Flo la vita

Social commentary and think pieces

Everything I know about love - Dolly Alderton

Despite the hype surrounding Dolly Alderton's memoir Everything I know About Love, it was a book I was reluctant to buy. Having never read a memoir prior to reading Dolly's I had a preconceived idea that, as a genre, memoirs would be overly self-indulgent and come from a slightly narcissistic perspective.

However, Everything I Know About Love very much proved my assumptions wrong. I absolutely loved the book. In fact, its the first book I've read in a long time that I would be able to honestly describe as 'unputdownable'.

The book centres around female friendship, making the clear point that sometimes the platonic relationships you have with females are often just as valuable (if not more valuable) that the relationships you have with romantic partners.
The strong focus on Dolly and Farly's friendship and the extent of their closeness reminded me to appreciate the female friendships I already have, and strive to make more.

Dolly's ability to make the reader really feel the emotions of what's going on in the book is something to be admired. The chapter 'Florence' especially was evident of her talent of engaging the reader in her world and feelings, leaving me in floods of tears.

My only criticism would be that it got embarrassingly corny towards the end.
 Whilst the actual message in these particular chapters was a good one, I found the "I am my own universe, a galaxy, a solar system" narrative uncomfortable at times purely because it could come across as a bit preachy or similar to a self-help book at times. Maybe thats just the nature of a memoir, I don't know.

Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The emphasis on the importance of female friendships really stood out to me and spurred me to be more appreciative of my own.

Notes on a nervous planet - Matt Haig

In Notes on a nervous planet, Matt Haig explores the impacts social media, news and consumerism has on our mental health.
Not only does he look at the impacts and why these things impact our mental health and our society, He also treats the book as a guide on how to not let the digital age take over, and how to prioritise mental wellbeing in a world that almost seems designed to tip you over the edge.

The book had many strong messages on social media. Matt Haig very much drew attention to some of the harsh realities of the digital world, whilst also praising the positive impacts the internet has had on society, too. Despite occasionally coming across as a little self-indulgent, I think the personal experiences shared in the book made it all the more relatable and added to the emphasis of the importance of remaining humane in a world so ridden with technology.

"We still aren't immortal. All these products aiming to make us look younger and glowing and less death-like aren't addressing the root problem. They can't actually make us younger. Clarins and Clinique have produced a ton of anti-ageing creams and yet the people who use them are still going to age. They are just - thanks in part to the billion-dollar marketing campaigns aimed at making us ashamed of wrinkles and lines and ageing - a bit more worried about it. The pursuit of looking young accentuates the fear of growing old. So maybe if we embraced growing old, embraced our wrinkles and other people's wrinkles, maybe marketers would have less fear to work with and magnify."

- From the chapter 'Unhappy beauties'.

How to fail - Elizabeth Day

Based on the hit podcast How to fail with Elizabeth Day, Elizabeth Day's book 'How to fail' explores her personal failures - failing to fit in at school, failing to conceive, and failing to recognise her own worth both in the workplace and in her romantic relationships- and how these 'failures' have very much impacted her successes, and in some cases led her to her biggest achievements. 

Part memoir, part manifesto, the book focuses heavily on both the failures and success of Elizabeth Day herself and those of her podcast guests, who include the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Dolly Alderton and Sebastian Faulks. 

The book was full of wisdom and reassurance. In particular, the last chapter 'How to fail at success' in which Day shares James Frey's straightforward yet impactful mantra: it is what it is - a mantra that I have spent years repeating to myself when the inevitable occurs. 

How to fail has been the first book I've read in a long time that I can genuinely find no fault with. The memoir aspect of the book wasn't at all self-indulgent, as memoirs often can be - likely because there was also focus on the failures of her podcast guests. 

The ending was particularly impactful, reiterating the message of the book, with the last sentence being "After all: it just is what it is."

Few things stand as prominent and consuming in the mind of a young girl as friendship.  
In your primary school years those platonic relationships are far more likely measured in quantity rather than quality and with cliques being a regular occurrence, the dynamic of female friendship groups are often seen as the most important things in the minds of pre-pubescent girls. It certainly seemed soul consuming to me.

