Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My folks

Carol-a Crayon, my friend and partner-in-design, said to me last week ‘you don’t talk about your parents very much…’

I thought about it, and she’s right I don’t talk about them much, but I do think about them. And when I do it’s tinged with sadness and guilt so I keep it in my head.

The simple fact is that I am breaking my Mum’s heart by living in Thailand – or by not living in the UK. I can’t bear to think too hard about them because I know how sad she is about me being so far away and how much she misses me.

(And if I’m honest, it’s not only my Mum.)

I don’t know how my Dad feels because he’s a man in his 70s, and he hasn’t been encouraged to talk about his feelings. I do know that he took his profession extremely seriously, and so did Mum and so they both understand that Husband’s job is the Thing We Have To Consider.

The opportunity to move overseas for a job – and therefore have some support – isn’t offered to everyone all the time. To live in a culture so different from your own it may as well be the moon, is a privilege. It’s not easy to do and I am proud to have adjusted.

Knowing that I’m enjoying this time in my life, but that it is something that makes some of my family and friends unhappy, is very hard to live with. It’s distressing to know that I am wilfully causing someone pain simply by living my life.

Every time we converse, embedded in the conversation is the never asked question: when are you coming home? Those unasked words reverberate around other words, enquiries, and conversations. I hear it in her tones, bouncing between the lines. Sometimes she might ask ‘Are you able to get home for Christmas/Easter/summer?’ She might ask again a couple of weeks later – in the hope that the answer has changed.

And no, she won’t come to us. She won’t fly.

So I’m going to post about my parents; one at a time.



It's a tough one isn't it? My family found it hard to accept me moving a few hundred miles away. I'm not kidding. No-one had ever moved from my home town in our family before and they seemed to take it personally - wouldn't visit me and so on. Strange, and upsetting. It's kind of resolved now, years later, but we still have to drive up and get my mum and take her back to Scarborough, as she sees it as 'our responsibility' because it was Me who chose to move away. Sad really, as she missed out a lot on her grandchildren growing up.

Pacha said...

It's painful, isn't it? Gon doesn't talk about his family for this reason. Too painful. He doesn't even call them that frequently. And they can't afford to travel (and if they could they are too scared to fly anyway!)

I've always lived far (in adifferent country to) from my parents since I was 18. Except now. Two years ago Gon and I wanted to move back to Argentina. To say that my parents didn't let us sounds silly. But that is sort of what happened!

Then I think about my kids. And the thought of them growing up, becoming adults and moving far far far away from me. It'll serve me right perhaps but I can't see me actually ALLOWING them to do it! (without threatening to go with them, of course!)

Lane said...

So difficult jj. Having had similar pressure (although I've never lived abroad) it's made me determined never to do the same to my children. Unconditional freedom and no guilt.
I just hope I can stick to it when the time comes.

hesitant scribe said...

Oh this is so difficult, but you know, you have to live your life. My parents left the UK and got me in Canada, and they went through all that guilt too. And then I was in Spain going through the same guilt. And my sister-in-law is New Zealand...

The only answer would be to never move abroad, but what a shame that would be. At least you can speak on the phone, and you can visit them here. And think of the experiences your children are getting - that is priceless and more than makes up for it I should think!

laurie said...

i can't imagine how tough that would be.

i was the last of 10 kids to move from our hometown. my parents had assumed (without ever saying so outright) that i would stay behind forever and nurse them in their old age.

when i told them i'd landed a good job and was moving away, they were devastated. (and i was only moving three hours away.)

my mother called my siblings, in tears. "we could be dead on the floor and nobody would ever know!" she said.

my dad called my siblings. "it is the duty of an unmarried daughter to stay behind and care for the parents in their old age," he said. "this is laurie's duty." (i was unmarried at the time.)

i was astounded. i moved anyway. they got over it. but i don't know that they ever exactly forgave me.

SueG said...

