Running in the family…
I hit my thirtieth birthday last weekend and there is nothing like a milestone birthday for prompting some age and family related reflection. Obviously, there is a generation gap between my Mum and I, but it is fascinating the similar trajectory we’ve both travelled as we’ve struggled to build our identities, both as working women and as wives. It is only over the last few years, as I’ve grown up, that I’ve realised the gap isn’t as wide as I used to think.
One of the strangest similarities has been talking to my Mum about divorce. We are both divorcees and, from what I can gather, we both occupied a similar niche within our marriages. As I look back, I find some level of understanding of why we both made the decisions and chose the paths we did. I’m not sure if this is more because I want to find whatever similarities exist to help me understand my own choices or because there are really clear objective similarities between us. Nevertheless, these reflections have helped me to figure out how important building my own identity is, both by building on my history and in differentiation from it.
For both Mum and I, despite the separation of a generation, it has been a struggle to define our identities post divorce. We both put our careers on hold in order to be wives (and in her case a mother) and we’ve both fought hard since then to establish a career and a reputation for ourselves. I remember at 15, completely failing to understand how difficult it was for Mum to get a start on the career ladder again after years out of the job market to be a Mum. I gave her no credit for how difficult this was and how hard she had to fight to get even the smallest foothold. 15 years on from then and all the misery of feeling she was not ever going to be good enough she is now a successful, qualified accountant with a fierce sense of pride in her work.
I’ve spent the last 5 years since my own divorce trying to figure out what my place in the world is both personally and professionally. Professionally speaking, it has been a struggle to get that first break into an industry I want to work in. I’ve now found it, but I remember well the despair as I sent off job application after job application and heard nothing back. Finally I understand where Mum was coming from! As I gain more perspective on my own history, more settled on my own sense identity I am far less threatened by the suggestion of either authority or primacy of my parents’ generation. I now can listen more objectively to what they have to say about issues that affect my life, my generation and our shared future.
It’s a far cry from being 18 and absolutely convinced I was unchallengeably right, yet under the yoke of oppression by an older generation. An older generation that knew nothing of what it was like to be me and to have plans to do life better. A generation who’d made so many mistakes that I would effortlessly avoid. Oh the joys of hindsight!
We’d love to hear any of your thoughts on experiencing the generation gap within your family so please pop us a comment below with your thoughts!