July 11, 2008

The first time I travelled without my husband and children was two years ago. I went to a conference to present a paper written about my Masters thesis and it went down well. My primary occupation prior to this had been parenting for thirteen years, punctuated only in the last five years of this with part time teaching and postgraduate study.

Full time parenting was a wonderful stage of my life. The displacement I experienced after leaving full time teaching was supplanted gradually and completely by the challenges and joys of raising four daughters, whose development I found fascinating. During those years, I was cocooned in a completely fulfilling world of unconditional love. Raising my children I felt a sense of purpose and direction beyond rationality. Yet during those years, from a societal perspective I was largely invisible. After so many years, I think it was inevitable that invisibility seeped into my psyche. It took hold by stealth.  

When my youngest went to school and I was suddenly bereft of constant childish companionship, I realised I had become accustomed to hiding behind my children. The first time I went to the market alone, for example, I felt disconcerted by the direct gaze of the familiar store holders. I had grown accustomed to their eye contact being drawn away from me by a child vying for attention. Without a child holding on to my leg or my hand, I felt exposed and incomplete. I didn’t know how to be

That first conference was a marked stage in my journey of finding myself again as an individual and as a professional person with something to contribute to society (in a way that was recognised). Suddenly in my forties I find myself no longer invisible! I can hardly describe the turmoil I have experienced between then and now. Even the word turmoil isn’t quite right because it doesn’t convey the excitement and sense of adventure rediscovering yourself engenders. 

I have referred to the past two years as my mid life crisis. I know that its over because I feel solid again. I have reconciled new-found freedom with my responsibilities.  Parenting is still a large and important part of my life, but there’s a me in there too who can stand on her own two feet. Ah life.


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