Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Greener Pastures

I like to read family drama-type novels, and I recently read Sleepwalking in Daylight, a story told from the dual perspectives of an adopted teenage girl and her mother. The mother, who is also the biological mother of twin 8-year-old boys, is a stay-at-home mom who embarks on a quasi-affair with a man who has a wife and a little girl (although their relationship is really more about talking than about physical intimacy). 

What hooks her is this: after a chance encounter and conversation on a commuter train, he asks her, "Do you ever want to walk away from your life? Do you ever think this life is not exactly what you had planned? Do you ever crave something, anything, that could wake you up?"

Suffice it to say, everything ends badly—the book is more of a cautionary tale than a real life lesson. But I think, if we're honest with ourselves, many of us would admit a certain truth to some of those questions.

Before you had kids, did you have a clear vision of what your day-to-day life would look like? For most working parents, each day is much the same. The specific activities vary, but generally, you rush to work, to rush home, to rush the kids through their evening routine, to eke out a couple of hours of time to yourself before you pass out. And then you wake up and do it all over again.

Fulfillment: it may well be the Holy Grail for adult women, but I'm not sure it exists. I know many others like me who, if you asked them, would say they're generally happy. Yet they're still always looking for more.

Part of the issue may be the expectations that we place on ourselves. We're always waiting for that next step in life—the new job, getting married, having kids, buying a new house, et cetera—that will bring us true contentment. And, as if that weren't enough, working mothers heap on more expectations. For some reason, we believe that we have to be good at everything—from decorating birthday cakes to disciplining our children to balancing chequebooks to kicking ass in the boardroom. Well, guess what...we weren't perfect before we had kids. So why would we ever think that we could be perfect now?

There are ways to create change, great or small, without changing course entirely. Sometimes, a change in direction is exactly what you need. For example, we have friends who packed up the kids and the house and moved to Australia for a year. You can do that sort of thing, even when you have kids. You just have to want it enough.

What's hard is that, well, we're all so tired. When you get to a certain point in your life, it's so much easier to swim downstream than to fight the current. But it means that, often, you're just drifting.

The lesson that book taught me wasn't that I need a life overhaul but, rather, that I should dig deeper to find the energy to change the parts that I want to change. So I will. And perhaps I still won't find that elusive Holy Grail of fulfillment...but I hope I'll get just a little bit closer.

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