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Jun 10 2004

By Ruki Sayid


WOMEN are suffering a lifestyle crisis of unfulfilling sex, drudgery, frustration, money worries and pressure to look young and slim, a survey out today shows.

A huge 81 per cent wish they could change their lives, 67 per cent feel they are on a treadmill and are worn out while 60 per cent thought life was easier for men.

The Female Lifestyle Survey of Great Britain 2004 found 59 per cent blame a poor sex life for making them miserable while 58 per cent cite a stagnant social life.

The poll - of 2,000 women aged about 38 - by health magazine Top Sante also showed 59 per cent of women hit the bottle and 74 per cent confess to comfort eating to de-stress and find solace.

Editor Marina Gask said: "The 'have it all' dream has turned into a 'do it all' nightmare. Women are bombarded with lifestyle images of perfectly proportioned celebrities who seem to have everything, without much effort.

"In reality, most women struggle to look after their family and hold down a demanding job to make ends meet. Despite their hard work many are up to their necks in debt and they feel emotionally drained, financially unsuccessful and unfulfilled sexually and socially.

"In short, they are going through a lifestyle crisis and want to change their lives."

One of the top trouble spots, according to the poll, is the quest for a perfect body.

Nine out of 10 surveyed - 92 per cent - are unhappy with their looks and 85 per cent said their poor self-image spoils their enjoyment of life.

Even 80 per cent of women who were classed as "normal weight" wish they were slimmer and feel more pressure from other women over their looks.

In the poll, 26 per cent said they are prepared to have cosmetic surgery - five per cent of those under 38 already have.

The most wanted surgical refinements are breast enlargements and reductions, botox injections, liposuction, tightening of jaw lines, tummy tucks, lines around the eyes and half facelifts.

Coping with endless different roles aggrieved 87 per cent of women quizzed with 62 per cent saying their main misery is their work/life balance.

A total of 66 per cent want to quit the rat race, and 52 per cent want to change their job.

Nearly nine out of 10 women who work full-time - 86 per cent - said they still do most of the housework and 77 per cent said they do the lion's share of looking after the children.

More than half - 56 per cent - said the emotion they feel most on a daily basis is frustration.

Lack of cash is another issue, with 78 per cent of women saying life is financially draining, 49 per cent admitting they spend more than they earn and 55 per cent saddled with credit card debts.

Age is another thorn in women's sides with 93 per cent feeling unhappy about getting older.

Other headaches revealed in the poll included the cost of housing (77 per cent), the level of violent crime (71 per cent), the state of the NHS (60 per cent), the long hours work culture (51 per cent) and the climate (48 per cent).

Also weighing on the female minds were our unfriendly culture (42 per cent), poor public transport (39 per cent), the quality of education (37 per cent), the sex-soaked society (33 per cent) and status anxiety (37 per cent).

In fact 44 per cent of women are so fed up with life in Britain they would rather live abroad.

Also disliked are celebrity role models Victoria Beckham, Jordan and Cherie Blair, with 56 per cent saying they don't help ordinary women. Hollywood star Catherine Zeta Jones was picked out as the most beautiful woman in the world in the survey. The perfect woman would have her face and breasts, the hair of former Friends star Jennifer Aniston, Kylie Minogue's bottom and Victoria Beckham's legs.

Women singled out their mums, Madonna and Margaret Thatcher as the females they most admired.

Men have an easier life - I still do more

THE GMTV presenter and Mirror columnist, 43, lives with her journalist husband Martin Frizzell, 45, in South West London. They have two children, aged two and five.

I AGREE that men do have an easier life because I do 1,000 things a day where my husband Martin does two. He's a modern, reconstructed and loving man but I still do much more.

He gets the kids up and does their nappies, but I go to work and if there are any problems, like having to take them to the doctors, I sort them out.

On top of that I deal with the household bills and make sure the washing's done. I'm up at 4.30am so I'm shattered by the time he gets home in the evening.

When it comes to sex, women are often too knackered after a long day and you just want to get to sleep. When you're tired that numbs all your senses, if you know what I mean.

The fact is that sometimes Martin and I don't deal well with being exhausted. We go through periods where we do nothing but snap at each other, despite the fact we love each other to bits.

We talk about it but the solutions are drastic - one of us giving up our jobs. I would like to be at home more with the children, but leaving my job would mean selling the house.

Once you have kids the reality kicks in

THE Wife Swap contestant, 36, is a shop assistant who lives with her husband Barry, 43, a "professional gambler" in Southport. They have one 17-year-old son.

I WORK 12 hours a day and do all the household chores. Barry doesn't work and isn't even capable of going out to the shops to get a pint of milk - but I do it for him because that's love, isn't it?

