Monday, October 30, 2006

The First Cut is the Deepest...

Among my many talents (and clearly someone who writes a blog as witty and entertaining as this is very very talented) is a great ability to be clumsy. So much so, that as a child if anything got dropped in our house, my siblings would turn round and chorus, Jane looked at us. Not unnaturally I have dedicated my picture book, The Clumsy Cow to them...

I tell you this to explain how it was that last week, when I was cutting some bread I managed to slice the top of my finger. No, I still don't know how I did it. And to add insult to injury the next day I managed to do it again to another finger.

Anyway finger no 1 bled like a stuck pig, and it took ages to stop the bleeding. Luckily I am not a wuss about these things (that's what comes of having a mother who is a nurse), but in the end I had to enlist Spouse's help to get a plaster on without bleeding to death.

After a few days I thought it had healed up, and forgot about it.

Until Saturday when we went out to sort out tedious domestic tasks. Spouse dumped me by the Insurance Agency we use to pay our buildings insurance while he went off to buy wood (as a man this is of course a vital part of his raison d'etre). Insurance duly having been paid, I toddled off to the bank to pay a cheque in before close of business. En route I inadvertently managed to knock my finger again.

I thought nothing of it (apart from Ouch!) until I noticed a small globule of blood forming on the top of the finger. Damn. I had no tissue on me, and I had given Spouse my last tenner.

I squeezed the finger tight, and held it up to no avail. Within seconds both hands were covered in blood, and I looked like I had just walked off the set of a Tarantino movie.

I dashed into Boots, and grabbed some antiseptic wipes, quick healing plasters and some spray on decoagulant (I didn't know such things existed, but boy was I grateful for them).

The woman in the shop to her eternal credit didn't call the police, but did offer assistance in the form of a tissue. She also offered first aid. Except it was denied by her boss. Apparently Boots staff can't do first aid on their customers. Obvious health and safety issues there...

Anyway, I was by now feeling like a total prat, and just wanted to get my plasters and get the hell out of there.

But oh no. My life can never be simple. I had to use my credit card having no money, and although I was spending the princely sum of £12, thanks to having made two expensive online purchases the previous day my card security was compromised and I found myself (still pouring blood) being ushered to the back of the shop where I held the phone as gingerly as I could and answered some security questions.

It could only happen to me.

By now an interested crowd had gathered around me, and I was feeling more stupid then I probably ever have in my entire life. So it was with great relief that my purchase could be made, and I was finally able to escape.

I used the antiseptic wipes to clean my hands, and managed to get the anti coagulant spray on to stop the bleeding. It was only when I went to put the plaster on I realised in my panic I hadn't bought proper plasters but spray on ones.

And I was too late for the bank.

Still on the upside, my finger has now stopped bleeding and should I commit a heinous crime I expect my finger print has now changed irrevocably and I should get away with it...

PS Caught episode 3 of Torchwood last night and at least there was no gratuitous sex. Captain Jack is turning out rather yummy too. But I think the kids would have been frightened of the ghosts, so it's still a no go for them. They'll just have to make do with watching Dr Who DVDs instead, though No 3 cried buckets at the end of the last episode at the thought of never seeing Rose again. I have a hunch we will see her again - perhaps making her way through the rift in Cardiff and doing a guest spot on Torchwood? Then again, that wouldn't cheer no 3 up, because she definitely won't be watching Torchwood for at least a decade....
Whereas I will. There are advantages to motherhood after all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Talking of Torchwood

... As I mentioned it in passing yesterday. I am going to have a bit of a rant today. Why oh why did they make it for grown ups? No 1 is spitting mad that she can't watch it. I thought perhaps once we'd vetted it, we might let her, but on the evidence of the half of the show I watched, I don't think so.

If you were the other person in the country who didn't see it, the plot revolved around an alien who needed orgasmic energy (they must have had a laugh in their editorial meetings!) to sustain itself. Consequently it had infiltrated a girl who was going round shagging everyone. And turning them into little piles of dust afterwards (as you do) - a novel way of ending a relationship...

Not only that said nymphomaniac also got to snog the lead female (as I missed the beginning I'm not yet up to speed with all the characters yet) - which frankly was gratuitous as it turned out that the orgasmic energy thing only worked with blokes.

Now call me a reactionary old bat (it's ok I know what I am), but how much of this was strictly necessary? I can see that the makers of Dr Who might have got fed up with the inevitable restrictions from working on a show for kids. And I don't mind sex on tv if it advances the story, but quite frankly this didn't. They could easily have the alien feeding off another kind of energy - how about mobile phones for example? - or even as Spouse said they could have done the same thing with snogging. SF films are full of aliens who kiss the life force out of their prey - it could have worked here and still been suitable for small children.

