Don’t Do What I Did….

So Kirstie Allsopp has said that if she had a daughter she would be advising her not to go to University, instead to focus on starting a family first. I am recommending the opposite to my daughter.

Kirstie Allsopp went to university and had her first child at 35. I didn’t go to university and had my first child, my daughter, at 23. Funny how we seem to advise our daughters, fictional in her case, real in mine, to take the opposite approach to the one we did.


do as I


I actually agree with some of what Kirstie said, there is a time pressure on women to fit everything into the ’15 year window’ as she puts it. Having said that, both Kirstie and myself had babies after the 35 year cut off point, and I wasn’t even trying…..although I agree that it can definitely be a source of extreme heartbreak if you try for a baby and it isn’t happening for you. Yet I still think my daughter would benefit from going to University now. Why? Well….

  • Because it is really hard to go back later. The cost of going to University is pretty terrifying these days, and while I may think now at 40 that it might be nice to go and get a degree that leads to a better paid and rewarding career, I also have three kids, no provision for my retirement, and no spare cash. The though of getting in that much debt scares me, and in the classic Martyr Mum way, I would rather be ensuring my kids have got shoes and food right now.
  • Because it is a buffer between the childhood and the real world. University is a half way house between being looked after at home and being out there in the world paying your own way. I think she will grow up a lot in those few years and be ready to tackle the big, bad world of work with a mature attitude and an understanding of what bills need paying.
  • Because she wants to be a teacher. Yes, I could recommend she gets her kicks working in a nursery or some such. It would be a similar child centered job but without the requirement of a degree. But the pay is appalling, and as someone who knows what is like to stretch a budget to snapping point, I do want her to have a better paid job.
  • Because I worked straight from school, and still can’t afford a house. Nice as it is that Kirstie would help her daughter get on the property ladder, not all of us can do that. For my daughter to own her own home, she will first need a job that allows enough space in the budget to save for that elusive deposit.
  • Because I sort of wish I had.

And that last one is what it comes down to isn’t it?

I don’t regret any of my decisions really. I loved messing about in  bands, it was great fun. I loved having my first child young. I loved having my last child ‘old’. The only thing I don’t love is my lack of earning power. Childcare is expensive, and if you are on a low wage the percentage of that wage that it costs is huge. I am lucky to be able to be a stay at home mum for now. But in reality, it wasn’t a choice for me to go back to my job after my last child was born. I loved my book shop job, but the wages were low. My days pay equated to two thirds of the cost of a day in nursery for my son. Even taking into account the assistance afforded by the tax credits system, we were actually going to be worse off if I returned. A no brainer there then.

Perhaps if I had gone to University I would have the kind of career that meant I could afford childcare. Perhaps if I had that sort of career I would have gone back after each of my children was born and not lost years of building a career. Perhaps I would be earning enough money now to help my daughter buy her first flat….

I imagine perhaps Kirstie spent time worrying about her biological clock as 35 approached without a baby in sight, and I would have felt totally the same if I had reached that point without a family. Having children was always part of my plan (insofar as I ever had a plan…), and I would have felt anxious if I was edging closer to the end of (theoretically) easy fertility without one.  So perhaps she is just hoping to avoid her ‘daughter’ facing the same concerns, in the way I would like my daughter to avoid knowing what it is like to not have enough money to pay the electricity bill.

We all want better for our kids than we had, we all want to help them avoid the pitfalls we didn’t. For women there is not a ‘one cap fits all’ approach. If you want to have children, there is no perfect time to have them. For most of us there is no magical Goldilocks ‘just right’ moment, you just have to take a leap of faith that it will all work out OK. But for most of us life is a compromise of one sort or another.

I guess the most important thing to remember when advising our Daughters is that they cannot correct our ‘mistakes’ or re-live our lives for us, they have to make their own choices, their own mistakes, their own triumphs, and live their own lives.

Love Miss Cisco XXX



  1. June 3, 2014 / 10:58 am

    I just left a blank comment, didn’t I? All those years of higher education really paid off, didn’t they?

    Anyway, going back to your post. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that we always tend to suggest not doing what we did. I’m with you – I won’t be recommending Kirstie Allsopp’s plan to my daughter, but I will perhaps suggest to her that she thinks long and hard about what she chooses to study and what the likely career progression will be after that. I’ll say the same to my boys too, of course, and I wouldn’t recommend any of them to take on the debts etc unless they had a clear idea of what they wanted to do.

