The Glass Ceiling and the Brick Wall

Allelujah! There are others out there that have never heard of the Sandwich Years! I shared this concept with some wonderful new friends I have made at the new school my son has started and they were as fascinated as I was…

I was with a group of highly talented, educated professional Mums… A lawyer, interior designer from London, fashion designer/marketer and academic all with glowing careers… all married to highly successful men – professor, consultant, director, etc.

So what do I mean by professional Mum’s… they are professionals both in their field and as a Mum. And here is the sandwich again… Can you be the whole sandwich – the professional and the Mum? Where does the wife bit come in? Friend? It is sounding now more like a club sandwich?

Can you be the club sandwich all at once? Can a woman have it all is the cliché question? I heard one clever answer ‘yes – but not all at the same time’.

And here is the dilemma – the discussion point over countless posh coffees and herbal teas. The brave pioneering women in history before us, fought for women to have the same rights to work, be successful, have a voice, a say on how we wish society to be… to stand alongside men in the church, in business as equals.

We are highly educated in physics, maths, languages, business and everything we need to be at the top of the corporate ladder. Told we can do anything, be anything and smash through the ‘glass ceiling’ that has been talked about and theorized in so many of the books I read at university.

We leave having children until later and later in to our 30’s and sometimes 40’s, focused on the top levels of leadership to prove we are the equals of men. We leave our children with nannies and after school clubs…. Glued to a blackberry, android or apple device ensuring we respond within a nanosecond to any crisis, text, email or joke… wafting away a small child desperate for our attention. We socialize and network, for we can’t feel like we can say we have children at home to kiss good night, husbands to nuture and cook for, for fear of missing out, missing out on that connection, that opportunity for a discussion with someone who could mean a promotion, a step up to that dizzy height where we will feel accomplished and prove our teachers/parents proud.

I am guilty of this.

Or I was.

It took a few wake up calls before I made a choice. A decision.

A wonderful friend, mentor and boss with cancer to make me realize that if that happened to me I would regret the time in the office rather than time with my boys. There are other triggers, still too painful to write about…

I am no 50’s housewife… but I made a decision to put my family first. Let my corporate career take a back seat. And so have these wonderful women I sip coffee with. We have all found new ways in which to feel a challenge, have a purpose, give value, fill our time so that we do have an identity (rather than Mrs ‘X’, wife to Mr ‘X’), so that we can still tip our hats at the women who gave us our ‘freedom from the kitchen sink’ rights. At the same time, provide a calm, safe, loving environment for both children and our men. Is this the new sense of accomplishment… ?

In the words of Oprah, ‘what I know for sure’, there is only one life for us all and it can be cut short by physical or mental illness… our children mature, age, grow up quickly… so quickly. We only have a few summers before our boys will no longer want to be seen with us! So the time I have here will be with the ones I love, the ones I cherish… not in a boardroom or a fancy restaurant… but being Mrs Taxi to and from school, swimming, football, rugby… being a wife that’s good, caring, attentive and interested…

But I will be more too, my 1970’s and 80’s programming is still in tact… Along with countless other successful women, I will find new ways to prove that I continue to be man’s equal, find new flexible ways to feel accomplished outside of corporate environments and outside of the home….

Are we a new band of women who will change the shape of society, improve on it once again… Are we the generation that will show the future generations how to have balance between creating harmony between earning a living and living a life? Is there such a thing or will we learn to be at peace living in a beautiful chaos of all the different threads of life?

Another thing I know for sure, is that women of today are lucky. Incredibly lucky to have the choice.  The choice to decide their future, their success, their happiness… to make their own club sandwich with whatever filling they want it in….

But I have never seen a sophisticated, elegant women put a big club sandwich in their mouth all at once..

PS…The brick wall….It seems that once someone goes in to the NHS mental health care scheme, they go behind one. Thinking of you Mumbo… Please know I keep ringing to ask about you…. But no one can give me answers.

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