Being a shy child in a primary school class largely dominated by much louder, confident characters, friendship was something I very much struggled with. Being much quieter than the rest of my class automatically made me less heard, and the typical school dynamic didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. 
My best friend  - lets call her Sophie - was a particularly confident character, and one who was very much put on a pedestal by the rest of the girls in the class. She was heavily admired and ultimately that resulted in her becoming the ring leader of the friendship group.

Among the girls in this group there was a particular mentality that was shared between them all; they were all desperate to be Sophie’s favourite. Every one of them was as desperate as the next to win her approval and to a certain extent I think I was too. 
We’d go to extremes to be deemed her best friend and would often take to ripping each other to shreds just to be liked by her. And, as you would expect, that made it a particularly unhealthy group to be a part of. 

The question that I ask myself now, looking back, is why I was drawn to that group? The answer is simple; I had limited choice in friends. 
Primary school - and secondary school for that matter - have such strange dynamics in comparison to the outside world. At that time, it very much felt to me as though my only option would be to be considered an outcast or be friends with those deemed popular, and ultimately make life easier for myself. My intense insecurity meant that I chose to be a part of this abhorrent group simply because it was easier than being on my own. 

Thats not to say I didn’t try to make new friends. I did. 
When things within the group and with Sophie became extreme. When she was bullying others or when she was bullying me, I would take to forcing myself into other groups. 
I spent a long time in Primary School trying to convince four girls that girls bands with five members did exist so that they would let me hang out with them whilst they did ‘band rehearsals’ - this mostly consisted of singing Little Mix songs from printed out lyrics, behind the trees in the playground. 
Whilst I felt more valued in that friendship group, it transpired that we had very little in common and within a week I was making a crappy excuse for why I could no longer partake in ‘band rehearsals’ and rekindling my friendship with Sophie. 

By this point Sophie had lost a lot of friends. The group of girls who had once admired her so was slowly but surely reducing in size. 
This would have been the perfect time for me to call it quits on the friendship, but I didn’t. 
Because the difference between my relationship with Sophie and the other girls relationship with Sophie was that Sophie was my best friend. Not only was she my best friend but I was hers - probably because I was the only person who didn’t deem her more important than myself.
We went on family holidays together to Cornwall, we put on plays for our parents every time we were at each others houses (usually something Shakespearian - we were classy like that), we spent many a day in Brent Cross Shopping Centre buying clothes and art supplies. We even attempted to make our own DIY tutorials for youtube. 
We knew almost everything about each other, which was why I found the situation so difficult; I was torn.

She could be a really manipulative person, both to me and others who she considered ‘easy targets' and in being friends with her I gained myself a reputation based on her actions simply because people assumed I was the same. 

 I distinctly remember the upset and confusion I felt all those lunch times when for no particular reason her and the rest of the group would run away from me, and hide behind the trees. Being the confused, and slightly naive eight year old I was, I ran after them whilst they ran away in fits of laughter. Somehow, it never occurred to me that maybe Sophie wasn’t as good a friend as I had fooled myself into believing she was.

Despite all of this, I was one of the only people to really know Sophie. I mean, really know her.
I was the only person who had seen her cry, with exception of her immediate family. And, in knowing her so well it was clear to me that the manipulative side of her was very much a front. It was a mask she put on when she felt vulnerable, to hide her insecurities. The more she relied on that mask as her safety blanket, the less she was able to cope with her insecurities without it and the more manipulative she became. It all came out of her own sadness.

To this day, I don’t know what caused her to feel that immense amount of self-hatred. Perhaps, the fact that she was so heavily idolised by so many girls? That’s bound to come with pressure. Or, as many people have since said; she just isn't happy in her own skin.

Underneath all of this, she was a really nice person. Underneath that mask was the person who was really my best friend. 
Thats why I didn't initially identify the friendship as toxic. Because I was so torn between the real her and the front she put on.

However, once we started secondary school the situation worsened. Or, more likely, the pressure of starting a new school made Sophie’s insecurities worsen and so she was even more dependent on the manipulative front as her safety blanket, making her nastier. 
In this period, the manipulation towards me and others deemed an ‘easy target’ escalated from petty comments to fully fledged bullying.
I was particularly vulnerable to this because in the past I had been a loyal friend to her in spite of the way she treated me, because like I said, I knew the real her and I was aware that the way she had treated me was just a part of that front. 
Because of the way I had reacted to her in the past, she had the idea she could treat me any way she wanted and I would willingly stick around. 

