This is weird.
It’s 4pm and I realize I haven’t done anything productive today. Well, that’s not exactly true. I followed up with HR because my previous company seems to have… forgotten? to pay me for the last month of work. I tracked down the status of my tax return. I organized pick-up for one of my larger plants that must be sold before I move.
But I haven’t done anything productive for anyone else.
I’m adding tomato purée to the gnocchi stew I’m making for my dinner when it strikes me how strange my life is right now compared to women throughout history. There are no little legs swinging at the dinner table, or mini-hands pulling at my hoodie (I don’t own an apron) asking when it will be ready, or can they have Mac n’ Cheese instead.
I am 29, unmarried, with no kids. I am not someone’s wife. I am not someone’s mother. Today, I’m not even someone’s employee.
I live by myself, in a different country from where I was born. I don’t need to work anymore, because I saved enough in the last decade that my investments cover my cost of living. I’m financially independent, and I stand in my own financial power.
Not too long ago, this life would have been difficult to conceive of, if not impossible. In the 1970s only around 10% of women did not have children by the age of 27. Then, the average age of a mother giving birth for the first time was 21.4 years old. Now, more than half of women by the age of 27 don’t have kids.
Just a few decades ago, society forced women to be financially dependent on men. It wasn’t until 1974, when the Fair Credit Opportunity Act passed, that women could even have their own bank account and credit card without a male co-signer. The other day, I was pre-approved for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred card. All of my bank accounts are in my own name. It’s hard to believe that as recently as 50 years ago that fact might have been radical in itself.
Earning power for women was significantly inhibited in the past. My chosen career path of software engineering was (and is still) unfriendly to women. Even in the year I graduated high school—2011— researchers found that only 0.4% of women planned to major in computer science compared to 3.3% of men. I managed to finagle my way into the industry without a computer science degree, and made a salary in the top 10% for my age group.
There are many more statistics along the same lines that make me thankful for where I am at in life today. I made intentional life choices that helped me reach financial independence—but there are other factors outside of my control (privileges!) that helped me get to where I am now. If I had been born earlier, it’s possible I would have been barred from my own independence. How much of our lives are obligated to another, whether a partner, child, or employer? It’s Monday, and I didn’t sit in traffic to commute to a job. I woke up at 8am and walked into my kitchen, brewed myself a coffee, and read a book that intrigued me. I rested. It’s not lost on me how rare that is, so rare that I started to wonder if I should feel guilty. What is my worth to the world if I’m not being ground up in the capitalist machine?
We are usually given two choices: work or care for your children. Be a professional or a parent; or with high hopes and ambition: both. I realized as I chopped my parsley how implausible it is to choose neither. Of course, I still want to do something. Creation is intrinsic to humanity. Yet how rare is it for a woman to skirt the demands of society, even if just for a little bit?
That’s why I stood over the simmering sauce feeling grateful, even as flecks of tomato spewed across my kitchen. I made dinner for myself, and made a mess I’d clean up later without resentment, because it’s my mess. Today this is all I created, but I refuse to feel guilty.
Spanish stew with gnocchi and sausage
4 people | 20 minutes
gnocchi 1 kg
merguez sausages 10 pieces
smoked paprika powder 2 tsp
chicken stock cubes 2 pieces
seedless green olives 220 grams
passata/tomato purée 500g
snack tomatoes 500g
parsley 15 g
olive oil 3 tbsp
garlic 2 cloves
Here’s how you make it
Roughly chop the parsley. Finely chop the garlic.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the gnocchi and cook on high heat for 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan. Add the merguez sausages and fry until brown on all sides for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and smoked paprika and cook for another minute.
Add the olives, snack tomatoes, passata/tomato purée, chicken stock cubes and 100 ml water. Let simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Add the spinach in handfuls and let it wilt for 4 minutes. Add the gnocchi. Cover to let steam heat the dish.
Garnish with the parsley. Season with the salt and pepper.