Today is International Women’s Day. I’m not an activist, but I consider myself lucky that growing up as a girl and being a woman has never held me back. In many ways its been a huge advantage. I was moved school from a girls only one to an almost exclusively boys school at the age of 7 – from an early age this taught me there is nothing that girls can’t do as well as boys. This has ALWAYS been a no brainer to me.
So, I suppose I may have you hear under false pretenses, because while I fully support International’s Women’s Day, its only reminded me of why life is not just about celebrating days like this, but celebrating People Everyday. Let me try and explain.
After school and university (where I was the first female President of the University Boatclub in its 140 year history), I became an Army Officer and my first posting was to an all male Infantry Unit (there were 4 females in the unit out of 700 and no other females in the Officers’ Mess or the Sergeants’ Mess. It was an amazing 2 years and one that taught me life is about people. There will always be obstacles and focusing on your strengths and acknowledging your weaknesses and setting your sights high combined with hard work is a pretty good formula to living a happy life.
After a wonderful and fulfilling career in the forces I left having started my own Interior Design business, while on maternity leave with a new baby and a husband in Afghanistan. A world apart from my time in the Army, the interiors world is predominantly female, with a huge number of women who each worked hard in previous careers and arrived at interiors and have moved into the industry as a way of utilising their skills and balancing a family alongside that. These are business women with a drive unleashed by a determination to success and I am lucky enough to work with so many on a daily basis, it really is an inspiring place to be.
Leaving a secure career in a job you love to “work from home” is not the easy option. It takes guts, determination and if you’re lucky you’ll have the support of those that love you and understand why. It is a struggle that is felt most strongly (but by no means exclusively) by women. For various reasons, there is a huge and growing number of self-employed businesses created out of the desire for that elusive “work – life balance”. Setting up my business meant I could see my children, something that was becoming increasingly hard in the Army, it was a decision for me that had I had to make sooner rather than later. But if I’m brutally honest, were I in any other career, I probably would not have started Rascal & Roses.
However, I think it’s important to remember, not just today, with all the positive messages I see about International’s Women Day – but everyday, that work-life balance isn’t an exclusive desire of women. I can guarantee you there are fathers every single day wishing they had the balance. I know, having watched thousands of young men and fathers kiss goodbye to their loved ones and children ready for their next deployment for anything up to a year away, just how difficult finding that balance where your job and your family sit neatly together. In those quiet moments we all wonder whether we made the right decision. Of those men, most returned, but not all did. I have seen people’s lives changed without recognition and I know without exception – we ALL deserve to live a life to its fullest – and if this is the only thing I can teach my children I will do so with every fibre of my body.
We owe it to those that trod the path before us and those that will come after us to be kind. To support each other – man, woman, parent, child. So today, remember the amazing work that women have done. The courageous women that have smashed through those ceilings to allow people like me to have a choice in what I do with my life. But let’s not forget those that don’t change the world in a way that could be the storyline to a blockbusting movie, those that won’t be remembered in 50 years time – but people that chose to do the jobs that not everyone will do. People that put the greater good before their personal lives, to make sure we all have a better life. We all have struggles that no one else knows about, we all make decisions that will change our lives and the people around us in ways we cannot possibly understand.
If I want my daughter (and my son) to grow up to learn anything, this is it – have respect for everyone you meet, be kind, believe in yourself, make dreams and follow them. Live your life to the full, live making mistakes by all means, but not regretting the things you never tried. None of us know how long we will be here, so let’s make the very most it while we can.