I DON’T know if you have ever read Michelle Obama’s autobiography? I have, it was fantastic, but if I am honest, one of the main things that stood out to me was the level of detail she could retain in her memory from her youth. Michelle could recall countless moments, feelings, smells... and here’s me struggling to tell my children what we did every summer or what school was like!
Perhaps if I had the time and dedication to sit down and recount my youth, it would come back to me, but my memory felt full of holes by comparison.
However, it did give me cause to briefly look back on some stand-out memories and thoughts from days gone by and there is one that repeatedly comes to mind lately as my four ladies get older and wiser than me!
During my time in college, there was a friend of mine whose mother had been a consultant doctor and then gave it all up to stay at home to raise her three children. I remember thinking at the time what a crazy thing to do – to give it all up to stay at home - but it has taken me about 20 years to arrive at some form of clarity.
It is something I reflect on frequently in light of my own previous misgivings; how do I teach my girls that, despite what the world may teach us women about ‘having it all’ and breaking the glass ceiling, that in reality that is not what being equal is all about.
For me, equality and ‘having it all’ is about having the confidence, the conviction and the ability to make choices that work for us as individuals or as part of a family unit without prejudice from society. We should be able to do what we want because we want to, not because we feel we should.
But ask anyone who first becomes a stay-at-home mother and I think the sentiment will be resounding that you are met with mixed reactions, few of which include applause, or at least it used not. And let’s be clear, mothers who work outside the home are met with the same mixed responses when they reply to queries about what they do because their ‘mum guilt’ is the same but different, sometimes it feels like we can’t win.
So how do we teach our children to have that confidence to do what they want, not what they should? I look at my own parents and how they parented us to all follow our own paths and to be happy, not just for our own journeys but for those of each other too. I am lucky to have them as role models for how to model my own parenting so I’m not fighting nature in terms of helping my girls grow.
This education doesn’t just have to come from within the household either, we can look to those around us for inspiration and guidance too. There are people from all walks of life where we live and it fills me with joy that my kids are friendly with children with same sex parents, single parents, dads that stay at home and mums that work away. Maybe it is about guiding them through society and picking out the parts of it that you want them to learn from.
Ultimately, in parenting though, we must lead by example - I can only hope that in the future my girls will understand and appreciate the direction I took in my career. I am predominantly a stay-at-home mother and I am so happy in what I do and I hope that shines through. I do work a little between this column and my social media work so maybe that will inspire them to think outside the box when it comes to career choices that may not be entirely mainstream. I also hope it shows them one can pivot, we make so many plans for the future, but we have to be open to those hopes and dreams changing over time.
And, most of all, I do I hope they have the opportunity to make choices based purely on what they want from life itself, and are not entirely influenced by financial pressures or societal pressures, both of which seem hard to avoid lately.