The thing that really really peeves me about this, is that Dr Who is a fabulous intergenerational watching experience, and as a family we all sit down on a Saturday to watch it together (so far Robin of the Hood hasn't quite matched up) - and all the kids know about Torchwood. Russell T Davies and the Beeb must have known that they would want to watch it. It seems like shooting yourself in the foot to cut off half your audience like that. Never mind that up and down the country parents are cursing him for depriving their offspring.

I think that is an act of breathtaking arrogance to stamp on the dreams of half their audience like this. If it was another section of the population, think of the outcry. But kids? That's ok, they don't count. The fact that said kids will grow up to be potentially lifelong fans should be exercising the good folk at the Beeb. You stamp on their dreams at your peril.

No 1 is so cross she has even sent Russell Davies a letter about it, as she thinks this is majorly unfair.

And she is right.

I'm not going to let her know that simply by going to the website she can watch again... So it's actually going to be hard to prevent kids from watching it if we're not careful. (OK so she has parental controls on her account, but what's to prevent her logging onto mine and working it out. She's a savvy kid. I'm sure it won't take her long).

I am also sure there are parents who won't be as scrupulous about letting kids watch Torchwood as I am. But it really really isn't suitable.

And I think that is a great pity. Because with a little tweaking it could so easily be perfectly ok for Dr Who's younger fans, and I think it's shortchanging them to have left them out like this.

I will still be watching.

But I wish the kids could be sitting next to me when I do...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding Through the Glen

After our debacle of a holiday in France/Germany this summer Spouse and I felt a little pampering was in order for half term. Sadly Spouse has used up all his holiday, so a little pampering was all it could be. However, something being better then nothing, I duly went online a few weeks back to search for that elusive thing - a weekend break in a hotel, that was a) affordable and b) practical for a family of six. A cunning friend put me on to Hilton Hotels who are running a series of breaks which amazingly fulfil both criteria. Not only that, but for the first time ever we got a family room with a connecting door ensuite (normally we're all cramped in together, which is why we don't often stay in hotels...).

So, the next dilemma was our destination. Given that the offspring are still severely anti castle following out last trip en famille, I had to discount Warwick, even though Spouse and I both really want to go there. I thought about Bath, but that too, is too full of old ruins to be very attractive. In the end, hearing via one of my writing friends that Nottingham Castle was holding a reenactment weekend featuring none other then Robin of the Hood (the tv version holding up fairly well in this house as a substitute for Dr Who), that seemed like as good a destination as any. I figured (rightly) that no 1, who is more anti castle then the rest, might be persuaded to go to one where she got to see jousting. I also had the ace up my sleeve that my sister and her offspring live not too far away and arranging for the cousins to be there, proved a master stroke.

My friend was slightly concerned that we would bring the rain with us - given that it was pouring here on Friday, I not unnaturally shared her concerns. However, fortunately the sun came out late on Friday afternoon. Spouse managed to get off early, we picked the sprogs up from school and off we set. Of course the M25 being what it is, we then sat in a traffic jam for the best part of two hours. But luckily we had Chris Evans' All Request Friday to keep us going. So that was all right then.

Getting into Nottingham itself was something of a trial, however. I had downloaded some instructions from one of those online mapping companies. Which is all well and good, but of course, they lack any kind of discretionary input, and you don't get any sensible instructions like, turn left after the second set of traffic lights. Instead we were looking for the slip road, before the roundabout and managed to miss it - not knowing precisely which roundabout the computer meant. I am never ever going to get sat nav...

Luckily our Road Atlas had a city plan of Nottingham. And I realised were heading along the south side of the square we needed to be on. Great, all we had to do was turn left and left again, and we should hit the road we were after.

Unluckily, we missed the tiny left turn we were after.

Luckily I could see if we kept going on the road we were on, we could get round the back of a shopping centre and hit the right road.

Unluckily, our map ran out round the back of said shopping centre, so we had to follow our noses to get to the right place.

Luckily we managed it and the road we were on was meant to turn into the road our hotel was on.

Unluckily it didn't. Or rather it did, but we weren't allowed to enter it.

Luckily I found another way round.

Unluckily, I forgot to tell Spouse to turn right at the correct moment.

