Monday 11 February 2019. Day 31: In 1985, only the smart kids at my school did A-levels. I didn’t fit into that category, so it was either find a job or go to college. I chose college and enrolled in a two-year hairdressing course. I had the best two years of my education (I’d hated school) but the downsides for me became very clear – standing on my feet all day and the ladies who were only interested in a lavender shampoo and set. So aged 18, with my City and Guilds certificate nicely under my 1980’s gold belt, I started my first job; not as a hairdresser, but as a receptionist for my dad’s business (at least the ‘communication’ segment of the course had been worthwhile). First day, and I wore my brand new outfit from Next (very cool in the 80’s) and I installed myself in my new reception empire; I had arrived – I was all grown up and responsible. The other employees (that I’d pretty much grown up with after spending school holidays ‘helping out’ for a bit of pocket money), all commented on how great it was that I was actually working there. It is only with hindsight that I suspect they were just being polite, as who the hell wanted the boss’s daughter working alongside them listening to their moans about the management?!
One by one, faces old and new, dropped by to say ‘hi’ and ‘good luck’. One old face in particular, came in to wish me well and spoke words that have stayed with me some 40 years later; ‘Enjoy working’ he said, ‘because you’re going to be doing that for the next 50 years’.
Silly old fool I thought; me, working for 50 years?! No chance.
What he didn’t realise was, I had a plan: work for a couple of years to save for my house deposit; marry the man of my (Disney?) dreams, who would carry me over the threshold of our beautiful home that he would insist on providing for me; make babies. All beautifully sandwiched between baking cakes, going to the gym and generally being the perfect wife and mother, who quite clearly wouldn’t be working. I was going to have my happy-ever-after. Forever. End of.
The reality was (unsurprisingly) a little different. Yes, within the year, I had bought my first house with my boyfriend (we somehow scrapped together the deposit). We spoke of weddings, but as we were only 18, we could wait a few years (more time to save for our dream home). All going more or less to plan so far; until that is, I became pregnant. ‘It’s okay,’ I said, ‘we can do this. A little earlier than we (I) planned, but we’ll be okay’. It turned out for him and his family, that it was not okay. He ran.
Forced to move back home with my parents, the house was sold and I was alone with ‘bump’. Fast forward a few years, and little Red and I were in our rented house. I was working and studying (finally realised I was smart) along with looking after my daughter, running a home and baking when I got the chance (no time for the gym). No husband came home each evening however to sample my delicious cakes or to bathe little Red let alone pick her up from nursery and grab some food shopping on the way home. In short, we lived alone for eight years.
Aged 30, I was married. Baby number two, little Blue, had arrived only 6 weeks before the intimate registry office ceremony, but I’d managed to squeeze into a suitable white dress and I got my wedding day. Finally I was married to the man of my dreams, I had two beautiful daughters and a lovely new home. I managed to stay at home with little Blue for two years before I had to go back to work to help with the mortgage, but hey, I still managed to bake the odd cake (albeit on the evening before the school cake sale!). I’d done it! The plan was working out and I was living the slightly altered dream.
Three short years later, the nightmare began. My not-so-perfect husband got caught (by me) cheating. Life as I comfortably knew it, was changed forever. The impact of his infidelity had repercussions that still affect our lives today. None more so than for little Blue, but out of respect for her, I will not write about this here.
Now aged 49, I live with just my youngest daughter. My eldest, now 30, flew the nest years ago to follow her own dream. I still work. In fact I work harder than I ever did. I look back at that 18 year old and I cringe. Where the hell did I get the idea that I was going to have a perfect trouble-free life; free of hard work and heartache? My own mum had been through a hideous divorce when my siblings and I were tiny and her second marriage hadn’t been the most ideal union. I watched as mum took on two step children and had another child with my step-father, then juggled her way through cooking and cleaning for six children and a husband. Six children who all had their own varying issues with absent parents, step-parents, teenage angst and rebellion. Hadn’t I seen what a struggle it had all been for her?
Maybe I’d wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen to me? Maybe my mum screwed up? Maybe she hadn’t married the right men? Maybe she’d never had a plan? All total rubbish. Of course she’d had a plan, and it hadn’t included two husbands and six children.
I have honestly never wondered about how my life would have been if my crazy plan actually worked out. Now that I’m writing this and am forced to think about it, I suspect I would be bored out of my mind, meeting other bored women once a week who do lunch and play tennis (probably not tennis as my hand-eye coordination is shit). My children would be spoilt brats who expect their parents to sort everything out for them (at least they are not brats) and my husband would be shagging his marketing manager (better than his best friend’s sister?).
So to the man who told me on my first day at work that I should enjoy it – I mostly did, and I mostly still do. 40 years of working and the novelty is definitely wearing off and I now dream of the day I’ll be able to retire. I don’t know when that will be, but as 50 looms ever closer, there are more and more days when I want to stay at home and just bake.
And there’s the next deluded plan – retirement! With grandchildren and an elderly parent to care for along with a mortgage still to pay, that’s pretty unlikely. As for my happy-ever-after? I think that’s still a work in progress.
Thank you as always for reading my ramblings. Until next time, keep it real.
PS If you like what you’re reading, tell me! (please) If you don’t, go and eat cake 🙂