But, by this point I was better at calling her out. I no longer hesitated to stand up for myself - something I had never done before despite knowing that what she was doing was beyond unacceptable. 

An occasion that sticks in mind was a time in the canteen when she and the rest of the group started to shout continuously at a girl in the year above simply because she was wearing a blue headband that Sophie didn’t like. In fact, it wasn't even that Sophie didn’t like the headband (she had bought it herself about two years prior to this on one of our many trips to Brent Cross) it was because the girl in the year above was someone who would be considered an outcast and that made her an easy target to Sophie, who needed to put others down in order to feel good about herself.
So, I said something. Partly because it was so obviously a horrible thing for them to do and partly because I was mortified to be seen with them whilst they were behaving in this way (though evidently not as mortified as the poor girl they were shouting at). 
I told them to stop what they were doing (it didn’t work ) and I then approached the girl they were shouting at to apologise for what had happened. 

When I returned to the table, the conversation had taken a turn and instead they were talking about how terrible a person I was, rather than how terrible the other girl was. 
In the end, one of the nicer girls - who I suspect much like me, didn't enjoy being a part of the group but also didn't know where else to go - asked me if I wanted to go outside, leaving the rest of them behind. I did. 

We walked around the playground, talking about what had just happened. We ended up confiding a lot in each other. I told her how I really felt about the group and she ended up admitting that she too wasn’t the biggest fan of Sophie.

Our heart-to-heart was interrupted by the bell, signalling our last lesson of the day, where outside the classroom they continued to shout at me. It all became a bit much and, feeling the tears building up in my eyes, I turned a walked to the toilets where I burst into tears. This lasted a mere thirty seconds before I told myself to get it together, turned and left, returning to Geography.

When I emerged from the toilets, puffy eyed and mascara streaming down my cheeks, Sophie approached and followed behind me down the corridor, asking me if I was okay after what everyone had just done, but never once acknowledging the fact that she was very much involved.
I turned to her and told her what I thought. I told her that she was the ringleader and that she was the one who had started it, so not to shift the blame onto everyone else. 

That was when the friendship significantly changed. From then on we grew further and further apart and that year, for the first time in seven years, I didn’t invite her to my birthday.
Instead, I invited two better friends to Brighton for the day. I didn’t tell Sophie I was going. Instead, took her out to dinner the Wednesday of my actual birthday, so that she felt we’d celebrated in some way at least. But, I wanted to go to Brighton without her so I could be certain that I would enjoy myself.
However, walking across Brighton pier, my phone pinged.I looked to find a passive aggressive text from her, saying she hoped I had a good time in Brighton. And just like that I was sent into a frenzy of panic, wondering wether or not she would be angry that I hadn’t invited her. In fact, I think at some point I apologised for doing it without her. 

The friendship continued for another year or so - despite the fact that I spent almost every evening crying over how much I hated the group dynamic -  until another occasion similar to that of the one with the girl in the year above took pace and I could no longer stand being around her.
But, I even failed to leave the friendship on my own. I had to make it their decision somehow, despite it being clear to everyone that I wasn’t happy in the group.
It was the sort of situation where you do the unexpected. When you feel something so strongly that without thought, you just say what you’ve so long wanted to say. And so I did. I told them that if they didn't want me to be their friend then I would much rather them just say so, rather than being so nasty to me. “Fine, fuck off then” one of them said. And so I did. Gladly.

With exception of a small group of friends I had at the beginning of Primary school (a group that very much proved that three really is a crowd) I’d never been good friends with anyone else but Sophie. 
Sophie and I had been best friends for the best part of ten years almost exclusively, so biting the bullet and finally ending that friendship that had so quickly turned toxic was incredibly daunting. 

Having not been friends with anyone else and being so desperate not to appear a ‘loner’, I had to actively seek out new friends. 
The minute I walked away from Sophie in the school corridor, I approached Zara, a girl I knew from Primary school, although admittedly not very well. Certainly not well enough that my approach wasn't a surprise.

