My mother’s greatest dream was to be a kept woman. Inherently lazy, she didn’t want to work for a living. Instead, she wanted to stay at home, cook dinner and look after her family (all that work in-between reading books, drinking coffee with her friends and telling the domestic help where else to dust and what to plant around the swimming pool).
Growing up, I considered my mother’s lack of ambition outrageous. It was demeaning to our gender, hollow and short-sighted: in case of a divorce, she would have been left with nothing (that’s the way South African law worked at the time), and with no training or experience to find a job.
Consequently, my greatest dream was to be well educated, creative and financially independent. I have all that today. And I wouldn’t want to change it.
But sometimes, when I look up from my writing at 2 in the morning and see the shelves that need dusting, I do wonder whether being Superwoman is worth the price. I can’t remember the last time I did the good things in life like scuba diving or sleep - ok, at least I had some single malt less than 12 hours ago - and that’s when I realise that career + children + 2nd career + housework = burnout.
So what will my daughter learn from my example? What will her greatest dream be? So far, she says she wants to be just like me: a project manager, a writer, a mummy... and she also wants to be some of the things I’m not: like a singer and a dancer.
And I’m extremely tempted to say to her: “No, darling. What you really, really want to be, is a kept woman.”