Throughout my life I have had many roles: a wife and mother at eighteen, a career girl juggling home and family life at nineteen, a step-mother at twenty-eight, manager at thirty, part-time professional at forty, retired at fifty-six.

Bethany Askew

Bethany Askew

Although I loved my work as a Dispensing Optician, I always dreamed one day I would be a writer. I have been writing part-time for the last fifteen years but since I retired I have been able to devote my time to my lifetime ambition of being a published author.

So what does being a modern woman mean to me?

First and foremost a woman nowadays doesn’t have to be reliant on a man. She can be self-sufficient. My first marriage took place in the 1970’s, a time of high unemployment. When my husband couldn’t find work I found a job and was lucky enough to discover that despite having a young child, I could train in a career at the same time as working. The modern woman has opportunities like this that would have been impossible in the past.

Emancipation brings with it new obstacles: women have to juggle home and work life. Some say that we can’t do both roles efficiently, but would we really want to go back to a time when we gave up our work and our independence when we married?

Which brings us nicely to the next point: the modern woman doesn’t need to marry. She doesn’t even need a long term partner to have children. The notion of marrying at seventeen because she is pregnant, like I did, is archaic. Divorce is socially acceptable nowadays. Women no longer feel they have to stay in an unhappy relationship. They are financially independent, they can leave, find someone new maybe. The extended family is very much a feature of life for today’s woman, bringing with it a different family dynamic, problems to solve, compromises to make to keep relationships working.

The modern woman is better educated. When I was young, my brother’s education was considered more important than my own or my sister’s. He went to a fee paying school; we went to Grammar School.

Today’s women are doctors, mathematicians, engineers, politicians, scientists.  On the television news it’s women presenters you see, women like Laura Kuenssberg, Katya Adler, Orla Guerin. We have a female Prime Minister navigating us through the complexities of leaving the European Union.

Thanks to modern medicine women are healthier and live longer. We look after ourselves. Fashion is important to us: we don’t settle for dressing our age, we wear what we like. Retirement is no longer a time to sit in a chair and knit or do the Crossword. We keep fit. We travel to the far-flung places we couldn’t visit when we were working. We take on a second career, the career maybe that we always wanted.

Like I did…