The conversation that followed was excruciating on my side. I believe my exact words were “I know  this is forward, but i’m sick of Sophie and I was wondering if we could be friends?” She took it surprisingly well and simply said “Sure, you can meet Annie.”

On meeting Annie - who is now my closest friend - I tried to win her over by sharing my Pizza rolls, which I’d just made in the home economics class. They were disgusting, and I now know that in a bid not to offend me, Annie was secretly throwing them in the bin, which isn’t surprising really - they were verging on inedible.

Having been in a toxic friendship for so long and having been constantly manipulated for years on end, its not surprising that I didn’t have a clue what it was like to have someone reciprocate the feelings of a good friend. 
So, when after knowing Annie for approximately twenty-four hours she invited me to her birthday, I was over the moon with excitement, albeit very surprised. We still laugh about how shocked I was when she handed me the invite and how I kept asking if she was sure and saying “Oh my god, thank you so much!” after she had told me for the umpteenth time that she really did want me to come. 
I was equally as surprised when my now good friend, Celeste, made plans with me after only having met me two minutes before hand. Though, this time I’d managed to play it cool. 

If I’d never taken the plunge and left that toxic friendship, I wouldn’t have met the girls who are now my closest friends. They are the ones I confide in with everything, the ones I get on best with and the ones I’ve made my fondest of memories alongside. 
And, as it turns out, when we all met, we were all feeling out of place within our friendship groups in some way. The timing couldn’t have been better. Our failure to fit in with our old friends is what bought us together in the first place and why Annie has taken to calling us ‘The Misfits’.
So, when a couple of months after leaving the toxic friendship, Sophie approached me and asked if  we could be friends again, I wasn’t lying when I told her I was happier with my new group.

Leaving the friendship in which I was bullied and manipulated was one of the hardest, yet best decisions I’ve ever made. 
Not only has leaving resulted in me meeting and making some of my best friends, its taught me a number of valuable lessons. Its helped me gain perspective and I truly believe that having that experience when I did has made me far more grown. 
Now, I’m especially careful with what I say and do to the people close to me. I think that comes out of my fear of ever being perceived in any way resembling the way Sophie was perceived. But ultimately, thats made me a better friend. 

In hindsight, I can see the extent of how unhappy I was at that time. Unbeknown to me my unhappiness in that friendship was taking its toll on all the other aspects of my life. But, I will always be grateful for my toxic friendship; it led me to my closest friends.
I vividly remember watching the news three years ago, in 2015, when Shamima Begum and two of her friends left Bethnal Green to join ISIS, aged just fifteen. 
It was something that perplexed me, why a fifteen year old girl - or anyone for that matter - would voluntarily join a terrorist group?

However, the news story has since resurfaced as Shamima has recently said that she wants to return to the UK. More specifically, she had wanted to return to the UK to give birth to her baby boy. However, since Shamima’s British citizenship has been revoked her son has sadly died of pneumonia in a Syrian refugee camp.

Prior to the revocation of her citizenship, there was much debate as to wether or not she should be granted citizenship and therefore the right to return home. 
The debate had people questioning wether or not she has ulterior motives and the possibility that she may still be under ISIS influence. 

 A key point in the arguments against Shamima’s return seemed to be the idea that young women don’t know their own minds. This is something that I find incredibly patronising and quite frankly, slightly misogynistic. Making this statement exclusive to women is incredibly narrow minded as women can be as radical as men, its ignorant to think not. 

However, when we talk about Shamima Begum we have to remember that she was just fifteen when she left the country. At such a young age it is arguable that anyone wouldn’t know their own mind. I don’t mean this to be patronising, or to undermine her freewill in any way. Rather, I want to make the point that no fifteen year old has a crystal clear understanding of the world or even themselves. Your teenage years are said to be full of experimentation and experience, taking on different personas and personal styles, all leading you to a better sense of self. 
At just fifteen, its unlikely that Shamima had a strong understanding of who she is. The fact that she was groomed and manipulated by ISIS, in the form of online propaganda videos, is a signifier that she was a particularly naive and vulnerable fifteen year old, making her an easy target for those aiming to radicalise young people.

