Growing up

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I used to have so many plans, dreams and aspirations. Mostly though, I wanted to be free. I wanted to be able to phone my friends without my mother worrying about the cost of the phone call; to stay up all night to finish my book and then sleep through the next day to recover; to come home as late as I chose from a night out without worrying those who cared about me. I wanted to live my life by my rules without anyone else complaining about the choices I made.

When I left my parent’s home and moved into my flat I experienced living alone for the first time and did all of the things I had hoped for. Independence was heady and fun but also lonely at times. I am so glad that I had the experience of total freedom for those few years though as it helped me deal with the inevitable compromises that had to be made when I chose to get married and was sharing a house again. Love can last a lifetime but that initial euphoria of being in love can struggle to exist alongside day to day living. Knowing that I had been lonely living alone helped me to put minor irritations in perspective; to accept the choices that I had made.

I wanted to have children and adore being a mother. I launched myself into the role and it has been the key feature of my life and decision making for the past seventeen years. I have only recently realised how much I have allowed what is me to be swallowed up by the person that I thought I should be. I have spent so long pouring all of my energy into being the good wife and the good mother that I have lost sight of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Of course, I still wish to be a good wife and a good mother, but I sometimes think that I have become a caricature of these things. I suspect that my husband and children would find me a lot more interesting if I could cast off the shackles of the role society has persuaded me I should be aiming for and went back to being myself. Looking at the people that they have become, I think that my family would still like me.

I find it hard to verbalise the change I am trying to engineer; I want evolution rather than revolution. It is still the small things that make me feel caged: the wish to stay up late without my husband making me feel guilty; the ability to talk to my children as equals rather than nagging them about things that are really not so important; spending my time reading a book or surfing the net when my husband is working hard at something constructive without feeling that I should be undertaking some useful task too. I have imposed so many unnecessary standards on myself and then wonder why my personal sacrifices are not appreciated. It is only I who have made me the way I have become.

When I was a teenager I felt like a prisoner in my parent’s home. I knew that I was loved and that staying there was the only way that I could achieve the goals I had; I needed to gain qualifications if I was to earn the money that I needed to be free. Now I feel like a prisoner in the home that I have helped to create. I know that I have built the walls myself and that nobody forced me to do so. I need to work out what I want to be now; I need to grow again.

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