This year began with so much busyness, that even though I was feeling a sense of loss, I didn't have too much time to dwell on the 'losses' and their deeper meaning. It was all good stuff - after all, if my children didn't find life partners, get married, get jobs, have babies, move away from home - you know - grow up - then I'd feel like a complete failure as a homeschooling mother! Yet there is a sense of loss all the same, and now that things have settled down I am considering my future. The loss of myself as Mother (the Maiden stage ended long ago, and wasn't missed!), and the realisation that I am entering the Crone stage of my life, is making my my inner life as tumultuous as it was in my teen years.
I know what I want to do: I want to garden, growing a lot more of our own food. I want more chooks and more fruit trees and maybe a few tea camellia trees. I want to be available to do the jobs around our home that are hard to do in the dark, in winter, at the end of a working day. I want to sew clothes for myself that fit, and my friend Jenny is helping me with that. I want to make beautiful decorated papers and use them to make books, both for gifts (a wedding album for my longtime friend, Eileen is the next project) and, hopefully, to sell. I want to knit and felt and mosaic and paper mache and try lots more craft. I want to read and think.
I want to be available for my sons when they want to talk, or visit, or for me to babysit. I want to be available for my friends when they need to talk, or need company while they wait at the hospital for three hours for an operation to have a melanoma removed, or need help putting together their wedding invitations, or helping them move house when it has to be done on a weekday.
Ordinary things that women have done for ever. Except that they don't do them any more, do they? As we sat in the hospital waiting room, my friend told me that churches all used to have groups of women who would make and serve morning or afternoon tea after funerals, but that the cathedral no longer has anyone, so they call on the women at my friend's church now. But there are only three of them left and the youngest is over 70. It's okay of course: you can pay people to do almost anything these days, so people won't have to go without their cup of tea, though more and more people slip away straight after the funeral now, having to rush back to work. I remember my parents' funerals: it was a comfort to have my Playcentre friends in the kitchen, ready to help with my small children, available for a hug and a bit of a cry. Real people, not close friends, but ones who cared nonetheless.
The friend thing is a bit scary though: without my children to give me the excuse, the reason, for going places, I don't really know how to look after the interpersonal side of my life. I always was socially inept, but having children somehow made me more willing to risk rejection, to get out there for their sakes. Now I can't really go to homeschooling things much anymore. I don't need new hobbies. But I do need people in my life. I have to work out how to deal with that.
I am also discovering that, having chosen to be a homeschooling, stay-at-home-mother for the past 28 years, I am having to come to terms with the things I chose to miss out on. It's not so easy now, with large spaces left empty by the children for whom I happily gave up the alternative possibilities.
However the most difficult part of all of this, is the way everyone and his dog seems to think they have a right to tell me what to do! Remember as a teenager, how everyone told you what to do and you thought it would end once you were grown up? Remember how it started up again the minute you got pregnant? People telling you conflicting information about everything from what to rub into your perineum to make sure you didn't tear, to what to feed your baby. How they felt free to comment and quiz you on your size, weight, shape, skin, hair, clothes - everything?
Well, here I am trying to sort out my head and my life and damn! if they haven't all rolled up at my door, on my phone, at the supermarket - friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers, all telling me to re-train, to get a job, to start a business. Hardly anyone actually asks me what I want to do, and if they do, and I tell them, it seems it is not good enough in their view.
Most strange to me are the homeschooling mothers who insist that I should to go to university and just study, even if it's just for fun. Why, in heavens name, do they think that I would want to enter an educational institution after 21 years of keeping my children out of such places?
Why do so many people seem to think they have the right, the responsibility even, to arrange my life for me? Why can't they offer suggestions without investing their own self-worth in the matter?
Well, they can talk all they like but I'm not going to be pressured into following their agenda any more than I have in the past. It would be nice to have some nonjudgmental company on this journey though.