By now we weren't speaking, and no 4 was desperate for the loo. After heading several miles in the opposite direction, we found our way again, reached the road we were after, only to discover we couldn't turn up it. Spouse managed to do an illegal U-turn, to get to the road we were after, and finally, hey presto we had arrived at our destination. Phew.

It's been over ten years since I was last in Nottingham and it's changed a bit...

Anyway, once that stress was over, everything else was great. The kids had a huge room and we had the bliss of one next door.We got a wonderful meal for nothing as part of our deal - and for once the kids got offered something more substantial and healthy then chicken nuggets and chips. Eat your heart out Jamie....

The next morning we had a huge breakfast, before going for a stroll. We were so excited by the sight of a Primarks (we don't have one near us) we had to go for a bit of shop. Which is how our children have all ended up with hooded jackets/puffa jackets. Oh dear. We have four little chavs now. But at least they were warm...

Then it was back to the hotel for a quick swim before meeting my bil, sister and their five sprogs at the castle.

The sun amazingly shone all day, so we were able to enjoy the jousting and other events around Robin Hood's life. The kids enjoyed cheering Robin and booing Guy of Gisborne and the sheriff - no 2 enjoyed it all so much she kept accosting all the actors, who must have been soooo glad that they came and stood by our section of the stands....

Hats off to the organisers. It was a great day out. And we were rewarded at the end of it by the sight of our offspring joining in a group of Dutch mediaeval singers who roped them in to play instruments. Between my sister and I we managed to provide about half the children...

I was also rewarded by meeting in the flesh my efriend, Elizabeth Chadwick, who had told me all about it. She was busy slaving over a cooking pot while we were enjoying ourselves, but it was great to meet her.

The two big ones went to stay the night with my sister, while we tried to persuade the little ones that the Sheriff of Nottingham had kept them prisoners till the morning, so they wouldn't feel left out. No 3 wasn't at all convinced by this and rumbled us as we got to the hotel. She had worked out that her sisters were with her cousins, but assumed they were all back at the hotel. Which of course they weren't. The inevitable It's Not Fair! scene ensued, before we managed to pacify her with the end of Robin Hood. Despite entertaining some misgivings about the series still, I did think the best line of the programme had to go to Keith Allen. When one of the character said I shot the sheriff, Keith appeared from the shadows to say, no you shot the deputy. Well it made me laugh...

No 3 was further satisfied with the promise of more swimming so by the time we got to my sister's yesterday she was completely pacified, so we didn't feel too guilty.

We had a lovely relaxing afternoon before heading off in the rain home. Sadly our journey was horribly slow, ensuring we missed the beginning of Torchwood, but, still. It was better then driving 150 miles and putting up a tent in the pouring rain....

Tuning into Wogan this morning I heard the very sad news of Paul Walters untimely death. Like thousands of people up and down the country I am sure I am not alone in mourning the loss of this wonderfully talented man. Mornings just won't be the same again. Hats off to the magnificent Terry Wogan and his team, for pulling off such a wonderfully moving tribute to Pauly without the slightest mawkishness, and much great humour. I'm sure he'd have loved it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

That Pesky Glass Ceiling

I'm not usually given to polemic on this blog, the purpose of which is entirely selfish. It allows me to let off steam about the madness of my everyday life and gives my writerly ego a boost when someone strays across it and kindly writes me an email. Every writer is at heart a huge egotist. We want people to read the pearls of our wisdom, otherwise there is No Point...

Anyway, as usual I digress.

I have been engaging in a friendly discussion with a good friend recently about the way parenthood affects the lives of women, and what happens to their careers when it does. We started off in the personal, but some of the things he said to me started to make me think of the problem in its wider context. And this week several things I have read in the paper made me think even harder.

The first was an article Mary Kenny wrote in The Daily Telegraph about the survey that Women's Hour did which seemed to suggest that the majority of twenty somethings were keen to settle down and have children, and women were turning their backs on highflying careers. Her response to this was that it proves that women are incapable of being leaders and cannot go against nature. The reason not enough of us have broken through the glass ceiling is because our nature prevents us. In effect - we just aren't up to it.

What????? Did I just miss something or did feminism never happen? I can think of a whole host of women who have succeeded in making it to the top: Anita Roddick, Cherie Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Helena Kennedy, to name but a few. I also take huge issue with her assertion that women are only interested in local politics/politics of the family. I'm sorry, Mary, but that just ain't true. Or certainly not for me anyway. If anything I've become more politicised since I've been at home with the sprogs. For a start I'm listening to the radio all day/or online so am always up to date with the news. And while I cheerfully admit my early morning listening eschews Today (too bloody miserable for words) in favour of El Tel (he cheers me up in the morning, ok?), courtesy of Messrs Mayo and Vine I usually get some good pithy analysis of what's going on in the world, so I have developed some healthy bolshy opinions as a result.