When discussing this topic with some of my close friends, the common idea that they each seemed to have was that in joining ISIS, she had become a criminal and therefore shouldn't be able to return to England. They mentioned what she had said in one of her interviews, her account of seeing a decapitated head in a bin, which she claimed hadn’t fazed her.  The majority of people who I spoke to about this upheld the idea that someone unfazed by such a horrific thing shouldn’t be given the right to return to this country.

This is a view point I would be inclined to disagree with. Although we can only speculate, I do believe that when Shamima said she was unfazed by the decapitated head, she wasn’t denying that it was a horrible thing. Rather, she had said she’d considered it normal because she had seen such atrocious things in Syria that she has become desensitised from it. Being in a place like Syria - and under ISIS control - seeing such horrible things is likely a regular occurrence, and something which may well be normalised.
Surely, the fact that she has become desensitised from something seemingly so horrific is a sure sign that what she needs is some serious help and rehabilitation, not her citizenship revoked. 

In the revocation of her citizenship, Shamima is being forced to move to an alien country (She was denied British citizenship so applied for Bangladeshi citizenship, which she was also denied. She is now having to apply to the Dutch authorities). This is something I would argue would make her more likely to return to a familiarity like ISIS, simply because it may seem an easier option than starting again in a totally alien place. 

Not only that, but we have to remember that Shamima was radicalised in this country. She was in London when she was targeted and manipulated by ISIS, resulting in her joining the group aged just fifteen. 
Its highly unlikely that she simply decided to leave her home and join a terrorist group straight away. She had been groomed, manipulated and radicalised. 

I find it incredibly narrow minded and unfair that, as a society, we can accept that young girls can be groomed online for sex, yet we refuse to believe that they can be groomed into joining terrorist groups. 
Those who have been groomed for sex are considered the victims and will most likely receive some form of help. However, those who have been groomed into joining a terrorist organisation are considered the criminal rather than the victim and will have to face the consequences. In this case, the revocation of their citizenship.

Whilst the grooming may not have been done with the intent of the same outcome, both situations earn the trust of young people and then proceed manipulate that trust. Its a similar process and something that can be incredibly easy for young people to fall for.
So, if our government and those in power won’t do anything to prevent the grooming and radicalisation of young, naive teenagers, who are we to deny them a second chance?

Yes, Shamima has said some things that have made the British public doubt her innocence.
It is inevitable that people are going to question her genuinity or wether she is still under the influence of ISIS. It would be ridiculous to welcome someone who has the potential to be very dangerous back into our country with open arms, no questions asked. In welcoming her back into the country we should be keeping a close eye on her. I’m not suggesting that we allow her to continue life as normal.

However, far too often we treat situations like these as some kind of moral maze, totally ignoring the human aspect of the case.
Very few people in the UK have a true understanding of what its like to be a member of ISIS. We see documentaries and news reports but we can never have a clear understanding of the harsh realities.
Its impossible for any of us to truly sympathise with Shamima as its a situation we’re so far removed from that it often doesn't seem real.

Despite this, we do have a responsibility to recognise the amount of courage it has taken Shamima to come forwards, against ISIS. She’s put herself in an incredibly vulnerable position. To me, this highlights the level of desperation Shamima feels. 
We have to try and understand the situation from a human perspective. 
We have the resources and ability to try and help and rehabilitate her. So, why wouldn’t we?
As Dawn Foster said in her column for The Guardian “The compassionate course to take would be to let Begum return home and accept that an eye for an eye turns the whole world blind and that the public can still be protected if she is dealt with in the UK.” 

The question we need to be asking ourself is this; “What has she experienced to make her feel as though ISIS is a plausible solution?” Clearly she was, and still is, an incredibly vulnerable teenager. She's made a terrible mistake. But, could we try and show some compassion? We have the potential to rehabilitate her. The fact that she seemingly wants to return to the UK is a starting point. Why wouldn't we help?

My one and only New Years resolution this year was to read more. Initially, I was certain that I would purchase on book in January, read a chapter and then leave it on my bedside table to gather dust whilst I simply forgot about it.
Thankfully that hasn't happened yet and I've managed to stick to my resolution well into March. The reason being is that I've made a conscious effort to only buy and read books that I know I'll truly enjoy.