    It all comes back to there really being very little structural support or value for motherhood, however and whenever it happens, doesn’t it?
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    • June 3, 2014 / 11:03 am

      absolutely agree, I am delighted that my daughter has a vocation that she wishes to pursue, that involves a degree – were she looking at doing a much vaguer degree with no direct job leading from it, I might be feeling differently, as I do believe you can progress well in lots of careers without a degree.

      And yes, whatever approach you take Motherhood throws up problems, luckily it is utterly worthwhile in my opinion, and as valuable a contribution as a career – shame it isn’t viewed as such in all quarters.
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  2. Swazi rodgers
    June 3, 2014 / 11:04 am

    I did go to university and it was financially tough, but wonderful for me. I’d never lived away from home before, I went to watch bands, theatre, played all sorts of sports and got my first foot into radio and journalism there.

    I’d love my fictional daughter to do what makes her happy, because my actual son has the advantage of a) being real and b) he’s a boy so he gets advantages in life anyway just for being male.

    Kirstie’s homespun wisdom is not really for me I’m afraid.

    Great post – as always – lovely xxx

  3. June 3, 2014 / 11:24 am

    Fantastic post. I don’t have a daughter but, ultimately, I will be advising the same of my son. If he wants to have a career which requires a degree, such as medicine, teaching, law, social work etc, of course I will advise him to follow the University path. If, on the other hand, he is unsure or wishes to go into catering, hairdressing, mechanics then I will advise him to go the apprenticeship route or similar.

    I didn’t go to University and like you, now wish I had. My sister went to Uni after taking a year out and is far more mature, money savvy etc than I was at that age, possibly even more than I am now! That said, had I gone to University, I wouldn’t have met my husband as I met him at a time I would have been there.

    As much as she tries to deny that or say she is simply speaking as a woman who felt the time constraints in terms of fertility, that fact remains that Kirstie IS speaking from a position of privilege; she has the means to support her children whatever their choices, much like her own parents had that means. Most of us do not.
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  4. June 3, 2014 / 11:51 am

    My sister-in-law was a recommender of children first, career after, citing the ability to give energy to children and really enjoy them before you have other enormous commitments like work and mortgages to focus on. In truth I don’t think there is an easy solution. I’m an older mum, and it was hard work getting, and raising our children. I do sometimes wish I had more energy, and I certainly worry about my health, and my ability to be here for them into adulthood. However on the plus side as you age you definitely become wiser and generally more mellow – I don’t sweat the small stuff the way I used to when I was younger, and that makes parenting easier for me, and them.
    Plus, when it looked like we might not be able to have children, I was devastated, but I had an amazing career that I knew could take me places and change my life in a way that would be just as incredible. I think I would want those options for my children too.
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  5. June 3, 2014 / 12:32 pm

    I’m not really sure there’s any right or wrong way to live your life or any reason for slebs to recommend which to do.

    I neither went to uni nor had my child early. There’s no way of knowing whether my life would have been better or worse if I’d done that differently.

    I’m more concerned with advising mine not to smoke behind the bikesheds and to stay away from the bad boys, but already I know I’d be wasting my breath!
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  6. June 3, 2014 / 1:16 pm

    There is no right of wrong way – just the way that works for you! I did babies first and am doing uni now. For me it was the best way – we grow up all together and bumbled along to adulthood as a unit .
    It may not be right for everyone though.
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  7. June 3, 2014 / 2:15 pm

    i was determined i could have it all, uni a career and then a baby at 30.
    Thisn is how it actually went
    uni, a few jobs and a baby at 35!!
    you cannot predeict the future as life gets in the way , same as there is no right or wrong way of leading a life – you have to go with the flow most the time i think . best laid plans and all that
    great post though very interesting x
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  8. June 3, 2014 / 2:25 pm

    Great post. We all do what’s right for our families and ourselves (or just what ‘happens’ at the time, because ultimately plenty of kids just appear and surprise us). I had my first baby at Kirstie’s magical 27 and I think that was a lose-lose. I’d been to university, but my career wasn’t sufficiently established when I became a mum for it to progress further. If I’d had a baby at 20, then gone to university at 35 that could have worked, likewise going to university and establishing my career before having a baby at 35 could have worked. Or it could all have failed miserably. Who knows?
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  9. June 3, 2014 / 5:27 pm

    I didnt go to uni. Never wanted to so didnt. And had my first child at 24.

    My mum was pregnant at 17, had me and went to uni at 40.