Apart from this inducing a coffee cup moment, there were aspects of her argument I agreed with. I have learnt the hard way you can't have it all, and certainly it is my experience that many many talented and brilliant women walk away from their careers to nurture their children. I am in the middle of a fascinating book by Professor Tim Spector who runs the Twins Unit at St Thomas' entitled, Your Genes Unzipped. I am clearly no expert on genetics, but from what I've read Mary Kenny is probably right, nature does come into it somewhere. Women are programmed to be nurturers and men are programmed to be hunter gatherers - society has changed, but our basic natures haven't. However, in the same book, Professor Spector also points out that it is a relatively new phenomenon for women to stay at home and raise their young, and there are plenty of societies where women did both and were treated as equal partners.

The second article I read (sorry also in the Torygraph. If I wasn't so lazy I would read more then one paper, but lack of time means I just read what Spouse brings home) - seemed to be saying something different. It claimed that scores of middle class professionals are delaying parenthood till they are financially settled, and that when they do get there, they spend a fortune on expensive techie equipment to keep tabs on their nannies at home. I did think the woman who had a webcam through which she could communicate with her nanny whenever she wanted had a point - it keeps her in touch and aware of problems at home without her having to dash back at the slightest crisis. She gets to see her children (if only via a technological link), the kids get to hear from Mummy in the day and the nanny has a back up if things go wrong.

However, if people are employing the technology to spy on their nannies then that is bonkers. If you can't bear to entrust your child to someone else then you shouldn't be at work. I have been enormously lucky with my childcare. My first childminder was someone I knew well, who happened to have a baby at the same time as I am. I went back to work comfortable in the knowledge that no1 was not only well cared for, she had a friend to play with too. In fact ten years later they are still best friends. I then had a wonderful nanny, who only left me last year when no 4 went to nursery. I am lucky enough to work from home, but even had I not, I would have trusted her implicitly. If I hadn't trusted either of them, I simply wouldn't have let them look after my children. Admittedly we can all get it wrong, but the majority of childminders and nannies are not child abusers - and I think instincts are a powerful thing. If you aren't sure, don't employ them would be my motto...

The third report I read this week is the quite staggering notion that teenage girls who are pregnant are smoking to keep their babies small, and ensure they have easy labours.

What???? Again another coffee cup moment. Actually, it turns out (well according to all the midwives who rang in the Jeremy Vine programme the other day) this one is as old as the hills. Teenage girls have apparently always done this. But surely we are talking about the Vicky Pollards of this world, here. Not all of them can be that stupid can they?

So there you have it the media stories of the week focussing on parenthood, all of which are ever so slightly contradictory.

1) Everyone is opting to settle down and have babies in their mid twenties, and women are forgoing a high flying career
2) Everyone is opting to have babies later and waiting till they are financially secure and women are carrying on with their high flying careers.
3) Everyone is actually saying sod that for a game of soldiers, I am having my babies when I'm young and smoking myself to death to retain my figure....


All of that makes for a great story in the press, but I wonder really what the truth is.

Twenty years ago I was in the middle of my university degree, reading English at Liverpool University. Through a wonderful tutor I had embarked on a discovery of hitherto unknown women writers, and my sensibilities were being awoken to feminism. The further discovery that my grandmother had had a place at Liverpool also to read English, but been unable to take it up because her father didn't believe in education for women, set light a burning ambition in me, to make the most of what I had been given.

At 21 of course I wasn't thinking about any of this. Did I but know it I had already met my future husband and the father of my babies. But it was the last thing on our minds. I think we'd have both run a mile if anyone had shown us a crystal ball of the future. As it says in the song, we were much to young to consider that kind of thing and were concentrating on having fun instead.

Once real life hit and we were fending for ourselves in the big bad world, we were too busy paying off a mortgage and getting established in our careers to consider parenthood as something we were prepared to get into just yet.

My friend reckons parenthood was anathema to us, but the truth was more complicated then that.

We both always wanted children, but having watched a couple we knew as students get bogged down with babies far too young, we weren't at all inclined to follow them. Plus when we did get married (in our mid twenties - much younger then nearly all our university contemporaries) we indulged in a DIY project to end all DIY projects. Bringing a baby into the equation at that point, would have been quite frankly disastrous, both financially and physically. The house was full of dust for about three years. (So OK, not too dissimilar from our life in our current abode, which has been an ongoing DIY project for ten years, but at least we have more rooms to escape too).