In the past I've been largely guilty of buying coffee table books exclusively, purely because "look how pretty it is" and never actually taking the time to read them. For a long time I treated book like I would treat a vase of flowers, their purpose being to sit on my shelf and look pretty.

But, in buying the genuinely good books that I previously wouldn't have batted an eyelid at, I've managed to surprise myself and rekindle my love for reading. Here are the last four book I read...

Feminists don't wear pink and other lies - Curated by Scarlett Curtis

Feminists don't wear pink and other lies was a book I was very much driven to buy by the hype surrounding it towards the end of last year and early this year.
The book is a selection of essays from a range of women (Grace Campbell, Lolly Adefope, Saoirse Ronan, Dolly Alderton and many others) about what feminism means to them. Each essay was incredibly unique and personal, most sharing their own experience of when they realised they were feminists and what prompted them to come to that realisation. Some were funny, some were relatable and some were downright heartbreaking. I gasped on multiple occasions whist reading this, purely because of the brutal truths that were bought into the light throughout the book.

My only criticism would be that some of the essays seemed to drag on a little, some not really getting to much of a conclusion. But, asides from that it was an excellent read and one I would recommend to anyone starting to take an interest in the movement, as its a great introduction into the world of feminism.

The book perfectly summed up my own feelings about feminism and being female, that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to articulate. Its also given me the vocabulary to be able to articulate my feelings to others, meaning that I am no longer in any situations where I'm thinking; "I know the way this person is treating me is wrong, but I can't put my finger on exactly why its wrong."

Life Honestly - The Pool

Life Honestly is a compilation of essays from a range of opinionated female journalists (Bryony Gordon, Sali Hughes, Zoe Beaty, Caroline O'Donoghue and many more). The book touches on all sorts of topics from friendships, love and relations, parenting, mental health all the way to feminism.

One essay that really struck a chord with me was "The Sad Inevitability Of The Grown Man And The Teenage Girl" by Caroline O'Donoghue in which Caroline spoke candidly about her own experience being pursued by an older man and the mentality of the men who choose to go after underage girls.
She made some excellent points, suggesting the attraction is as much due to the man's feelings about himself as it is about the school uniform, which seemed obvious to me after reading, but wasn't necessarily something I would have initially have though of upon seeing the multiple news stories of male celebrities taking advantage of underage girls.

In general the book very much has women at the heart of it and its no-holds-barred approach to discussing the issues women face in their day to day live (most of which are deemed too 'taboo' by mainstream media) was very refreshing.

"The man who seduced me as a teenager wasn't talented or intelligent, or even a capable adult. He had dropped out of several degree programmes, lost several girlfriends and had alienated various batches of friends before he met me. A grown man doesn't usually have a teenage girlfriend unless he needs to feel good about himself, unless he is fresh out of people to be impressed by him."

 - Caroline O'Donoghue

This is going to hurt - Adam Kay

This is going to hurt is a collection of Adam Kay's diary entries, documenting his time working for the NHS as a junior doctor. The book was both hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure, and I was very much surprised by Kay's ability to give such a witty commentary on his often horrifying experiences.
The book highlights the harsh realities of life as a junior doctor. Not only the realities of working on the the wards but also the impact such experiences have on their personal lives (or lack of them).

As someone who has spent large chunks of time in hospital, and under the care of the NHS, this book not only shocked me, but it fed my infinite amount of respect for the doctors working for the NHS.

The book provided witty anecdotes, making me snort with laughter on multiple occasions, graphic but hilarious descriptions of the patient's state (with a de-gloved penis being described as "spaghetti stuck to the bottom of the bowl by a smear of tomato sauce"), but also many heartbreaking stories. Particularly the ending, which had me in floods of tears.

On the front line with the women fighting back - Stacey Dooley

On the front line with the women fighting back was a book I was very much inclined to read due to my love for Stacey Dooley's documentaries.
Throughout the book Stacey tells the stories of each of the women she's met whilst making her documentaries, sharing their experiences and how each of them have overcome their struggles in their own way.

