I have now reached the point when I started my first successful business as a bookseller.
You may be wondering how I found my way through my childrens’ early years and managed at the same time to lay the foundation of a career. Is it possible for a woman to have a strong interest in her own work and at the same time give her children what they need. The best way is to get a balance between the two activities. During my fifteen years as a psychotherapist many women have asked me if they should have a baby or not, if they want to continue with their career. Of course I cannot answer for them, but as one who has done both successfully I have learned a lot from my own experience which I will pass on to my readers. Can women have their cake and eat it? Yes it is possible. It depends on the character of the mother and the circumstances.
The first few years of all of us are of the greatest importance. Putting babies out to nurseries is not a good idea. They need their mothers’ attention most of the time. As the child grows older the presence of the mother becomes less important and if they have had a good start they will be all too ready to leave home when they are in their late ‘teens. I am a firm believer that teen-age problems are the result of insecurity in early days. Remember my story of the effect on my son Quentin when I had to leave him for two months to go to England because my brother committed suicide. This was something that couldn’t be helped, but fortunately he had my presence until he was two; early enough to enable him to overcome the hard time he had to go through in his ‘teens.
My first job as a teacher began when the boys were four and six because it was the only job that allowed me to be free at the same time as they were. It worked very well because I had my little Mini Minor and we went to all sorts of interesting places during week-ends and holidays. When Kate was born I taught for mornings only and successfully left her for a few hours every week-day with a young mother who looked after her well. It wasn’t until she got to seven months that she began to cry when I went to school. However, I gave her attention most of the time especially in the holidays. When she was two we moved to Bedford and we had several months together until I opened my shop. I had a full-time housekeeper. She was a delightful girl and Kate liked her too. In addition we had the two grandparents who were living with us. Yet Kate would still cry sometimes when I went to my shop but it didn’t last long. By the time she was three she went to a very good nursery school in the mornings only. It was just round the corner from our house. Kate was always very outgoing and full of fun. It suited her very well.
I am convinced that well-cared-for children want to do as many things for themselves as they can manage. I was not one of those mothers who like babies so much that they don’t want them to grow up. I am the opposite. I enjoyed every phase in my children’s development, both physical and mental. That doesn’t mean it is easy always, especially in the ‘teens.
I remember a Saturday in Harlow. I was indoors marking a pile of maths exercise books. Quentin was four and Robin six. Robin could already ride a bicycle. Quentin could not. He asked me to teach him. I was engrossed with my books and I said “In a few minutes”. My few minutes turned into nearly an hour. I went out to find the boys, They were just coming down the road. Quentin was riding on his own and Robin was extolling his praises. “Look Mum” he said. “Quentin did it all by himself!” He had more than one cut on his legs but that didn’t bother him. “He fell off several times but he did it in the end!” said his brother with great pride.
My moral for this story is never to try to help too soon. The pleasure and confidence that are the result of a child’s effort will give them much more satisfaction than being helped.