Being working class is a heavy mantle to carry. You have to fight all of your life. And when you think that the fight over, then you have to fight some more.
You don’t start out like this. You believe in the silky promises of meritocracy. You work hard to escape the clutches of poverty. You study. You do the degree…often the first in your family. There are no nepotistic family trees to cling to here, lass. Make sure you work harder than everyone else. Make sure you go that extra mile to fight to get the good job.
Once I was qualified as a lawyer at a top law firm in Scotland, I entered a strange twilight zone. I was easily one of the best in my year yet I found there was a club that I was simply not part of no matter how hard I worked. It was a school club, a rich club, a middle class club and there was no way I was getting in.
As life went on, it got worse and a subsequent failed marriage brought it’s own challenges. I worked hard, at being a wife, a mother and an entrepreneur. But working hard, isn’t enough. One of the massive setbacks and challenges of being working class is that there is no safety net. There is no trust fund or rich parents to lean on when times get tough. Poverty creates cycles of poverty consciousness that future generations suffer from. When you take risks when you are working class and they don’t work out, you cannot lean on family, as that family is still operating within a poverty consciousness themselves. They simply cannot help and that leaves a working class person suddenly back to facing poverty and that is the cycle of poverty repeated again.
The only solution is to fight. And then fight again and again. Harder, tougher and faster than everyone else. Never stop fighting until you have secured something that no one can take away.
Women and in particular mothers are very vulnerable in these circumstances. Agreeing with your then husband to put a career on hold to bring up children should provide some degree of security as it an agreement of trust. However when marriages break down in these circumstances, it is often the women who are left with very little, no career, children to look after and suffering severe financial hardship. In these circumstances, if you are working class, it is often the case that there will be no safety net to fall back on. This is not right and the law in Scotland needs to change to protect women in these circumstances. The golden nugget of “a clean break” policy in current divorce law is causing real poverty to creep in for mothers who thought they had escaped the poverty cycle by pursuing a career.
The law needs to change and until it does then we have to fight, and fight and then fight some more.