Recently I came face to face with an overwhelming question, one that hundreds of thousands of other women are facing (or soon will): When did your perspective change from a self-focused one to one in which other people came first – children, spouses, significant others? For many of us, it was the birth of the first child, or the day of the wedding; but for many others, the change was gradual – so gradual it would be impossible to put a date on it. Similarly, it is very often difficult to pinpoint when that perspective shifts back to a more egocentric one – or should. In today’s world, the boundaries are blurry.
Once, in a more traditional era, the change was marked by the departure of the eldest child from the household, bound for college or marriage, or the death or departure of a spouse. Now, children may not leave home at the exact moment of college age or chronological adulthood; and, once the kids are gone, the distaff half of a married couple may find it necessary to develop a new perspective, with or without the emotional support of her partner. More so than ever, too, a woman may opt for a single or alternative lifestyle not dominated by heterosexual and/or marital considerations. For me, the process of shifting paradigms was extremely protracted. About four years ago, I completed the transition from an urban soccer-mom lifestyle to a more independent space in a little country community south of Atlanta, where I have deep familial ties. But I had been in need of repurposing my life for at least ten years. I had tried for three years to sell my Druid Hills cottage, but it sat on the market for six months without a single acceptable offer. Until I had that mortgage off my back, my mobility was limited. Owning a house, having pets, taking care of a yard, shopping and cooking family-style, are parts of a lifestyle package – one that is appropriate for a woman bringing up children, with or without a partner – but may or may not be the best course for someone whose children are grown and gone from the home.
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