Throughout my life I have always been a responsible person. The sensible one. The boring one. The Goody Two Shoes more often than not. I was bright and expected to do well. I had the opportunity to go to university, something my brothers had not. I squandered that chance. Truth be told I didn’t know what I wanted at 18 so I’d opted to go with the herd and apply to uni, but when it came to taking my final school exams I decided I’d had enough learning. I think I was also a bit too scared to leave home at that point. So I stayed home and got a job.
Then when I was 21 my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Prospects weren’t as good back at that time, plus by the time it was discovered he had it, the primary cancer in his lungs had spread to his brain. I was still living at home, just gone through a broken engagement and suddenly I had to be a real grown up. I had to be responsible. Mum was great but Dad had always taken on the role of the provider etc. He was the man of the house who looked after his wife. My Mum had never written a cheque in her life before he died. A lot changed.
I’ve made it sound as if I had to take on Dad’s role with my Mum but that wasn’t the case. She just got on with things but of course I felt the responsibility of being there for her and helping her through it but she never held me back.
In time I discovered the love of my life, we married, set up home and had our family. Close to my Mum. She was such a great help to us during those early years of marriage when the kids arrived one after the other. (I never wanted to emulate my Mother-in-law’s brood of 8 kids but I think we could have done if we’d tried. When we got to 3 and I realised I didn’t have enough hands to hang on to them all I was done!)
The kids grew up and I went back to work. First as a Finance Officer for a local charity and then admin roles in the school our kids started at. I started as the front desk Receptionist and progressed to Business Manager with more and more responsibilities being handed to me.
Then two things happened at the same time. Hubby had a horrible accident and Mum’s suspected Alzheimer’s was confirmed. More responsibility. That was 2005. Hubby fortunately made a very good recovery but there was definitely a swing to me for taking the lead on things. Mum of course began the long road of losing not only her memories but also her physical capacities and with that her dignity. But you plough on. You prop up the family. You visit the shell of the person you love even though they have no idea who you are any longer. And you continue to do your job as best you can. Because that’s what a responsible person does.
You cope with losing your parents because it’s the usual course of things but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Closing down their lives. Making funeral arrangements, clearing out their things. It has to be done so you just get on and do it.
Then, as is often the case, there is a straw added that breaks the camel’s back. In my case it was a work issue that led not only to health issues “I’m signing you off before you end up having a stroke” but my resignation. I walked away. Leaving the responsibilities behind. But I was broken. It took a long time to recover from the low that I had reached.
Now I’m in a much better place and I have the luxury of being able to make choices.
That’s what prompted this post. I was offered the opportunity to take on a new responsibility a while ago and I almost did, but then Nathan arrived and I was relieved to be able to concentrate full time on my daughter and Nathan. I was thinking about the offer at the weekend. There are still options available to me to take on a role. But it would mean responsibility and I realised that I’m done with that. I don’t want to be responsible any more. I always found myself saying yes in the past. Now I’m saying no.
As a wife, mother and now grandmother I still have responsibilities but they are ones I’ve chosen to have. I didn’t choose to be a daughter and all that came with it but I’m glad of that experience, it shaped the person and parent I’ve become. My Mum and Dad set good examples, hopefully I’m doing the same for my kids and the next generation.