‘Sometimes, in my lowest moments, I wish I lived in a time when women had fewer choices’

Everywhere we go we’re bombarded by the Things We Need, Things We Need To Be, Things We Must Remember or Do Before We’re Dead. Author CJ Skuse argues why are we always made to feel we’re never fully enough...

All my life I’ve been driven. I’ve always strived to do better. Get a degree, get another one, do a PhD. Write a book, write another. One is being made into a TV series as I speak. Another is released this month. Number nine is being written. I also have a day job. And right now, my brain is fried.

Do you want to know my deep, dark secret? The thing I rarely say but constantly find myself feeling? Huddle up…*whispers* Sometimes, in my lowest moments, I wish I lived in a time when women had fewer choices. Yeah, I said it: sometimes I wish I was a Fifties housewife. That sound you hear is Emmeline Pankhurst’s skeleton doing backflips.

When Fleabag said ‘I want someone to tell me what to wear … I want someone to tell me what to eat. What to like, what to hate, what to rage about … Who to vote for and who to love…’ I felt that.

I’ve worked hard to have a job I love and I do this alongside the more unreliable writing side of my life. But I’m constantly stressed. I’m always telling myself I’ve not been to the gym enough. My house isn’t clean enough. My books aren’t selling enough. Am I academic enough? But what even is ‘enough’? When will I be fully ENOUGH?

fewer choices

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At any one time I have eight metaphorical plates spinning:

  1. Household
  2. Dog
  3. Job 1 (Lecturing)
  4. Job 2 (Writing)
  5. Love Life
  6. Family/Friends
  7. Self
  8. Babies

Job 1 and Dog are both healthy but my house is a tip. I’m behind on Job 2, my Love Life is in the toilet, I don’t contact Family or Friends as much as I should, I try to go to the gym three times a week for my Self but it’s hard to concentrate, and as for babies – I don’t want them but the pressure to pop a few out before the old womb waves the white flag is stifling.

And it’s not just the plates – my mind spins too. Is it car insurance this month or next? When did I read the meters? If I pay off my credit card is there enough to cover the mortgage? Am I non-binary or do I just not like skirts? Why did my friend not text back, what have I done? I forgot my bag for life – now a sea lion will die. I really should go vegan. Is it bin day again? Why the hell are there so many types of milk?!

Sometimes, I wish someone else would take the reins, make the decisions for me, hence the Fifties housewife fetish. I think I’ve always been this way. On a school report, a teacher wrote, Claire is happy to sit back and let someone else do the work.

 Yeah, I kind of am.

fewer choices

Skuse pictured with her dog

Maybe it comes from being the youngest – I had to grunt and point and someone else had it covered. I’ve been spoilt. My parents and siblings did everything. Now it’s just me. Doing it all for myself *insert exhausted toddler GIF*

And I’m reading all these articles about TradWives who simultaneously bake cakes, iron shirts and breastfeed and I think ‘That seems simple enough.’ He goes out to work, she cleans and takes care of the kids. He calls the shots, she answers them. Because he pays the bills.

In my house, pay the bills so I call the shots.

I’ve had this conversation with a variety of people recently – some with young families, couples, singletons, one working two jobs, one caring for an elderly father, one living with chronic illness, some retired. And I realised something everyone had in common: everyone’s knackered.

Everyone feels Not Enough. Every single one said the same thing: I’ve got so much to do.

Everywhere we go, we’re bombarded by the Things We Need, the Things We Need To Be, Things We Must Remember or Do Before We’re 20, 30, 40, Dead. We’re always made to feel that we’re never enough.

Inadequacy sells, I suppose.

The Alibi Girl by CJ Skuse, £7.99 (HQ) is on sale now

So where am I going with this? What’s the silver lining?

People. That’s it. Talking to others has made me see that actually, if all their problems and mine were thrown into a bowl, I’d take mine out first, hands down. I love having my own place. Heating my own rooms. Buying my own food. Relying on nobody. I’m lucky. Tired, but lucky.

I finally binged The Office USA recently and one quote in the finale stood out to me: ‘I wish there was a way to know you’re in the ‘good old days’ before you’ve left them.’

So perhaps I don’t need to advertise for that TradHubbie right now. Maybe these are my good old days – and I just need to slow down and appreciate them more.

* The Alibi Girl by CJ Skuse, £7.99 (HQ) is on sale now 

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