The book was informative of the struggles women face globally, from the Yazidi girls fighting ISIS in Iraq, to child sexualisation in Japan, whilst also having an incredibly personal touch as it was written from Stacey's perspective.

It was an easy read, although I found that certain sentences were phrased oddly, meaning I had to go over them a couple of times in order to totally understand what was being said. But, Stacey isn't a writer, she's a broadcaster and the purpose of the book was to give an insight into the lives of women globally, which it very much did.

Of the many things I’ve inherited from my mum, (her height, eyebrows - or lack of them) the thing that is most prominent to me is by far her attitude, something which she shares with the generations of women who came before her in our family. 
Her strong-minded, independent attitude and the fact that she stands for no bullshit is something that I admire in her and feeds the infinite amount of respect I have for her, which seems to grow with age. 

When I was four, my parents split. Since then my mum has raised both me and my brother almost entirely alone and - with the exception of the weekends once a fortnight that my dad would take over childcare - she’s had little to no financial or emotional support.

For my mum, having kids meant giving up her successful career as a freelance jewellery designer and instead  she spent an intense year studying for a PGCE at university (whilst bringing up two young children). She then became a primary school teacher, a profession in which she could rely on a steady income and had school holidays off to spend with my brother and I. 
How she managed to juggle being a full time university student and a full time mother is something I don’t think I’ll ever entirely understand. It’s certainly not something I think I would ever be capable of doing, especially not to the extent my mum has, having excelled in both aspects. 

Given the situation, I haven’t grown up in a financially stable family, like most of my friends have. In fact, my family were on benefits for a period of time. This is not something I intend to complain about as I know full well that so many people have it far worse than I do. In fact, I don’t even think I have it badly at all - I’m incredibly lucky to be living in the way that I am. Rather, I’m trying to provide context so that hopefully you get a better understanding of how strong willed the women in my family are. 

Our financial situation meant that as a family we weren’t able to indulge in the luxuries or extravagant holidays or throw away money with no thought on unnecessary Starbucks sandwiches in a similar way to the vast majority of my friends. But, my mum was sensible in her spending, teaching my brother and I the value of money and that in fact there are alternatives to buying overpriced sandwiches. She was careful with her money in order to facilitate a lifestyle for my brother and I and as a result we haven’t had to miss out on the experiences similar to those of our friends. 

Aside from her attitude towards money, my mum is the most emotionally strong person I know, having raised two children alone, undergone a career change and throughout all, kept spirits high.
Her straightforward honesty is something I have been especially grateful for in many situations throughout my life. During the long periods of time when I was younger in which I felt trapped in toxic, manipulative friendships her frank advice helped me a great deal in gaining perspective and understanding of the situation. She's the wisest woman I know, and has helped me extensively during periods of my life in which I have felt completely lost. 

This straight forward attitude is something she shares with her own mum and grandma, and something I see in myself to some extent. 
Possibly one of the most crucial reasons for her strong attitude is the experience of her own upbringing. 

My mum grew up in a family in which the typical parenting stereotypes were very much reversed, with my grandma being the sole breadwinner of the family and my grandad taking on to the typical ‘mother’ roles, as he worked from home. He would do the cooking and take my mum and aunt to school, all whilst my grandma was out working as a university music lecturer. Not only were my grandparents unusual in the sense that their parental roles were very much reversed, their attitudes most definitely went against the stereotypes too. My grandma - like my mum - had a head on, no bullshit attitude and was far more practical than my grandad, who is quite a sensitive man. 

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to meet my grandma as she died of cancer when my mum was a teenager. However, from the stories my family have told me about her, its quite clear that she is a perfect example of the strong willed attitudes upheld by so many women in my family. This is also true of my great grandmas, one of whom raised all three of her children alone due to the fact that my great grandad died whilst two of them were babies. And despite being widowed she continued to adopt a third child.

I firmly believe that the mentality of the women in my family is something that has impacted each of them throughout the generations, and inevitably has come to impact me too. The strong, independent attitude that each of them have upheld is something which I very much see in myself. In fact, its my favourite feature. 

I’m beyond proud to have inherited their outlook and all I can hope is that I will grow into a woman even the slightest bit strong and independent as those who have come before me. 
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