Growing up as the middle daughter between two sons, I always felt more comfortable in the company of boys, holding my own in ‘playfight’ under the kitchen table and later keeping up with the ‘lads’ at the pub, never one to call it a night before I’d tried to out-drink a 6ft rugby player (not advised).
As an adult, most of the women in my life also happen to be the only female children in their own families and it can make for a formidable bunch. We are all fiercely protective of the men in our tribes and probably slightly awkward around other women, not because we don’t accept them but because without a sister to fight and share with growing up, we are not quite sure how to negotiate female friendships.
Perhaps it is the same for all women, but at the grand age of 33 I find I’m only just beginning to understand what it means to be a woman, a daughter and mother in this era. I’ve always been told I could do anything a man could do and in some way have probably felt that it was my responsibility as a ‘modern woman’ to do just that. So now, as I take a step back from full-time work to spend more time at home, I can’t help feeling like I’m letting down my female comrades in the good fight for gender equality.
The truth is maybe there is a part of me that wants to be that 1950s housewife, neatly turned out for the school run and with dinner ready on the table for 6 o’clock. Not all the time of course and on my own
terms, but is there room for domesticity and equality to exist together?
In her book, How To Be A Gentlewoman, Lotte Jeffs looks at how women might succeed just as well in work and life by remaining gentile, rather than aggressively pursuing everything.
Some of her suggestions are a little too Debrettes Book Of Etiquette for me (I mean who has the space and resources to house an extra gender-neutral dressing gown in case surprise guests should arrive?!?)
but the overarching theme of the book, about making a home and life that is warm and open and honest makes a refreshing change from all the ‘female boss’ style self branding I often see online.
I will probably never quite make the cut as a gentlewoman, but what a comforting thought that it might be OK to try. Right now though, I’m late for the school run, I haven’t brushed my hair and the house smells of something I burnt for dinner yesterday.