Is Mrs Moneypenny Wrong?

I’ve just finished reading Mrs Moneypenny’s Careers Advice for Ambitious Women. To start off, I thought it was fantastic. Her chapter on the importance of networking made perfect sense to me and inspired me to get up and really start paying attention to my relationships both in and out of work. To be fair, the importance of sharing relationships, trust and interdependence (good old fashioned networking) had been coming up in other books I’ve been reading, so Mrs Moneypenny’s chapter just cemented the topic for me.

Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it got for me. I found myself looking for and expecting the same sense of optimism and opportunity through the rest of the book and was disappointed. The way Mrs Moneypenny describes life as a working woman is as a drag, an eternal hard slog and you may as well get used to it! I definitely don’t subscribe to her way of thinking – being a career woman is exhilarating  and fun!

Reflecting on it, and talking to other women, I’ve realised a few things:

  • I appreciate the alternative models my family have given me of how life should be.
  • I realise that my “model” of what a mother is and should be is very different to the UK norm
  • I appreciate my other haf’s attitude (and the argum… erm conversations we’ve had) far more now than ever before
  • I am forever grateful that in the early years of being a working mum that I listened to men’s advice rather than women’s.

I grew up in South Africa, where chauvinism is (even today) still very much alive and thriving! We were part of a farming community where large social BBQ’s  were part of the culture. The men would stand around the BBQ with beers and various cooking implements, while the women would be in the kitchen making salads and buttering rolls. I learned how to BBQ from a very early age, and quickly learned that I’d much rather spend a sunny afternoon standing around the fire with a beer in one hand cooking (and sampling!) the meat, than I would making salads and buttering the rolls and talking about wallpaper designs in the kitchen.

I was about eight and helping my dad cook our meat around a communal BBQ when I clearly remember telling one of the other men off for ruining the meat the way he was cooking it. I hope I never forget their looks on their faces – it was precious!

Another element of living in South Africa was (and probably still is) the expectation that if you want something then the only way it’s going to happen is if you make it happen. We grew up on stories from our ancestors about immigration and the hardships, challenges and opportunities of getting a toehold in Africa. The stories were different, depending on which grandparent was telling the story, but the themes were all the same: you make your own adventure in life, and you take control of your own life and success.  (See The Last Banana).

South Africans have a wonderful saying: “ ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan”, which roughly translated means  “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.  No matter how impossible life seems to be, if you’re a person of true character, you’ll make sure you find a way to make it work!



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