Tuesday, April 2, 2013

About Selfishness And Family Roles

Family ties.  There is a reason they call it that.  Family can literally tie you down.  They can keep you from doing things that make you happy.  They can limit your life and be a lifelong burden.  Of course all of this is disguised by the use of velvet cord to soften the hold and make you feel as if you are wanted and needed and loved… 

I have spent decades of my life trying to live up to the expectations of my parents, the wishes of my (former) husband and the needs of my children.  Throw in planning around the schedule of various other relatives... and very little of my earlier life was EVER about ME. 

Now…. is about ME.   I have spent countless hours rationalizing and trying to come up with a way of disguising the selfishness of our plan.  There are people who depend upon me and have expectations of me.  How can I just ditch it all and sail away?

I have watched my Mother change after the death of my father.  She has a different life from the one familiar to me.  She has made personal choices that seem foreign to me.  But in doing so, she has experienced personal growth that would never have seemed possible in her former life.  

I have watched my children grow into strong and confident young women.  They make decisions and set boundaries that protect their independence so that they can be true to themselves.  I am proud that they have such firm principles and that they can live by them without bending to the opinions of others.  Even if those opinions are MINE!

I have watched my Brother find happiness with his new wife.  He has finally found a woman who can handle him.  (Thank you Laura)  I have taken a bit of grief from her though.  She wants the traditional family group for her daughter, and who could blame her?  Sorry Laura, you'll have to settle for the "Aunt and Uncle on the sailboat who send the pretty pictures".

I am working to let go of the old roles of child and mother and in doing so, I have come to a realization.  None of my family are sitting around worrying about what I'm doing.  They aren't concerned about whether or not I will approve of their choices.  They are all out there living their lives, having fun, making mistakes and learning from them, and making futures for themselves…  Furthermore… that is EXACTLY what I would want for them to be doing.  I want them to be happily making the lives of their choosing.  And…. maybe that's what they want of me too!

I come from a small family of very strong minded individuals.  Of course I will miss them, but when I think about it… how much do I actually SEE them anyway.  We keep in touch by phone and other electronic media.  How will that change?  Very little…  The thing that will change however, will be that when we DO get together, it will be in a place that is exciting and new.  Our times together will be so much more important and memorable.  
The day that we turn our nose to the East and don't return will be a hard day.  We will leave all that is familiar and venture into an unknown future on a limited income.  Our ability to communicate with family will be unreliable at best.  My ability to provide a safety net for my girls is gone.  I'll be doing good to provide my OWN safety net…  Are we doing the right thing?  Should we be staying put, working hard to create a "Family Home" where my kids can bring their own kids?  Are we being selfish in traipsing off into the Wild?  Many would say "yes"!  But I hope that my family will continue to be supportive of our dream and will embrace this very non-traditional lifestyle.  I hope that they will help us weave it into the fabric of our lives together to make a very uncommon and exciting new set of family roles.  


  1. What a gorgeous, honest piece of writing!

    Some of those who give you static about selfishness perhaps aren't seeing you as a PERSON, they are just seeing you as a role in their lives (aunt, business partner, whatever) through the lens of THEIR need for what you provide when in that role. That's its own kind of selfishness, no?

    1. Thank you Jaye. I'm a little sheepish about it. I've been rolling it around in my mind trying to get it out and I'm not quite sure it's exactly what I wanted to say... but it's out there now so I don't have to think about it anymore. I very much appreciate your words.

      I guess we are all a little selfish in wanting things to stay the same with the people in our lives. It's difficult to be selfless and watch loved ones live their own lives. I've realized that if I expect freedom and acceptance from the people in my life, I have to give it first.

  2. Yes, Jaye makes a very good point! Also, the gift that you offer your family (and friends) is the reminder that we make choices about how we want to live our lives. Too many people forget (or never knew) that there are alternative ways to be in the world.

    1. One of my biggest fears is to live a life regretting things I should have done. I have no idea if we will thrive or fail at this cruising thing... but I'm hoping that we will be able to show ourselves and everyone who knows us that you can live your dream.

  3. Last year I wrote a post called "The Guilt Trip"! I think as a parent and as a daughter, it's tough to "sail away" from it all. I prepared my mom about 3 years ago and she still doesn't like the idea, but she now realizes it's gonna happen so she's accepting it.

    I dream of the day when our daughter visits us on our boat with her own family. I think we'll actually be able to spend more time (summers) with our grandchildren than if we were staying behind and going to work every day.

    I know there will be lots of tears on my face when we leave, but it will be a great experience that I don't think I'll regret.

    Great post!

    1. Lucky for me, my mom and kids are very supportive. It would be nearly impossible for us to sail away if they were giving us the guilt trip. I think it's all in my mind and posting it here helps to get it out of there! Thanks for the kind words.