The other day, I happened to watch the film Mona Lisa Smile, the one with Julia Roberts in it, set in the 50s, she plays an arts teacher at an all-women college, where they are really waiting it out before they get married. It was an interesting film, actually, and it started to make me think.
In the film, someone says something about being a wife and mother is a role they were born to do and waiting their whole life so far to undertake. That from a young age they knew that their role in life was one as a wife and mother. And that’s it.
I started to think. When I was youunger, what were my aspirations? Were they to get married and have children? Was I expected to be a wife and mother? Was that what I was ‘born to do?’ and the more I think of it, the more I think that in a way, yes, we are but it is now something more covert, a pressure, an expectation that hasn’t gone away. It’s something to do as well as other things such as education and a career.
I remember when I was little, about 6 years old, having my Tiny Tears dolls, and dreaming of getting married. I remember thinking of names I would call my children. I dreamt of twins, and babies, and husbands. I coveted that toy kitchen from the late 80s/early 90s where in the advert the girl is making her mum roly poly and baked beans.
As I got older however, I didn’t think about children, and wanted a career. My eyes sparkled with dreams of being a writer and a journalist. I was encouraged by my family to choose a career. I would say it was expected of me and my siblings. My Mum and Dad had worked hard to give us the oppourtunity that they hadn’t had.
Yet I know, in the backs of their minds, I know my parents wanted me and my sisters to get married and have children once we had our degrees. This is what I mean by this expectation. They have a preconceived idea of where our life paths should take us. I think we probably all have this in the back of our minds. In the 50s, they knew what they were going to be and do – there was no choice really. Flash forward 60 years and I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life and spent a long time trying to work out my role in life in terms of a career. When I was at university, all I cared about was my course and getting a job at the end of it. Marriage and babies didn’t really come into it.
But now here I am, a mother. Did I make this choice because I felt it was my role in life, my duty? Did I do this because it was expected of me? It’s an interesting question. To be honest, I did it because it happened at that time. Fate or whatever you want to call it, intervened. My life isn’t one big plan. In fact, nothing in my life has gone the way I thought it would. I didn’t start my nursing course until I was 21, after quitting university twice. I picked nursing as a career on a whim. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to consider what my plan was, or what was my next step. I didn’t go through university looking for a husband or waiting to get married, like in Mona Lisa Smile.
I always wanted children but I’ve never felt I had to get married. Yes I used to dream of it when I was a little girl, but as I’ve got older, I see less importance in it. I don’t see that as something I need to do to fulfil my life. I’m happy as I am, and that’s that really. If it happens, it happens.
Funny really that I started to write this before the Kirstie Allsop interview came out, but as I hadn’t finished the post, I thought I’d quickly comment. I have read her interview, and also some of the responses. I sort of understand where Kirstie is coming from – she wants women to be more informed about their fertility and the fact that yes, women’s fertility does decline and then stop altogether at some point. But Who knows what is the right way to do anything – I think that’s a very personal choice – if you want to have children in your early 20s I don’t think that should stop you from going to university or doing whatever you want afterwards, and vice versa – if you have a baby at 40, there should be no obstacles. Not everyone wants children. Not everyone can have children. It’s not the be all and end all of life. But I think Kirstie demonstrates for me what I mentioned earlier – that unwritten expectation of society that having children and marriage and buying houses is all expected as part of life. It’s something we are all going to do, isn’t it?!
Now I am a Mother, have I reached my potential? I’m not sure. I have a career; I am a Nurse, yes it is a little different to the dreams of journalism I coveted as a 16 year old, but I enjoy my job and I love the fact I have a career. Maybe I’ll have more children, maybe I won’t. Who knows what could happen in the future. I love the fact that the future is a blank page for us to fill. I want to try as hard as I can not to put any of my own expectations on Bubs’ for what I’d like her to undertake in life. Right now, the only thing in my mind is that I want her to be happy.