    I dont think there is any right way for any woman. It is all dependent on their circumstances and their desires. What we should be promoting I think is that women should do what they want to do and not what they feel they have to do becuase of the media.
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  10. June 3, 2014 / 6:35 pm

    I think what’s right for one isn’t necessarily right for another – like you I had my daughter young – too young in hindsight as I was 18. I made the best of a bad situation, missed out on university and struggled as a single parent for 8 years and got into debt because of it and I have certainly advised my daughter against that.
    She has for the most part taken my advice on board and although hasn’t chosen the career I hoped she would, she has a good job and a nice boyfriend. She seems to have turned that teen angst corner and has just completed her Duke of Edinburgh Gold award and is raising money to go to Gambia in November to do some charity work.
    My hope for her is that she does a bit of travelling before she settles down and hopefully saves some money on the way which will enable her to buy a house.
    When Eliza is old enough I will certainly be recommending that she doesn’t have children too young – you need to experience life first!
    I admire Kirsty for expressing her beliefs, we may not agree but it has certainly caused a great debate.
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  11. June 3, 2014 / 6:54 pm

    I understand both you and Kirsty. Is hard to be a new mum at 35 and you just can’t see your children growing properly.
    I went to university first , then got married at 25, had kids and now i am at home with the girls. What I would say is to have kids closer to each other maximum to year between as then you can grow together and after you can go back to work faster. Not like I do now. one 5 one 1 and i am turning 34 this year so…I should probably employed and focused on my career now but i am not.
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  12. June 3, 2014 / 7:31 pm

    Very well said as always. It is a tricky one isn’t it? I agree that uni first is a good idea. I decided not to go and then after two years in a low paid job watching graduates come in on three times higher wages I changed my mind. The two years was a good break though and a good learning curve. Any later though and I may not have gone back. Money plays such an important role in family life that you need to be financially stable (ideally) to have children so I think I’m inclined to agree with you.
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  13. June 3, 2014 / 8:50 pm

    I don’t entirely agree with what Kirstie Allsopp has said but I do agree with some of it. I agree with you that if you want to go to Uni you should do it when you leave school but then if you meet the right person I think you should get on with having kids earlier as you never know what can happen. I agree with Kirstie that we are the generation that was sold a lie – you can never ‘have it all’.
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  14. June 3, 2014 / 9:13 pm

    I don’t there is a hard and fast right answer on this one. I had my eldest at 31. I did go to Uni, although only for a couple of years. I had another child at 37. In all honestly I wish I’d had mine earlier, its damn hard trying to do it all. Its a great one to debate but definitely not one I know the answer to.
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  15. June 3, 2014 / 9:43 pm

    My mum told me to wait til I was at least 30, I was 29, I love my kids bt I think a couple more years would have done me some good. Career wise they came totally at the right time as I was ready to change careers and it gave me time to adjust. But socially I took a lot longer to adjust to being a parent and I felt like the only one of my mates with kids and a bit left out. My new friends seemed a little older and more sorted. You have it spot on – its a lot of do as I say not as i do!
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  16. June 4, 2014 / 1:42 am

    That last paragraph of yours really resonated with me. I’ve been reading some really interesting -if slightly hippydippy – stuff recently about the ‘mother wound’ which is this concept that tries to explain the challenges that often exist in mother-daughter relationships, and a lot of it is to do with expectations, and mothers trying to get steer daughters to fulfil wishes of their own that they never managed to achieve, but then if they do that, they actually harbour some resentment towards them! It’s bloody tricky isn’t it. I think all you can really do is bring your children up with the values and confidence to make the decisions that they want to, and support them in those choices. Sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing 🙂 xx
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  17. June 4, 2014 / 5:51 am

    I think Kirsty is one of the best people in this country for getting us to discuss feminist issues 🙂 I had my kids in my early 30s, I do t think I was mature enough before then, although I’m not convinced I am now! For me being a SAHM has been a bigger issue than my age, I know there’s no way I could return to a similar job after the break in employment. But then if that forces me into something new then that’s a good thing.
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  18. June 4, 2014 / 9:36 am

    I have a lot of respect for Kirstie, but I don’t agree with what she says at all. I went to University, got married when I was 21, got a job, bought a house and had a child at 27. In some ways we were very lucky, that we landed jobs good enough to allow us that first mortgage and we did borrow a small amount from my Mum for a deposit which we paid back, but it does show that you can have the University fun and still have a family relatively young.

    I’m not saying what we did was perfect, I think we both wished we’d taken time out to travel before starting work/having kids, but you just can’t have it all…..
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