A friend and I were talking about how difficult it is to juggle so many different roles in your life. Whether it be as an employee, a friend, a girlfriend, a mother; you never feel like you can devote enough attention to any of the roles you play to truly say you’ve nailed them.
And then there’s the total kick in the tits.
A bloody big helping of guilt to underpin the fact that you try to cram so much into your life that you don’t feel like anything you do meets the unrealistic expectations you set for yourself. That it’s just finishing one thing and tearing blindly into the next.
Women are the masters of guilt. My personal favourite is the ‘mum guilts’. That niggling feeling that I’m not spending enough time enjoying my children, and then when I am playing with them, that I should also be doing a million other things that have dropped down the list.
My friend and I wondered if life was easier for our mums and grandmas. Whether it was more straightforward, less guilt-ridden, or whether they faced the same challenges, just packaged in a different way?
And so came Three Generations of Women- in the first instance, a website where women could submit stories and experiences, responding to a variety of prompts ranging from the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you, to the family secret that’s never been revealed.
The response was overwhelming.
Within a month we had over 1000 stories submitted. Stories of bravery, loss, love and courage. Women who had had to hide pregnancies, who fought for their families against oppression, grandmothers who went into higher education well into their 70s, daughters who gave up everything to devote their lives to caring for their parents.
We visited women in Brighton, London and Leeds to speak to them about what was important to them as women, and how they thought their experiences of growing up as a woman in Britain compared to that of their mothers and grandmothers.
And then we wrote a play about it.
For me the project has been punctuated with guilt. Guilt that I won’t do justice to the amazing stories women have shared with us. Guilt that I’m not spending enough time writing, and then guilt that I’m spending too much time writing instead of getting to know my new baby son.
He was born early on in the process. In fact I had a Skype meeting with my co-writer after my waters had broken. I’ve been lucky so far. He’s been the most forgiving baby, but I’m sure that will come and bite me on the ass when he’s older.
If this project has taught me anything, it’s that women are really hard on themselves. Women of all ages. We rarely recognise our successes, just focus on the things we’re not doing so well.
But if we don’t say how bloody brilliant we are, then who will? And what are we teaching our daughters if our default setting is thinking we’re mediocre?
So let’s change that.
Let’s celebrate brilliant women.
And if you’re reading this, start with yourself.