Leaving Home and Cutting Apron Strings

Most of my family live in the UK; the majority of them live in the same county. My husband and I don’t, we migrated to Cyprus eighteen months ago, and we have no plans to return. I shouldn’t feel guilty. For years my parents have suggested, even actively encouraged us to leave the UK, if ever the opportunity presented itself. However, I don’t believe my mother ever thought she would have to deal with the actuality of any of us leaving home.

Leaving home and severing apron strings

Photo by Brennan Barrows on Unsplash

At the time of our departure, May 2013, I was already married, and I had lived away from home for more than four years. However, I still lived in the same city and my two younger siblings, ‘Moomin’ and ‘Tich’, still lived at home with our parents. While I was still living in the same city, I was accessible. I could still call in for a cup of tea, go for Sunday lunch with the rest of the family (and possibly a large family gathering if she felt that way inclined), or even have a chat on the phone without accounting for time differences. Leaving home, or at least the city I’d called home for nearly 30 years, was a change that my mother had never envisaged.

Leaving Home: A Catalyst for Change

Unfortunately, my desertion of the home shores initiated a sudden departure from the familial nest. My sister, ‘Moomin’, has moved in with her partner and my brother, ‘Tich’, spends all of his time at his girlfriend’s house. My mother is suffering the fate afforded to most ‘Ladies of a Certain Age’, the loss of her ‘babies’ to the leading of their own lives. Her opinion and interference are no longer as easy to impart, and she is less able to enforce her advice and beliefs. Unfortunately, she is now projecting Guilt, from afar (yes, the word genuinely needs the capitalisation).

There are benefits to leaving home shores. The ability to immerse oneself in a new and different culture, learning a new language (it’s slow going, and I’m making progress, but Greek is a difficult language to learn), changing your relationships. My mum is a wonderful woman; everyone has always said so. However, we have always seemed to butt heads over everything, from my (late) teenage rebellion to my life choices and beyond. We could never genuinely get on as friends, even when I became a fully-fledged, married adult. I often envied the change in the relationship between some parents and their children from adult/child to adult/adult. My mother and I never transitioned to that relationship. We are still firmly locked in the parent/child relationship, where she questions every decision and makes rude and hurtful comments about my choices in life, under the guise of parental concern.

Undeniably, I do miss my mother, sometimes the best thing when you are feeling down, is a hug from your mum. The constant bickering I don’t miss (we never did get on very well), nor the feeling that I have never lived up to her idea of my potential. I hate that she makes me feel guilty that I cannot come around for dinner or a cup of tea, and that I need to justify a choice, which makes both my husband and I very happy.

Within a period of twelve months her first-born has cut one apron string and set it alight, the second has sneaked in, snipped one off and run away, and the third is carefully unpicking the stitches for a less painful amputation (I don’t think it’s working), so I can respect and sympathise with her feelings of abandonment.

Dad is a different matter

An admission that I have to make, I’m a Daddy’s Girl. We have compatible temperaments. We shout and get angry, but once we’ve got it out, we can let it go. I miss my dad. He does understand our reasons for leaving, he understands the constraints of coming back for a visit, he realises that for us it’s not a holiday in a warm place with the benefits of visiting family, but a return to the grey and dismal that we left behind. From my dad, I don’t get hurtful comments or attempts top undermined when we are trying to achieve here.

My response to the guilt

I have a rebuttal to my mother’s complaints and lectures, if our astounding parents hadn’t raised us as well as they did, we wouldn’t be in a position to fly free and survive without them. We don’t need their approval of every decision before we make it. We have the courage to attempt something, which makes us happy and the fortitude to get back up again if we fall on our faces.

If our parents had not given us the tools to cope and thrive and seek happiness away from the constant support of family, we wouldn’t be here now. We would be in dead-end jobs that we hate, in the dreary and dismal north of England, never quite getting to a point where we could reach for our dreams, nevermind ever reaching our potential.

Leaving home has been the best thing that we could have done. I once dreamed of being a writer. I let that dream fade with the grinding realisation that I would need a job, or at least a career path, that would pay the bills.

Since my departure from the UK, high cost of living, high income tax brackets, and stagnation, I have discovered that my dream of being a writer isn’t such a pipe-dream at all. I have been gifted the time and freedom to learn the craft of content writing (why didn’t my careers councillor tell me about this when I was at school? Oh yes, the Internet was still in its infancy) and the tools to market my work. This gift of time and freedom to study and gain experience in a field I would have chosen a decade ago if it had existed then is one that I would never have had if I had stayed at home.

I believe I will need a reminder of this piece, if or when I ever become a mother myself, maybe in twenty years I will have a better understanding of the woman I call ‘Mum’. Perhaps if I have a child who is leaving home, I will be able to empathise more fully with her heartache.

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