I will admit to having a fear of domesticity (which thanks to my feminist readings were not totally unfounded) . I perceived (and I don't think I was too far off the mark in this) it as a trap. Women get to stay at home and have the babies, and men are still out there in the world doing the interesting stuff. (My friend here, I know will disagree - he thinks motherhood is where the power is at, and that all men do is strut around and puff about. ) I was also terrified of the prospect of labour. I blame a rather gruesome video I watched when I was at school in which I can remember the poor mother screaming her head off. I found the sight of the bloody crumpled baby appalling - anything less miraculous and beautiful I couldn't imagine - and I wasn't at all sure I ever wanted that to happen to me...

So when friends of ours started to have babies, I admit I did panic. I saw them enter a new phase in their lives and was desperately paddling against a current which seemed to be sweeping me over the edge of a precipice into a world where I was not yet prepared to go.

At the same time I was forging ahead with a career I loved. I was editing manuscripts by the time I was 26, which at the time was quite young to be an editor. I was having fun in a busy work environment, and wasn't yet ready to give up the freedoms it offered me.

I don't know how long I would have kept this up. Nature, as Mary Kenny rightly points out, will out. And I come from a large family, very much orientated towards children. My siblings were starting to have babies, as were my friends. My fears about childbirth, the responsibility of having children, my subsequent loss of freedom notwithstanding, eventually I was going to start thinking about it too.

In the end I was catapulted into my decision. Work stopped being fun and my father died rather suddenly just before my 30th birthday. All my reasons for not wanting children suddenly seemed superfluous. Within three months of my father's death I was pregnant. Looking back I can see this was not the most rational decision I have ever made, and I probably wasn't ready to be a mother. But then who is? And now I'm glad I didn't wait till my late thirties. I've been lucky enough to have four healthy babies - I don't know how different it might have been had I started out later. And without that catastrophic event pushing me over the precipice, whose to say I wouldn't have teetered on the edge until it was too late?

We might all be anxious about entering the state of parenthood, but I doubt one of us ever regrets it.

At this stage it never ever occurred to me (in fact it wasn't an issue at all as far as I was concerned), that I wouldn't go back to work. I had worked hard in publishing for ten years. Why should I give all that up to have a baby? Plus we had just taken on a new mortgage. We couldn't actually afford for me not to be at work.

Some months ago I posted about the joy of the day no 1 was born. Everything I wrote about it is true. But what I didn't write about was my subsequent feelings of failure and despondency in the months following her birth.

We all have huge expectations when we become parents. We wonder what our babies will look like. We assume we will love them. For women, we hope the labour will be short and easy. The truth of course is that, until it happens to us, we don't know how we will feel.

As I mentioned previously, my labour with no1 was long, protracted and extremely painful. (I thought I was being a wimp, until I had no 4, also induced, and discovered that one lot of prostin ups the anti - and with no 1 I had three). I was induced, had an episiotomy, forceps and stitches. It was a far cry from the lovely natural experience I had hoped for after my ante-natal NCT classes. When she came out (memories of that ghastly video resurfacing no doubt) I didn't actually want to hold her till she was cleaned up. In fact I didn't get to hold her straightaway anyway, as thanks to the length of the labour a paediatrician was on hand to check her out (I was too drugged up to appreciate the significance of this at the time, it is only now I go cold at the thought of what might have happened).

When I was eventually left alone in a room with her, I didn't know what to do. My baby started to cry and I couldn't reach her, the effects of the epidural having not worn off meant I couldn't walk. I had sent Spouse home as he needed to sleep, and the midwives had got busy and presumably forgotten that I needed to go back to the maternity ward. I was hungry and tired and when no 1 was eventually brought to me, she latched on hungrily, noisily and painfully to my breast. It was a thoroughly miserable experience.

I am no earth mother, and for me, breastfeeding was a nightmare. My nipples were sore and cracked, I leaked all over the place. I felt like a milk cow. It was ghastly. My sisters all relished the experience, but I couldn't wait to get my body back and it was with great relief that at six weeks no 1 happily took to a bottle and I could look forward to getting back to normal.

I was hopelessly naive of course. Normal had gone. My life as it had been was over, and a new one was just beginning. But I didn't realise that at the time.

