real life

Holly Wainwright: "I am a 48-year-old woman and I am fine."

At Mamamia, every day is International Women’s Day. But this year, we’re celebrating March 8 by sharing stories from some of Australia’s most influential women, as well as columns from voices spanning 5 generations, on the decade-defining conversations women are having. You can find all our International Women’s Day stories on our hub page.

This story contains a reference to sexual assault which could be triggering for some readers. For support, please call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

I am a 48-year-old woman and I am fine.

I am slightly irked by the softer line of my chin, the fact that each wrinkle seems to make me a little harder to see, but I’m fine.

I am tired from overcommitting, frazzled from calendar-cram and mental overload. But I am fine.

My knees ache if I sit too long, I’m not so good at kneeling anymore and my back is often sore, but I’m fine.

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So far, age hasn’t taken anything from me. It hasn’t taken my health, my career. It hasn’t taken my passion for work, it didn’t steal my drive, it hasn’t drained my energy. I’m fine.

I’ve had a boss who slapped me on the bum. I’ve had one who asked me to make the sandwiches for the management meeting, since I was invited. I’ve had one who took away a job offer when he found out I was pregnant. But I’m fine.

I’ve had two healthy children who fill my life to the brim. I had them late, like so many of Generation X, after two terminations and two miscarriages. So many little lines on pee-sticks. So many little people who never came. I am fine.

I have a little boy with additional needs. We don’t say ‘special’ anymore. He is teaching me every day how many different colours there truly are. Sometimes our house glows red with frustration and anger, sometimes we are suffocated in soft golden cuddles. I am fine.

I have a partner who shares my life in every way. Our family is the thing of which I am most proud, the most precious of all the precious things. He and I are equals in ways beyond measure and I can count the times he’s raised his voice to me on one hand. He is my home and harbour. I am fine.

When I was 20 I had a boyfriend who used to fight me with pushes and punches. When I was 30 I had a boyfriend who controlled where I went, who I saw, what I ate, whether I drank. When I was 22 I woke up in a bed to find two men there, on me. Only one of them was my boyfriend. None of those people were partners. I am fine.

I am an immigrant who got to choose my life. I left my country at 23 for a year, maybe two, and I never went back. I built a new home from remarkable friends and bright blue skies and greeny-grey oceans. I settled again, as far from home as I could ever be, with a little homesick ache. I am fine.


I am a 48-year-old woman and it’s a life, so far, with all its stories. And I am fine.

I am fine because I am protected. I am a woman in the easiest possible way to be one.

I am what we now know as a cis female, born into the body that fits me.

I was born in a peaceful, prosperous country and I moved to another.

I have a family who valued my choices and supported me to follow them.

I had food in my belly, school shoes I was free to hate.

My body has not betrayed me yet with illness that I can’t fight off. It broadly looks the way the world likes it to look. It works the way the world likes it to work.

The indignities of suffering ignorant bosses didn’t push me to a place that could truly slow me or stop me. How could it? I was protected. Powerful. I swerved towards women.

All those little lines on all those pee-sticks are the stuff of unreachable dreams for so many. I hold my own small griefs, but I know how lucky I am to have had them.

My beautiful boy is additional everything. Additionally loving. Additionally smart. Additionally fortunate — there’s a community around him that wants to smooth his path, not throw obstacles in his way. That’s not everyone’s story.

And most of all, he’s here. And his sister’s here. And truly, a parent’s prayer is only that — Stay with me until I go, whispered every night.

My partner and I are allowed to love. The world approves, mirrors us back to ourselves as the approved model. Boy, girl. Off you go, good for you.

The bad boyfriends didn’t get to reduce me to nothing. I was able to walk away, a safety net of support catching me every time. We’re all exhausted and desperate at hearing the statistics of women who never survived that fall.

And I am an immigrant for whom there is a different name. Fair-haired, fair-skinned, English-speaking. You must be an ex-pat, not a migrant. Australia welcomed me, was rooting for me and my youthful reinvention from the beginning. How different that is.

It’s a life, with all its stories. And I am fine.

I am a woman in the easiest way it’s possible to be a woman. And this International Women’s Day, I’m thinking of all those who are not.

You can follow Holly on Facebook here. On Instagram here. Or buy her books, here

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Listen to Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky. In this episode, we speak to three remarkable women on why International Women’s Day matters. Post continues below.

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