If David Bowie’s voice isn’t running through your head after reading that title, you’re probably a lot younger than I am!
I’ve been thinking a lot about changes lately.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve come to realize that I’m entering a new phase in my life. The children are increasingly able to be left at home alone, and my mother has moved to our area and now serves as a handy (and free!) babysitter. This has opened up many possibilities that have been closed to us since we became parents almost 13 years ago, and I find myself marvelling at newfound freedoms after so many years of being needed at home with the children.
As I’ve thought about the changes this is bringing to my lifestyle, I’ve looked back on my life and realized that such changes have been occurring pretty regularly since the time I was very small. In fact, I can break it down rather accurately to a major lifestyle change approximately every 10 years. My goals, my responsibilities, and my level of freedom have changed with each decade and have brought with them a dramatically new lifestyle. I’m reminded of that saying “You can have it all, but not all at once“, and I’ve come to conclude that it describes my life quite well. This realization has brought a sense of deep gratitude and satisfaction. Each and every stage has been wonderful in its own way. Before I get tired of my life, I’m on to something completely different. It brings a colourful perspective to life, and a sense of adventure, too.
My 50th birthday is less than 3 years away, and as I approach my sixth decade I’m enjoying thinking about the five that have come before it:
The first decade of my life was childhood, with its utter dependence on my parents. Luckily, I had good ones. I had a good home and a safe and happy life. My lifestyle revolved around elementary school; the rest was either play or following my parents’ agenda (music lessons, vacations, etc). The second decade of my life was high school and university undergrad. My freedom and independence slowly grew (not fast enough for me most of the time!). High school had a tangible goal (to get into University), and University undergrad meant freedom from parental rules and total ownership of my education.
The third decade of my life was filled with graduate school (Masters and PhD degrees). I no longer lived with my parents, and I spent a good deal of my free time socializing with friends (parties and night clubbing) and enjoying my hobbies (horseback riding and hanging out at the barn). I look back on fondly on this time: the world was my oyster, I had total freedom, and I had no responsibilities for anyone other than myself. It was the All About Me decade!
In the transition between the third and fourth decade of my life, I launched my career as a research scientist and got myself into a position where I was basically set. I had established myself and made good connections in my field. Had I continued, I would have enjoyed a solid and respectable career. But as the fourth decade rolled in I met my future husband, got married, and had two children. It’s a cliche, but a true one: having kids completely changed my life. From the moment my daughter was born my entire focus shifted to my children. I was no longer the centre of the universe and I didn’t even care. I experienced a love so profound, and a calling to motherhood that was so strong, that nothing else really mattered anymore. I’d had the All About Me decade, I’d achieved my goal of establishing a career, and I was ready to move on to something completely different.
Babies and toddlers are all-consuming. For a while, I forgot what it was like to walk around without the weight of a child on my back or in my arms. My purses became covered in dust; instead, I kept a full diaper bag ready to go at all times. Leaving the house was a massive exercise in project management, and my days were filled with other mothers and babies and child-centred activities. I didn’t sleep much, I was exhausted most of the time, but my heart was full of a joy I’d never known before.
As the kids became capable of dressing, feeding, toileting, and washing themselves and more independent in their learning, my time began to free up somewhat. As my fifth decade progressed, I was able to read books again and I took up hobbies such as knitting, quilting, and sewing. We bought our acreage and I began studying and planning for a small permaculture-based farm. I even took on a part-time job but, as with all my newfound activities, it was based from home.
I’m now approaching my sixth decade, and I’m seeing some big changes ahead. Miss Em is completely independent at home and can babysit her brother during the day; at night they can go to my mother’s house. Mr. Boo is attending the learning centre 2 full days per week. This means that my free time can now encompass things that take place outside the home. I’ve been volunteering with a local non-profit organization and have recently taken on a leadership role. I’m really enjoying the interactions with other adults and working together for a common goal. I’ve started hanging out at our office one day a week to assist with tasks and sit in on a number of meetings that my role requires me to attend. I’ve been able to spend more time with Husband, sans enfants, which is also a pretty new experience for us. This newfound freedom is set to grow even further this fall, when Mr. Boo will be joined at the learning centre by his sister, and both will attend 3 days per week. For the first time since becoming a mother, I will experience what it’s like to not have children at home during the day (thankfully, they will still be around most of the week!).
I’m pretty excited about the possibilities for myself, and my changing role as a mother. Homeschooling has been such a big part of my job for the last 12 years, but I’m beginning to view myself as the mother of children who attend school part-time. I’ve enjoyed our homeschooling journey immensely, and I feel my children have been given a unique and wonderful first decade, full of unstructured learning, unconditional love, and emotional security. The next decade brings changes for all of us. But as with each new decade of change, I greet this one with excitement, enthusiasm, and gratitude. Bring on the next adventure!