I don’t get out much. Having left my career in London behind some 25 months ago and devoting my time since to raising a small person, nights out are something of a rarity. I saw a poster recently for an event, to be held in Leigh-on-Sea, for International Women’s Day. ”Never heard of it”, I thought. But I knew some people who were going and it was a great excuse to escape.
Becoming a stay-at-home Mum has seriously knocked my confidence. I feel invisible. I’ve always been terrified to put myself out there, to risk judgement, failure, to be criticised for falling short of an A-grade and only getting a B. I was raised to speak when spoken to and no more, so I’m not one to say my piece. I’ll sit quietly, allowing the more confident to shout over each other, and always leave with regret, wishing that I’d had the guts to speak. It’s the opposite to those who say that they’d rather have tried and failed than never have tried at all. I deliberately, perhaps subconsciously, hold myself back. I don’t feel like I have anything worth saying. This blog was a huge step for me. I’m far more comfortable typing my thoughts and pressing ‘publish’ than actually saying them out loud, I’m hiding behind my laptop screen where nobody can see me. Sitting in a room of fantastic women, as I did last night, I’d be found out, alarm bells would ring, I’d be asked to leave. It doesn’t help that I’m always judged for looking younger than I am (yes, I know, no bad thing) so people don’t take me seriously. I’m just a stay-at-home Mum after all, so what’s special about that? Who cares about the places I’ve lived, the travelling, the jobs, the troubles I’ve overcome? Who cares? Giving all that up to be a mother invalidates it all, doesn’t it? Women love to judge and criticise each other, the way they look, their choices. I chose to give up work and devote this time to my child. But go back to work and you’ll be criticised for leaving them. Most of the women in the room last night probably had kids, so who am I to have anything to contribute when I’m just another Mum? I don’t have a job, I live in a town where I’m a stranger, all I really do is change poo-filled nappies.
Anyway, last night was something of an epiphany. Sitting in the community centre, we heard from all sorts of women with a wide variety of stories. My inner geek was envious of the 29-year-old with her own successful company in a male-dominated IT field. I wept when listening to the effervescent Jane, raising money and support, changing the law and singing in tribute to her husband, a local fisherman tragically lost at sea (please check her story out here). A local publisher, a historian, a writer and drummer, a model/actress and mother, a local entrepreneur with a baby on the way, an amazing singer who’s kicked her confidence problems off the stage. And the best part, in a funny way, was that they all seemed nervous. They were all overcoming their fears of putting themselves out there.
So, why can’t I? There was an energy in that room last night, a supportive, creative, determined and incredible energy. It wasn’t about sitting round, bras burned or slating men. It was a celebration of tremendous achievements, no matter how small or large.
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of International Women’s Day before. But if that buzz in the room last night is what it’s all about then sign me up. I am truly proud of where I live and the women that I am surrounded by. I have no idea what I’ll do when my shift as a stay-at-home Mum ends. But, you just never know, maybe one day I’ll have the guts to finally speak up too.