It seems that the more I try to plan action, the more I become distracted by all the other things I need to get done. To be vital rather than functional is my ultimate goal, but the functional things sit all around me screaming for attention.
I am a girl that became the woman of the house when my mother left my father when I was just short of 16. I was suddenly made the housekeeper and cook. I have spent 35 years of my life planning meals, laundry and housework around full time careers, motherhood, part time and self employment. It is a hard habit to break. I watch my partner take control of his dreams and aspirations; he is supporting me massively so in turn I am supporting his endeavours by ‘taking care of business’ in terms of the running of our home.
So why is it taking total control of me? I wake and think of what meals to eat and what washing I can put on, all the time taking note of the dirt and grime around me and what I need to do about it. I recently attended an Entrepreneurs afternoon hosted by Daniel Priestley and there was a moment when I felt an utter fraud in the room. “Who in this room does their own housework?”, no one owned up to it because of the indignation hinted at in the questioning. Ashamed and realising at this moment that I was not like everyone in the room, I said nothing. Daniel illustrated that this values my time at less than £10 an hour, roughly what it would cost for a cleaner; that my hour is worth less than I am willing to pay someone else to do it for me. I had never looked at it that way. But then I am not in a position to pay someone to do this for me either!
On the face of it, I can agree with his statement. But I truly believe this does not fully represent the situation. In that hour a woman’s brain calculates what food needs to be replaced in the shopping, when the best time to put the washing on and hang it out is (weather forecasting). What food is needed for tonight. When I should clean the bathroom/ bedroom/ kitchen. What time I need to collect the children, what will they eat, where will they need to be driven, oh, and finally how happy and sexy I should look when my partner comes home. We are awesome at multi tasking, we have learnt to do it from an early age.
I believe women particularly of Generation X, born 1965-1979, have had it the hardest. Our education was critical and often personally insulting. “Terrible!” “No, no, no, see me!” In angry red writing on homework. We started working in the seriously sexist and misogynistic 80s. We endured London riots and bombings while carrying on the silent non complaining commute and reading about it all in the 20p London Evening Standard (obviously I am speaking as a Londoner). Our parenting was not papered with “I love yous”, nor “I am proud you tried your best” where our millenial children has been. We were not built our own bedroom suites within our parents homes; we were expected to leave at 16. No aspirations for university for us born in anything less than upper classes. It was often also physically brutal.
We became the first generation of young ownership rather than experience. I had my first mortgage at 19 and owned my car. The Thatcher years were all about how much you earned and what you owned. In complete opposition to today where we definitely have a generation of non ownership: experience is all now. If I was in the car industry I would be concerned – I don’t know a single young person who owns their car outright, if they even decided to do driving lessons. All the houses that currently have moved up into their lofts to accommodate the returning uni children will one day be turned into flats as they will have out priced themselves – akin to the Victorian grand houses that are now are many apartments. Young people have very little hope of even getting onto the housing ladder without inheritance. And given the Baby Boomers longevity and the cost of private nursing, I think we can all say goodbye to that one.
I never had a plan for me. A plan that would give me financial freedom: it was once that the property I owned would be my pension, but three divorces have seen that disappear. My current divorce had my ex actually lay claim to the inheritance of my parents’ houses. A distasteful and audacious claim by a greedy man for a 3 year unhappy marriage and where my parents are only 69 and 72, younger than his. Where my father’s house will be sold to pay for the private nursing home he is now in, with their own hand stuck firmly out awaiting sale proceeds. Where my mother and stepfather halves are their own business.
I made a list of my daily tasks, which are mainly functional. My life on paper seems so utterly boring – no different to anyone else that lives functionally mind you.
Find my dream, what am I really good at? In answer to that question I can hand on heart say at this point in my life … surviving.