I spent most of my maternity leave, longing to return to work. Although I semi enjoyed the baby, I was frustrated by the lack of responses I got from her - newborn babies are pretty boring frankly, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying (in fact I think there is a huge culture of lying that goes on when women becomes mothers. No one, but no one wants to admit it isn't a perfect experience). I couldn't understand how my days were so unfocussed, and would pass in a daze of changing nappies and feeding. I longed to get back to my desk and have some kind of control.

And I was also harbouring a guilty secret. I didn't actually love my baby. Or at least not in the sense I imagined I would. Other people I knew spoke of a rush of mother love when they held their babies for the first time. It never happened to me. I was euphoric, but my main feeling was thank God that's over. I didn't even mind when they took her away from me. I had strong feelings of tenderness towards her, and felt a ferocious protectiveness, but love? I can honestly say I didn't love her. How can you love a blob?

What kind of a mother was I? Surely everyone loves their babies? I felt a failure. So I wanted to be back somewhere where I had been a success.

For me going back to work was therefore a huge relief. Spouse was the one who had a pang the first day he took no 1 to the childminder. Me? I was just pleased to get my life back.

Clearly, looking back I was suffering some kind of postnatal depression, but I think more then that, I was experiencing a disappointment that many first time mums feel. I grew in time to love my baby, but I also had to get to know her. I don't think there is anything wrong or unnatural in that. I can even pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with her. She was nine months old and had just learnt to play peekaboo with a blanket. Spouse and I (who were in the middle of a totally nightmarish family crisis at the time) stood and looked at her for hours as she hid behind a blanket grinning and giggling, a little oasis of joy in the middle of much misery.

From that moment on, my feelings towards parenthood changed. I still resented the loss of my freedom (and ten years on I chafe at the fact that I can never just get up and go somewhere without reference to other people), but the truth was, my work life was not getting any better and having no1 at home to escape to was a blessed relief.

So when I fell pregnant with no 2 and work was becoming stressful beyond belief, I took the decision to bow out of the race I had been in so long. I hadn't even bumped the surface of the glass ceiling, and it took a long long time to get over a feeling that I hadn't achieved my full potential, but I also didn't want to miss out on my children growing up. We only get one shot at it, and I didn't want their memories to be of Mummy never being around. I can still remember the secure feeling I used to get when I walked through the door after a school day and my mother would be calmly sewing in a corner. I wanted to give that to my own offspring. (Not sure they get much calmness, but they do have me...)

Of course, as everything in life, this comes with a price. In order to be at home, I have had to say farewell to my glittering career. I have looked on enviously as others, younger, brighter, more ambitious then I have taken my place, then overshot me. I have chafed at doing tedious often poor paying freelance work (though of late fortunately that has improved), and been bored rigid by the drudgery of domesticity.

But for all that I have been blessed with the opportunity of watching my children grow, and much as I might bitch about it, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. And though I have been hanging onto my career by my fingernails, I have just about held on and now I can start looking outward again and think about facing the world once more. I've lost ten years it's true, but what I have gained has been incomparable.

So going back to Mary Kenny, maybe she is right. Maybe I didn't ever have what it takes to get to the top. But I think the truth is perhaps not so black and white. I was certainly ambitious enough and capable enough of getting much higher. But I have a feeling, even had I got there and forgone children, I would now be looking around and saying So What? I know plenty of men my age who think similarly. I also think, certainly in my industry, which is very female orientated, there is a huge brain drain that goes on once women start to have babies. Of the ten or so talented women I worked closely with a decade ago, only a couple still work full time in the industry, and they don't have children. That can't be a good thing, surely. The men get to the top in publishing by default, not because they are better then us. On the other hand, I do know career women who work crazy hours, hardly see their children, are knackered and stressed beyond belief in order to break through the elusive glass ceiling. And so many men I know complain about not seeing enough of their children. That is just plain bonkers.

Maybe the next generation have got it right and are focussing on the right things. We are genetically programmed to mate and procreate. Everything else is mere chaff. But then I look at all those teenagers and despair - do they not have any ambition or hope for doing something other then produce a child they can't afford to care for? After all any idiot can have a baby... That can't be right either.

The truth is out there, somewhere. But I suspect it is slightly more complicated then Ms Kenny would have us believe. My generation has been one of the first to have the choice about when we have our babies and how we deal with our careers when we do. We have in lots of ways got it very badly wrong, and maybe the younger generation is quite rightly stomping into tell us so. Maybe they will learn from our mistakes and get it right. Maybe.

Or maybe they'll just make mistakes all their own.