about it, it comes down to value. We spend money and time on what we perceive has value. Often what women choose to spend time and or money on are highly feminised pursuits which could be seen as more frivolous. Therefore, they are automatically assigned less value. Unless society deems them as important, such as motherhood. Although, in some instances this is a highly capitalised task, buying things for baby (I literally just got an email about ‘bump friendly fashion’!), buying things for the house etc.
Much has been written about the mental load women take on and regarding this, I am reminded of a line in a Pandora Sykes’ essay in her book, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? In this essay she asks if a (male) partner would know his children’s shoe sizes off by heart or replace a hair tie if a bow had fallen off. This is in response to her friend’s husband doing his daughter’s hair. The overall sentiment being that sure some men do more than others, but they still don’t take it on in the same way.
I resonate with this because I often feel my expectations and the outputs, I need to meet in a domestic setting are quite high and as a result I find myself wavering when it comes to my professional ambitions. I feel embarrassed to type this because I am a fierce feminist, who is also a realist. The decision to have children will impact my career more than my partner’s. The expectation that I am kind and warm in my job is higher than the thought I am successful or even good at it. In fact, being kind carries more weight in teaching than the teaching itself, because one has a more direct impact on the classroom than the other. I have often had the thought that teaching is jarring because as young women we are told to be nice and that people liking you is important but each day you are faced with the reality that you are disliked.
Sometimes I feel insanely ambitious and other times I feel incredibly lazy. I think I know where I want to go, and other times I get so overwhelmed that all I want to do is put on a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie.
As I get older, I actively seek out media that speaks to where I am now; the values I have, the life I am living. And I don’t mean by this that I only watch things related to me directly- I’d like to think I’m not that narrow minded, but I am trying to find things that don’t make me feel small. And right now, media that shows messy and confused people trying to work it out is what I’ve got.