by Sarah Hughes
I don’t have any daughters. The universe wanted me to have three sons and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, it might well be an easier life to watch them lead mightn’t it, the world is skewed, as it is in favour of middle-class white males.
But as a woman approaching mid-life (reaches for the nearest brown paper bag to rapidly breathe into), there are a few things I would sure as hell tell my daughters if I had them. In fact, in my humble opinion, someone needs to start a campaign to get these stuck on every education curriculum in the world.
Don’t rely on a man for money
In the midst of my own divorce, I have said these words over and over again to myself. And it’s a situation I see everywhere. Women have their children, go back to work part-time, pause their career or sometimes shelve it entirely. All on the romantic notion that you are a family unit and your husband will always make sure you’re financially looked after. I would tell my 16-year-old self to insist on going back to work full-time and only marrying a man who agreed their career trajectories should run in tandem, rather than one rocketing off like a catherine wheel whilst the other’s has all the forward motion of a wet sparkler.
The same goes for the household bills - do not leave yourself in the position of not knowing how much your mortgage is, where your savings are held, or how much debt you’re accruing simply because “he’s good at that stuff so it’s easier just to leave it to him.”
Knowledge is power girls and that’s a damn hard lesson to learn after the fact.
And don’t rely on him for a happy ever after either…
I would tell my daughters if they want to get married then to marry late. Not before 30. Not before you’ve had several relationships, lived alone, travelled the world, and established a career. Not until you know what makes you tick. Not until you know what makes your heart truly sing. Forget the fairytales. They’ve set us all up for a massive fall girls.
And then if and when you have those lovely, pesky babies, I would tell my daughters to keep a bit of something for you. Whether that’s your hobbies; your love of reading or exercise, carve out a bit of time each week that is yours and guard it with your life. At selfish 16 you won’t believe it, but prioritising yourself might one day become a thing of the past.
Invest in your friendships; they will sustain you
I actually wouldn’t need to tell my daughter this. Because I’d model it for her, as I do for my sons, every day. Friendships are the bedrock of a happy life, and at times I wouldn’t have survived without mine. But like all relationships, they need TLC, nurturing and commitment. You get out what you put in. In most cases. Sometimes people will let you down and hurt you but don’t dwell on it, that’s what I’d tell my imaginary daughter. Dust yourself off and invest your time and love into the people who build you up and see your worth. True friends are the family you choose.
Your parents are just doing it because they love you
Who knew your parents actually weren’t trying to ruin your life at 16!? Turns out they were just trying to keep you alive because… you know… they’re obsessed with you.
There’s a different set of concerns when it comes to raising boys and seeing them through the teenage years (wish me luck with that three times over!), but if I had a daughter I’d reinforce how much I loved her before every intervention on outfits, makeup, inappropriate boyfriends, 18-30’s holidays etc etc etc.
The battles me and my mother had when I was 16 are the stuff of legend! I genuinely thought she was out to ruin any vestige of street cred that I had.
Nope, she just really wanted me to you know, stay alive, because she loved me more than anything on earth.
Have a career backup plan
Gosh, I bloody loved musicals as a kid. I loved the stories, the characters, the romance, and the sheer ridiculousness of bursting into song in the middle of the street and nobody batting an eyelid.
And so when at 16 I decided I was off to train at a Musical Theatre school and my mother politely suggested I should possibly do a journalism degree and then if I still loved the ol’ musicals I could go and do a postgrad, I was raging. I mean, as we’ve just discussed in the point above, she was doing it because she loved me and probably because having been a skint single parent she was hyper-aware of point one in this article (Don’t rely on a man for money). I mean, I don’t suppose she knew too many financially stable musical theatre stars in the North East of England.
Anyway, long story short. Mother was right. And if I had a daughter now I’d beg her not to give up on her dreams but to have an academic backup career in place before she pursues them… retraining at 35 with three little kids is hard, that’s what I’d tell her (while she tutted and rolled her eyes at me).