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.
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