I had one of those conversations with my 19 year old daughter the other day. The kind of conversation that has you questioning your whole existence, pondering your life choices and wondering if you are indeed a good enough role model for your own children.
Megan was asking me whether I was satisfied by my life. Was being a 'Stay At Home Mum' enough for me, did I regret the path I had taken? She meant well, she wants me to do more for myself and not constantly put my children first in terms of time, emotion and finance. It's good that she thinks this way, she clearly has aspirations of going on to be a career woman with an amazing life full of fancy things and holidays. I'm so proud of her drive and ambition. Am I really so far removed from the teenager I once was, whose head was full of dreams of living the high life in London?
I was always the clever kid in school. I wasn't the most studious pupil, but I was naturally bright, articulate and I loved exams. I preferred the personal challenge that came with facing a blank sheet of paper with a head filled with subject knowledge acquired by my photographic memory. Three hours in exam conditions allowed me to show what I could do. I never enjoyed taking part in class discussions and I revelled in my slightly rebellious, anti-social persona. But in an exam there was no-one to impress other than anonymous exam markers. I impressed them pretty well!
I had the grades I needed to go to university to study Sociology with Psychology. But I didn't go and then I got pregnant. Having a baby did not call a halt to my life or my ambitions. I went to work in advertising, creating and selling ads for the Thomson Local in its heyday, pre-Google!! I did well and earned good money as a single parent. I had a nice car, nice clothes and a good social life. But I missed my son. My sister used to child mind him and it would break my heart when he ran to her if he got hurt. I was his mummy. but I wasn't the main carer in his life. The lure of cash and success evaporated as I yearned to be the one that my son ran to when he needed a cuddle.
So I found myself in a relationship that would facilitate me being at home with my child. It never worked, it eroded my confidence and my self-esteem to be living with someone who was fundamentally so wrong for me. I tried to create a family...but I made a nightmare. I am sure I conceived Megan as a way of giving me the strength to get out of the relationship. Apathy is a powerful state of mind. But with the surging maternal hormones I found the motivation to get out and move on.
That resulted in me being a single mum with two children, but I was empowered, confident and strong. Anyone familiar with my blog will know how my own personal Prince Charming, soul mate and best friend Ian came into my life at this point. We've been together for 18 years now and have never looked back, but we never had the chance to date and romance in a conventional way. He went straight from being young, free and single and living with his parents without any responsibilities, to being a part of my family. There was never as much as an ounce of resentment from him...he relished his new role and became a remarkable dad to the children. Megan was a severely asthmatic toddler who would spend nights awake coughing, being sick and having night terrors. It was Ian who walked her up and down the corridor calming her and soothing her back to sleep.
Ian worked hard but money was incredibly tight. We lived on Tesco Value Beans which at the time cost 3p. We actually revelled in our frugality because we were building our future from the bottom up. It was us and the kids...it was enough for us.
We moved away from 'down south' to live in Shropshire and with a couple of extremely fortuitous well timed house moves managed to provide a four bedroomed detached home for our expanded brood. Ian earns enough now so I don't have to work. We have enough behind us to not worry about money. We both have '10 plate cars and we have all the gadgets and gizmos a family could want. However, our mentality of frugality has lingered. We don't spend money on nights out, designer clothing or flashy holidays. We are happy at home together watching movies and knowing our children are safe and sound. We are not motivated by flash and fancy, because we know we have got to the position we are in now by being careful with our money and putting the family's needs ahead of any personal desires.
So when my daughter asks why we don't go out for romantic meals together, or jet off for a city break or book myself in for a weekly manicure, I can say in all honestly it is not who I am. I am a mum first and foremost. That is my motivation in life. That is how I define myself. How could I not be defined by the one thing in my life that has shaped me for the better, given me wings and confidence and pride. Everything I do is for the greater good of the family. This is not me being a martyr or me trying to show the world what a selfless mother I am. No, it is simply the way it is.
I can tell my children hand on heart that I have no regrets. I hope they will go on to have fulfilling lives...in whatever fields they choose. The world is their oyster. But simply put, for me, I chose being a mother. There can be no shame in that decision.