My bags were in the car. My belongings reduced to three suitcases. Go time.
As I hugged the kids, I simultaneously dreaded saying goodbye to my mum.
She and I hadn’t exactly seen eye to eye on my move.
We’d made an agreement twelve months prior. I’d let the divorce progress quietly, and in return, I could move out.
It was mortifying. A 24 year old bargaining with her parents like she’s still in her teens.
But it was the only way we could both get what we wanted.
She would remain on speaking terms with her family, and I’d have my freedom.
Only that’s not quite how it worked out.
I kept my promise, and she forgot she’d even made hers.
“What do you mean I agreed to you moving out?” she protested when I brought it up. “Do you know what people will say about you? A single girl living alone? You’ll be labelled a whore.”
But we had an agreement.
And despite her selective memory, I ploughed forward.
I viewed houses. Signed the contract. Got the mortgage and started redecorating.
All alone. Nobody to advise me. That’s how adamant I was about freedom.
I figured if I’d continue, she’d come around eventually.
“I’ll be back on the weekend,” I whispered to my niece. “And then we can go to the park, OK?”
Just as my eyes turned to my mum, her head turned away.
She couldn’t even look at me.
The stab in my heart was more painful than I’d ever experienced. My own mother, the woman who birthed me, couldn’t look me in the eye.
That was the depth of the betrayal she felt.
And then I ran.
Out of the house. Into the car. Away from it all.
From the control. The restriction. The reversed promises and unfair expectations.
From the looks of disappointment.
When wearing a mask at home becomes the default, anywhere-but-home is a sanctuary
In my home, I wasn’t a stranger. Judgement didn’t happen. My shoulders softened.
As the months moved on, my mum’s reaction to my decision didn’t.
It took her over a year to visit. And that was only because her grandchildren begged her to.
When she was there, she refused to eat anything I offered. Or give me advice on the garden when I asked her. Reluctance.
She stuck to her guns. Just as I had. Cut from the same cloth.
It was this very stubbornness that led me to move to London, and eventually to Paris.
Freedom continued to call. Opportunity presented her wares. And I was ready to buy.
Despite my readiness to evolve, home remained as stationary as it always was. A consistent time warp. Comfortingly predictable.
I was forever the one that betrayed the family. The one who left. The anomaly sans accolades.
When opinion of you is repeated by many, sooner or later, you start to second guess your decisions
She doesn’t love her parents. She’s completely heartless, leaving her family like that. What kind of daughter deserts her mum? She thinks she’s better than us. Her poor mother, all alone. Doesn’t that thought ever cross her mind? She doesn’t love them.
The opinions are followed by advice that’s delivered without any consideration of who you actually are.
Isn’t it time you moved back now?
I know you’re going through a phase. It’s time to stop and come back to reality.
Your mother needs you. Don’t you see that?
You’ve had your fun. Be responsible now
You must get lonely, living in a home without anyone around …
Living away from your family doesn’t make sense, does it?
Whether you moved away from home for university, work, or simply for freedom, the pressure to move back home’s undeniable. Because it’s always there. It’s relentless.
After all, what will people say?
Everywhere you go, you’re expected to carry the reputation of your family with you.
Especially when you’re female.
You’re told this so many times that you eventually start to believe it.
And you begin to wonder if moving back would be so bad? The temptation begins.
I’d have my family around me. I’m different now. I could make it work.
Moving back doesn’t mean moving backwards
But sometimes it does.
You’ve developed beyond the person you used to be when you lived there. The independence of responsibility, the self-reliance, the freedom – it’s all changed you.
And when you return, you not only feel it, it hits you like a ton of lead aboard a speeding train.
You’re different. Home’s the same. You still wear a mask, but it’s a different mask now.
This time, you don’t point out how your sister’s raising her kids like mum raised us. You don’t want to patronise her.
This time, you don’t comment on how Aisha should really buy a house in a different part of town, not next door to her mum. The last thing you want is to sound like you’re better than her.
This time? You’re compassionate. Sensitive to the opinion others have of you. Walking on different eggshells. Taking the best from the experience and anticipate the relief of heading to your other home.
And yet, they’re still suggesting you move back home. They haven’t changed. Their experience hasn’t been as evolutionary as yours. That record’s still broken.
Use your new-found wisdom to your advantage. Let compassion guide your reactions. Give them some space.
Because when they’re begging you to move back, what they’re really saying is this:
I miss you
I want you to be safe. The house feels like a home when you’re here. You help me open my mind and I love that about you. I’m afraid of what I don’t know. And when I don’t know where you are, I’m scared you’re in danger.
Yes, an element of this is quite simply control. But even control’s fear based.
And once you understand that, it’s easier to tolerate the come back requests.
It is a case of tolerating them.
You’re adamant to have your freedom. They’re adamant to show you the light.
Neither will change.
Stop being the one to try and change them. And more importantly, stop believing the lies they tell about you.
Living away from your family doesn’t mean you don’t love them. They see love as family living under the same roof. You see love as existing no matter where you live.
Living away from home doesn’t mean you betrayed them. You chose a path whose allure was undeniable. They secretly admire your determination.
Living away from your loved ones doesn’t mean you’re alone. The freedom to move also means the freedom to choose who else you can love.
You chose freedom. Live like you mean it.