Just after we got married last July I started a new job, which involves, for the first year, completing a master’s degree. The academic in me has been thrilled at the opportunity for further study and I have enjoyed writing assignments and attending lectures. I also wonder if perhaps it is what finally encouraged me to start the blog, realising how much I had relished the writing process. There has been another, substantial, benefit to this period of study, which has been the opportunity to work from home for a number of days a week. Having worked very long hours and done shift work right up until two days before our wedding, this has felt like an incredibly blessed way to start married life.
However, the impending return to being out of the house five days a week is causing some consternation. I’m not altogether happy about it, and this in itself is surprising me. I am quite comfortable with the idea of staying at home full-time. It isn’t an option financially, so it is only daydreams, but it is a daydream I find a little disturbing. I know my fifteen year old self would be astonished. I was a fervent feminist as a teenager. I wasn’t any kind of activist, I didn’t rally or campaign. But I was raised in a family of strong women who instilled in me a sense that women are equal and that the world was my oyster. I believed I could do anything I wanted, and that it was my right as much as any man’s to be educated and employed. It wasn’t a novel concept in the 1990’s but it was one I was very much aware of.
I have a very vivid memory of a conversation with my mum in which I said that I couldn’t imagine ever going to work and doing a job I didn’t enjoy. Perhaps it was idealistic (I was only about seven, my cynicism was not yet well-developed), I certainly wasn’t taking into account the much more practical reasons why people work. I think now and realise I am lucky to enjoy my job and find it interesting. For a couple of years that absolutely wasn’t the case. I studied for years and then found my chosen career was particularly unsuited to me. During that time I think home, and we had just bought this house, our first together, became a refuge. Family and friends became a harbour, repairing the cracks in my casing before encouraging me back out into the storm. Meanwhile there was gradual hope for a new path, which I only discovered and set out upon with their guidance and support.
Perhaps I feel I owe this home, to stay with it and look after it, like it looked after me. Perhaps I realised (even more than before) that the people around you are more important than any job, and so I want to treasure them with my time. I don’t have children, that is a debate for another day. But I know my mum raised me single-handedly, whilst working every day, and I couldn’t have asked for a happier childhood or a better mum. I don’t doubt given the choice she would have preferred to be at home, and she was strongly supported by my grandparents, but I have such a strong female role model in her, I know the value of money, the rewards of hard work, and the best way to be a parent. So again, I find these thoughts of staying at home unnerving.
I wonder what happened to the fifteen year old who wanted to change the world, to make her a woman who is happiest cleaning the kitchen. I read about Wendy Davis in awe. I admired her immensely, and saw my younger self in her approach. Perhaps once studying is over, the opportunity to work on things full time will reawaken that desire to blaze ahead in the world, burn my mark on the pages of history. Perhaps. I enjoy my job, I enjoy my home, I love my family and friends. It isn’t world changing, or history making, but perhaps my greatest achievement is happiness.