Sometimes I feel that, although I am the one spending most time in our house, I am also the one with least space to call my own. This concerns me in a purely physical sense, although Ms Woolf would turn in her grave to see the intellectual truth too. Our decision to have children was undoubtedly the point where my husband and I waved goodbye to our hand-held skip through the meadows of equal opportunity and started along the narrow walkway of gender definition. On the whole, he earns, I mother. And while I do have the time and inclination to do other less fluid-based jobs now the children are at school, the ‘room of one’s own’ I once treasured is now somewhere I mainly hoover or store unseasonal clothes.
Of course, the question of intellectual space is the most complicated part of the whole having-it-all thing. It might be pushing the boundaries of human capability, but it is possible to have a job, a family, a perfectly hoovered home and babysitter every fortnight. What it doesn’t leave much space for is that Lloyd Loom sofa for me, Virginia and my half-written best-seller.
I used to think it was a question of time, but everyone I know outside of their teens who has time for themselves spends most of it complaining about being lonely and bored.
Now I think it’s much more about how you approach the things you have got time, inclination and desire to do – finding a way to make daily life more self-fulfilling. I’m not suggesting that housework is creative, and I know that if I hoovered less, I could work more. Or read more. But actually I get a horribly large sense of happiness from my home, and in a strange way the domestic routines that should get in the way of my independence and creativity are an integral part of what makes me happy, and therefore more capable and, hopefully, successful.
My present situation is decidedly more 1950s housewife than I ever anticipated, but I think I’m enjoying it mainly because the older I get the longer life becomes. I don’t need to achieve by Friday.
And so it’s the literal aspect of space that concerns me more these days. I seem to loan space in my own house. The kitchen is only mine until 8pm when my husband’s real culinary creativity starts, the cat always sleeps on my side of the bed, particularly when she’s moulting, and even my laptop regularly disappears to play a vital role in a game of schools or libraries. But recently I heard a phrase that, even in my fuzzy post-feminist existence, made me tut loudly. The ‘Man Drawer’, so called by some middle-class, middle-England, middle-funny comedian and now a term in common use according to The Sun. It’s the drawer of things with no other home: batteries, lighters, visitors’ parking vouchers, lip balm, screwdrivers and plastic cereal packet toys for show-and-tell.
If I can’t open the only useful drawer in the house without asking my husband for permission, I might as well just go back to work.