Men have this idea that when you get married, that's it, they don't have to worry about the house. From then on, the wife has to look after the husband.

Men are like big kids and need as much looking after as the children - sometimes more.

Women have all the worries - the money, the children, everything. But we put up with it because we love them. We marry them because we go all gooey-eyed at the thought of a white wedding but - once you have kids - reality kicks in and the hard work begins.

I would love to be a man.

And if I lived my life again I wouldn't have children until I was in my late 30s.

I had my son when I was 19 and love him to bits but women should live their lives and do what they want to do before they have children.

There's nothing better than being single - once you have kids your figure's ruined.

Women feel guilty if work is not done

THE TV commentator and former Olympic swimmer, 41, lives in the Cotswolds with her husband Tony Kingston, a pilot, and children Grace, five and Elliott, nine.

MEN have it easier because they naturally have less of a conscience about domestic issues than women.

Women have learned over the centuries to feel guilty if the household chores aren't finished, even if they have worked a full day too. If men are tired they will come home and sit and rest. They won't worry about the mounting pile of dirty clothes or the fact the fridge is nearly empty.

A woman won't be able to relax until it is all done. It's down to organisation. Women are just too good at multi-tasking.

I also think it is a generational thing - and that will change. My son's generation has grown up with working mothers while my husband - though he is very supportive - grew up with a mother who stayed at home. It means his expectations are different.

Women should also remember that the images of women they see in magazines have as much to do with reality as going to the movies. The models are always airbrushed. I've seen some of them in real life and, believe me, they look nothing like the perfect image you see in photographs.

We have to do our jobs and look good

THE Building The Dream presenter, 42, has been married to TV executive Chris Short for 12 years. They have an 11-year-old daughter, Jessica, and live in London.

WOMEN are under a lot of pressure. But the fact is, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves - it doesn't always come from other people.

Working in TV, I've found that women have to do their job well, but we're also judged far more than men on how we look, the clothes we wear and how we do our hair. I work out to keep trim and feel good anyway but I'm sure I wouldn't do it to the extent I do, if I wasn't in front of the camera.

I'm glad that I'm an interior designer because if my career depended solely on the way I looked, the pressure would be absolutely unbearable. It amazes me how many young women with young families still bear the brunt of all the childcare and housework.

I'm lucky because my husband Chris and I have a joint partnership and we share everything equally.

But I'm juggling family, my television work and a mail order business.

I do think I work harder than he does at maintaining a balance.

Men's lives are very simple - much more black and white.

I squeeze everything in because he is busy

THE journalist and TV presenter, 49, is married to Who Wants to be a Millionaire host Chris Tarrant, 57. They have four children aged 12, 15, 19 and 23 and live in Surrey.

I OFTEN work until 2am, and I could do with taking a time management course - but ironically I don't have time to do one.

Having a husband as famous as Chris means I've had to do a lot of adapting, especially with him getting busier over the years. I somehow squeeze it all in but because he's so busy it means I can't always delegate or share problems, emotional or otherwise.

I find I have to work out what I can cope with and push myself a bit further.

The fact that nine out of 10 women say they are unhappy with their looks is a really sad reflection. I would blame the images they see of women like Anne Robinson and Helen Mirren looking fantastic in their 50s.

When famous women around your own age look ordinary it makes you feel great about yourself, but when they suddenly look stunning, you think, 'S**t - now I've got to look like that'.

Also there's the fear that you might be traded in for a younger model, which lots of celebrities seem to be doing. Women have to live for themselves rather than for other people, otherwise you'll always be going around with a frown.

Don't clap when he takes out the bins

THE 37-year-old writer and columnist lives in Brixton, South London, with her boyfriend Michael Smiley, 41, who is a professional comedian.

THESE results prove that women can have it all. We can have the job, the man, the house, the child, the clothes, the hair, the holidays - and then we can have the nervous breakdown.

We think men have an easier life than us because they do. Our multi-tasking has turned into every-tasking. We say we're worth it, whilst acting worthless; low-paid workers who don't ask our men to help because it's too much effort to train them to our standards.

Maybe we should start. Don't applaud when he takes out the bin. Just give him a mop and point at the floor. Life isn't perfect. We can't make it that way, so let's give up self-hatred, the control freakery, the constant worrying and have a laugh.

And please, let's acknowledge the power of the airbrush. Yes, we want to look like pictures of Catherine Zeta Jones. But then, so does she.

I don't hate my life. I'm happy to let parts of it go: my thighs, hoovering, recipes more complicated than roast chicken. Plus, with my work, my boyfriend and my family, I know I'm lucky. The challenge for Britain is to make all its women feel fortunate, rather than completely f***ed over.


Victoria Beckham
Cherie Blair


Their mum
Mrs Thatcher


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