When I see all the teenage mothers queuing aoutside Greggs for babies' breakfast, I feel a great deal of sadness and anger. I think about what our grandmothers and mothers had to fight for in terms of equality, in terms of respect by men, and I see it all thrown away.
My grandmother was a wise old woman, who was definately the Matriarch of the family. You wouldn't ask her to explain the Big Bang theory, but if you wanted to understand human beings she was the one. She was part of a generation that backfilled, like their mothers before them, men's jobs whilst they were away at war. They proved far more than the Suffragettes did (although the political pressure still needed to be applied). They proved that women can do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. They earnt the respect of their menfolk, and it was a major factor in firstly women getting the vote, and although it took 30 years, equal pay for the same job. (Notionally).
Both my mother and grandmother (as did many more of their generation) had jobs and reared children. They were pleased to be able to contribute to the family budget in what little way they could, and they had pride in their work - well my mother did. I think my grandmother was too much one of the girls and found crafty ways of stopping the production line so they could have an extra coffee break. She once got the sack for throwing a chicken out of the window for the hell of it.
It allowed my generation to have aspirations beyond what they did. We believed we could have a career for the first time, even though we still had to fight prejudice. Why did I have to do needlework and cookery rather than the technical drawing that I would much rather have done? My mother taught me to cook, and bake, it was part of mummy daughter time when we were growing up. I didn't need to feel sick with dread every Thursday morning as I dragged my ingredients, sports kit and art shirt to school on my bike, (good timetabling that). I beat my cookery teacher though. She never made me cry. the only one in the class not to do so. I didn't want to take shorthand and typing lessons, as that would mean me ending up as a secretary, I wanted more than that. The careers advice of 'you like figures, go work in a bank', was to reflect the fact that girls left school and within 10 years were married with a baby. Why weren't the girls given advice like' you like figures, be an actuary or accountant'.
I had a dream to be a solicitor, which for reasons of enjoying partying too much in my VIth form, I didn't quite make. Once that was over, I've forged a sort of career, in which I eventually got a great degree of satisfaction, which sadly has disappeared as I've become a wage slave, and soon need to find a new opportunity. I know during that time, I've been paid less than men of the same level within the businesses I've worked in. At interviews I've been asked if I'm married, have a boyfriend, and when I want children. All illegal but how do you prove it. My current job is the first time I've been paid equal to a man in the same position, so I know how hard it is to prove your worth. Anger at work for a woman is seen as 'the wrong time of the month', even though their male counterpart can quite happily shout at the workforce because the dog had chewed the remote that morning.
Generally women still aren't quite there, their better work life balance (they have a house to run, want to see children etc.) is seen as a lack of committment. Smoozing around the boss involves sport - golf, corporate hospitality involves sport. Even with an interest in sport, I have been told by suppliers that my presence would make other men uncomfortable - what do they do there - watch lap dancers? In fact Lap Dancing clubs is another way of excluding women from the little boys clubs. Consequently able women still aren't reaching the top of their profession, as you are often judged on your 'political smoozing' of the boss, usually male who feels more comfortable around men, than your ability to get the job done in your contracted hours. I could go on, but I think the point is made.
When my grandmother was born, women didn't have the vote, when my mother went to work, women were paid a lot less and had careers that excluded them. my generation had career options that had a glass ceiling on, because we were women. Our economic value to society took thousands of years to be realised.
So lets go back to the teenage mum with a baby outside Greggs. She's probably chosen that as a career option. She may not know the dad. She may not want to know him, and the rest of us, including women, will pay through our taxes. One of G's friends has just been caught. Easy done boys, 'of course I'm on the Pill' at the critical moment is good enough for most men, they are hardly likely to stop and say 'show me the packet' are they?' My grandmother's and mother's generation couldn't live with the stigma, they had babies taken off them for adoption, and reduced their chances of marriage. My generation saw it as a way of reducing life's options. This generation see babies as a career option, providing them with a house, and income. No self respect. They don't know the dignity of a job, earning the respect of men as being capable of doing the job, contributing to the family income for nice things that we would all like to have.
Apparently its a human right to have a baby. It's no longer a blessing and a great responsibility, as I was taught, that is the most enjoyable experience in anyone's life. It's a parent's responsibility to teach the child to live, love, work, learn and all the other importnat things in life. It takes two to do that or otherwise it's damned hard work, however pleasurable. Women wanted it all, and in my generation very nearly damn got it. Career, family, lifestyle. Thanks to the hard work and vision of the three generations of women before us. And now I see so many of this generation throw away everything we worked for.
We have a dignity that they will never have. We have self respect, ambition, pride in what we and our children achieve. Feeding a Greggs sausage roll to a toddler won't give them health or teach them how to cook. Not providing a father figure to them won't give them discipline and football practice. Not showing them that you work for the nice things in life will mean that they will always be untapped potential. The one thing that Givernments can't tax is your self respect, and yet it is one of the most important things that you do have.
You have approximately 30 years of healthy productive child bearing years. There is no reason to do it in the first 5 years. enjoy life, have some fun, make something of yourself. ItGet that self respect.
Too Much Too Young - The Specials, talked about being married with a baby too young. Now all young women seem to want is semen.