by Allison Pearson
I went shopping looking for a suit but bought some sports gear instead. Well both are good for me I suppose in different ways. A friend was going to the shopping paradise that is La Cañada and as my husband loathes the place (and I suppose I can’t really blame him) I decided to tag along.
Tomorrow I’m planning on going on a hike with another friend. I’m really not a very sporty person and super unfit, so I should do this kind of thing more often, but when you haven’t arranged with anybody in particular and nobody will miss you it’s very easy to turn over in bed when the alarm goes at 7am and to say ‘maybe next time’. I am very bad at putting off things I don’t feel like doing. Or very good at it is maybe very precise. So, I already have two new books on the go and it would be all too easy to finish them, write them up and move on. And pretend I hadn’t read this book that I don’t feel like writing up.
I read this on the flight home for Christmas (spot a pattern?) and over the first few days at home, when I wasn’t sneakily reading other people’s presents. As a book I can’t say that I liked it and as a working women my first instinct was to dismiss it from the very first scene where the heroine is trying to make some shopbought cakes look homemade in an effort not to show her daughter up. To me that just seems absolutely ridiculous. Maybe I am just not as fastidious as some people. I do care what people think, I can be super sensitive but I don’t care enough to go to extreme lengths to make them like me.
I read an article recently talking about the length of time women needed each morning to blowdry their hair in order to be ready for the corporate world. I only own a hairdryer because guests often ask for one. I may need to buy a suit because it’s been years since I wore one and the ones I own are all tired. I never feel comfortable in them, always feel like a little girl playing at being grown up. But I do dress smartly when I need to, some days less of an effort, but when I need to I do. So maybe things might change for me if I become a mother and a working one, but I don’t see myself stressing so much about things that don’t matter.
I also was a bit put off by the fact that, even though Kate is played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the movie, the character is only 35. I just couldn’t buy this character as being only 2 years older than me. I don’t know if this was the fault of the book itself or just the movie poster cover.
Until the last few chapters the book didn’t have much of a plot. Basically busy Kate flies to and from the States, has a high flying job at a bank, finds it difficult to balance the job and taking care of her two kids, but to be honest I just couldn’t see why anybody would stick with that type of job anyway. Well, money I suppose. I have sometimes had work related dreams and stress about particular problems, but in general I don’t have to be switched on all the time. This book is over 10 years old. In this day Kate would have a blackberry and wifi and be permanently at work. Who want’s that? When I was in final year of college and a bit directionless I went along to some of the milkround presentations, mainly, really, for the free food. But at the Deutsche Bank presentation I did ask one of the recent graduate workers a few questions, one of which was about the hours. ‘We usually work 9-9 but the work is really interesting, you don’t even notice the time going by.’ Not for me. So maybe some of my former classmates have made their money and I’m a lowly accountant, but there you go.
As always, I had limited space on the flight back from Dublin, so once I had finished this I knew it wasn’t coming back with me. I may revisit this some time if I have kids and I know I can’t really comment, but while I was reading I did think ‘gosh, my Mam really was a superhero. She had 6 kids and never gave up working!’ I didn’t always appreciate it at the time. It did help that she was a teacher in my home time but also a few issues mean that I’m not sure this would be possible nowadays. When I was younger we went to a local childminder. All of the teachers’ kids went there. She had a huge garden (I’m pretty sure that in the boom it ceased to exist and was sold as a separate plot) and we played with the other kids. God, if you asked me I’d say there were dozens of us, though I couldn’t tell you for sure. And I don’t recall that she had staff, again I could be wrong. Of course that would be highly illegal these days. I have some memories back to when I was 2 years old and I only have good memories of that place, which is not necessarily the same as could be said for some crèches nowadays. Later, when I was well into primary school a lady came to our house who minded the younger kids and tidied the house. I’m sure that combination does not exist nowadays. She scared me but the younger half of the family loved her. Then when everybody was school age the older kids often watched the younger ones. I remember reading something similar on boards.ie and posters commenting that they would report the mother in question if they knew about that. So in some ways being a working mother is more difficult than it was before, certainly more expensive. I know there are reasons for those regulations and there have obviously been a lot of horror stories, but it makes life a lot more difficult too.
In my 20s when I would hear people casually being dismissive of a colleague going off on maternity yet again I was disgusted. Only housewives or those who are unemployed should be allowed to give birth?
Ok, I know I am putting off finishing this post and basically turning it in my head into something bigger than it is, but really I have my superstitions. So I’m going to leave it aside for a little big and finish Stamboul Train.
And now a month later I’m coming back to finish this off. Hmmm, what did I not like about the book? Why did the husband have to be so hopeless? Yeah, I get that it’s written through her eyes, so maybe very biased and by the end of the book she appreciates him, but she basically writes as if all men are absolutely hopeless at anything to do with the house and kids. Then all the pressure about getting Emily signed up to the right school. Again, I’m naïve here, but when we were kids there was never any question of where we would go to school – the one down the road that we could walk to. We all did ok.
I thought it was funny when she got so upset about the pigeons being taken away and killed. We had a similar issue at our offices. We were watching the seagulls every day, building their nests, keeping the eggs warm, waiting, waiting. Every know again they would come and knock on the window and we’d wave at them. Then one day some guys came and took all of the eggs away. We were upset, but some of us more than others. I actually wrote a children’s story about it (just for myself though!), with a happier ending.
I haven’t seen the film myself, but as I don’t know anybody who hass read the book (well I haven’t asked my sister and actually I think it must be her book) I’ve asked some of my friends who are mothers if they’ve seen the movie (I haven’t and not sure I want to…). One of them said ‘Oh it’s so true, it’s so true’, so like I said maybe I would have a different view of it if I were a mother.
One part that did really touch me was this speech from the wife of Kate’s boss:
‘The thing is, they treat us as though they’re doing us a great favour by letting us go back to work after we’ve had a child . And the price we pay for that favour is not making a fuss, not letting on how life can never be the same for us again. But always remember it’s we how are doing them the favour. We’re perpetuating the human race and there’s nothing more important than that.’