Just when the caterpillar thought it was over, she became a beautiful butterfly!
A recent conversation with my Dad about the impact of redundancy got me thinking about my own life journey so far. His description of how he fellt when he was made redundant really resonated with me. He explained that one of the most difficult things to handle was his loss of status. He felt stripped of a status that he had spent years earning and suddenly it was gone. Like someone had pulled the rug right out from under him. It struck me that I had been experiencing the same feelings recently, but in relation to my journey of motherhood!
Whether a stay at home Mum, Dad or main caregiver or if you’re a parent who goes out to work, you spend so many years bringing up your children in the most practical of ways.
Washing bottles, packing lunches, doing homework and more recently being a teacher. All of these things you do not for status but for the love of your children and because that is your role within the family. Then one day, your kids grow up and although it may happen gradually, it feels as though its happened overnight. Suddenly the practical aspects of your job description have been replaced by much fuzzier, emotional tasks such as worrying about what they might be watching on their phones, especially now they have retreated to their rooms or thinking about how their friendships are at high school…high school…when did that happen anyway?
Although no less important and certainly no less draining, I find this shift in my role to be a little like that description my Dad gave of redundancy, the rug has well and truly been pulled and left me feeling quite discombobulated. However, in parenthood there is no earning of status. There are no KPI’s to meet or annual performance reviews where you can receive a pat on the back for a job well done. You just have to accept that you’ve done your best and hope that it will be enough.
But that sense of loss, if not of status, then of identity is very real and for women in particular, it comes at a time when our bodies are also beginning to let us know that the time is coming when our fertility, the very reason for this role in the first place, is going to let go of us too, which can exacerbate feelings of loss, uncertainty and grief.
But here is the good news … Dad went on to explain that his redundancy encouraged him to re-appraise his professional life and helped him to find an inner resilience to forge forward into his new future. And as women in our ‘mid-life’ we can view this point in our lives as a hugely positive and powerful step forwards. Whilst acknowledging and accepting the feelings of loss and uncertainty, we can re-frame any negative emotional responses be seeing this time as an opportunity to re-appraise, reinvigorate and feel revived.
We can re-emerge from our cocoon of early adulthood and enter our midlife years with a renewed sense of purpose, empowered by the wealth of life experience we have built up and earned over the years so far. And we can use that power to propel us forward, taking on the physical and emotional challenges of this phase of our lives in a positive and productive way. We never lost our identity…we are merely beginning the journey to find it.