14 June, 2021

Rising from the ashes

Infertile Phoenix has written a fabulous post about life, choices, and attitudes. Go read it! She commented that she’s living her life, not someone else’s, living up to her blogger name Phoenix. It got me thinking about my own life, and about others’ lives too.

I’ve had someone tell me that I could have abandoned my parents-in-law, moved anywhere I liked, and that it was pretty much my own fault that I felt “stuck” looking after them for so long. Strictly speaking they are correct. However, who can do that? What sort of person would I be if I had made that choice? They were my husband’s parents, and all his other siblings lived overseas. We’re not heartless. We couldn’t leave them alone. We felt the responsibility, and we made their final years better. We adapted around them (and the final years of my mother’s life), lived and worked here, and travelled intermittently. And now they’re gone, and we can do whatever it is we want.

It got me thinking about parents who have adult children, yet still don’t live their own lives. Yes, I understand that their children are an important part of their lives, and grandchildren when they come along. But I remember being astounded when I met a former mentor/colleague some years ago. I’d either just gone on our five-month Lemons to Limoncello trip to Italy and other countries, or was about to leave. I was telling her about it, and she sighed. “I’d really love to do that,” she said, “but I have two grandsons.” She’d been retired for a while, and had recently scaled back on some Board memberships. Three or four months away in Italy was eminently possible for her, both in terms of time and finances, and wouldn’t be a big hole in her relationship with her grandchildren. This was a woman who had been a feminist role model for me and my peers, who “took no prisoners” at work, and had always seemed fearless. But she was trapped by her self-imposed restrictions.

I know other parents who also live their lives around their children and grandchildren, unable to conceive of a life of doing things they want to do, living where they want to live, etc. (Yes, I understand that they WANT to live near and be with their children. Yet they then express regret or jealousy of others who are doing things they’d like to do.) Some of them are very happy and fulfilled. Others are not, because they expect to play an important part in the lives of their kids and grandkids, don’t build the support networks they need, or mentally adjust, and so they feel real grief when those expectations are not met. (See my post from almost 10 years ago discussing this.) And finally, there are others who live a really balanced life, doing their own thing, seeing the world or following hobbies or their own professions, and yet they enjoy their kids and grandkids, and are available for support.

I guess that brings me back to those of us without children. There are those of us who never really rise from the ashes. They live their lives in fear, staying close to what they know, often yearning always for what they wanted but didn’t get, fearful of the unknown future. I feel so sad about that. 

There are those, like Phoenix, who embrace change – even though they may be terrified at the time – in a quest to live their own lives. They embrace the opportunities gifted to them by their No Kidding lives. And maybe some of us go back and forth between embracing the life we have and fearing the future, or live with both options at the same time. I know I do, though I try to keep the fear quotient as low as possible! Maybe that’s the best option. Fear or, perhaps more accurately, caution teaches me to prepare for the future. Freedom allows me to enjoy that future.

Thanks, Phoenix, for reminding me of that!





  1. Oh gosh, I don't know if I embraced change... I just went with reality and kept moving away (literally and figuratively) from anything and anyone that made me feel terrible.

    And now I am who I am, with whom I am with, and doing what I want while living where I want. It came at a high price (losing my children and dreams of motherhood) and required years of nonstop work (first years of grieving, then back to school and logistics) but, since I paid that price, I will enjoy its rewards.

    I'm honored that my short post made you think so many good thoughts! You have helped me so much over the years. I hope together we are helping others. <3

    1. Going with reality and moving away from anything and anyone that makes you feel terrible - to me, that IS embracing change. Or at least, it is moving forward.

  2. Going with reality is a healthy choice! Great posts, both of you.

    I aim for that balanced life. And limoncello.🍋

  3. Dear Mali, thank you for sharing Phoenix's beautiful post.

    I have always felt sorry for people who are trapped by their own self-imposed restrictions.

    I am very glad that you were there for your parents-in-law and for your mother.

    Yes, many people abandon their parents. But what kind of people are they? Abandoning tells everything about a person.

  4. This post made me reflect on my life. My husband and I support his parents and his sister who is a dependent. We are the ones for her in thick and thin and if not us, who? The way my parents are mine, his parents are his and all four need VT and me.

    What a good reflective and thought provoking piece this was, Mali!

  5. Great post, Mali (yours AND Phoenix's)! I tend to go back & forth as well... I know we haven't made the most of the opportunities our childless/free lives afford us (yet?? -- COVID has obviously put a real damper on things these past 16 months...!), but at the same times, we've certainly been able to do some things we wouldn't have, like retire early, buy our condo and spend more time with FIL before he died. I like your idea of a balance.