JJ - 26 years ago I married a man from Boston. No one in my family had ever lived anywhere other than New York -- except when they first lived in Russia! So when I said I was moving to Boston, they couldn't stand it. Imagine how they felt when, 7 years later, I announced I was moving to London. That was 17 years ago. I have to admit, missing each other doesn't get any easier. My mother stills gets "that voice" when we talk on the phone. But my parents have come to appreciate the reasons why I moved and why I have stayed. They see how good a life I've made for us, and perhaps most importantly, they have seen how their grandchildren have thrived. I found that as long as I continue to include them in my plans and thoughts, as long as I ask them their opinions and continue to care about having them in our lives -- even from afar -- it has worked out. I hope it does for you as well. But, I know it hurts.

A. Writer said...

There's a blog award for you on my blog!

Carol and Chris said...

I'm sorry.....I didn't mean to cause you any heartache!!

I know it's not easy living so far away from friends and family. My Mum and Dad are pretty understanding about the whole thing but the one person I know finds it really hard is my Gran. She's 84 and keeps making comments about not having much time left - it hurts that I can't see her more often!!

I comfort myself with the thought that when she does see me we spend lots of time together. We go shopping together, go for walks, cook and just enjoy each other's company - if I lived nearer we probably wouldn't do as much together!!

C x

JJ said...

God, Karen, that's hard. And my Mum'd tell yours to be grateful it's the same country! But I'm glad it's kind of resolved.

Pacha, I vow not to do it to my kids. I'm running a higher than average risk by doing it to them, that they'll do it as adults so I will be prepared. Fulfilled. And not make them feel guilty. I hope.

Lane, Yes, me too. I so hope so.

Lisa, I know - I so know all the benefits. I feel disappointed that Mum can't see what a wonderful experience this is.

Blimey Laurie, your duty? By the randomness of being born/married last? We all have duties to our parents, but that's not to the extreme of sacrificing our own lives.

SueG, oh, it doesn't get easier? No, I rather thought not. I hope they can see how fab the kids are. They won't ever see our lives here, but you're right about involving them in stuff. I rang Mum the other day to rant about something child related, and she was so pleased just to be considered for advice. Thank you.

A. Writer, thank you honey, I will add your name to the awarded to... bit on my blog.

Carol-a, you haven't caused me heartache. It was interesting to consider what you said, and that my not talking wasn't not thinking. Does that make any sense? I am so afraid that they will die while I'm here...and I will feel awful for ever.

Thanks to all of you for understanding this one.


KayJay said...

I'm trying not to think too hard about this aspect of our move from the UK to the States. My mum has been brilliant about the whole thing - in spite of so many of her friends asking her why she isn't utterly devastated! We lost my dad a few years back and although it's hard for me to think of her on her own, his death reinforced my belief that you have to take your opportunities when they present themselves. In a way, it's an easier situation than yours as we're only supposed to be going for 2 years and my ma will fly (with A LOT of persuasion!).

I have a great friend who has a chance to move to another country and pursue her dream career. She's single, no kids and financially secure, so there's nothing holding her back...apart from her mum. She becomes hysterical whenever the subject is raised, even though she has her husband, another daughter and a new grandchild close by! My friend is 36 and she is finding it so hard to break away.

We can't let guilt and worry spoil our experience. My mum knows this and I suspect that's why she's being so stoical. That in itself breaks my heart!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

JJ, that does sound horribly tough. And yet I'm not sure it's such one-way traffic. After all, your mum is also 'wilfully causing someone pain simply by living [her] life' because she won't fly to see you; if she did, she'd see much more of you than she does now. I think it's impossible to get through life without making choices that adversely affect others. I'm so glad you have chosen to live your life your way. Living to fit the requirements of others causes more pain, I think, in the long run.

Mel said...

JJ, you are so not responsible for "willfully causing your mother pain"! I know very well how hard it is to be away from friends and family but I think it is so unfair if anyone makes you feel guilty for living YOUR life. I'm lucky that my fam are very supportive and say that even though it's hard to be apart, that as long as I'm happy living here is what really matters.

I carry guilt about being away from my grandmother though too as she is 89 and knowing she doesn't have so much time left, but we talk on the phone often and she's happy that I've found love and happiness and she has travelled the world many times over and completely understands. It's a horrible feeling to be apart but honestly jj, this is your life to experience all the different wonders in the world that perhaps weren't available to your parents and they should be happy that their daughter and grandchildren have such an amazing opportunity to have this time.xx