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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I have been thinking lately about next life stages. The fact is that women reinvent themselves many times in their lives and often in the same day.

Any working woman who has hit her first week alone at home with a newborn knows what I mean. Any working woman who has become instantly transformed into Mrs. somebody at parent teacher after day spent in meetings where no one knows you have a family at all knows what I mean. Any woman who has gone to a husband's Christmas party, any grandmother who sits at a birthday party being served the cake, not serving it, knows what I mean. Any divorced woman who goes to that first Christmas party alone knows what I mean.

And as I decided when I found myself home alone the first time with that first baby, you can only be happy if you do reinvent yourself.

And women do it. That's probably why we aren't the ones who have heart attacks the first day of retirement lifting the golf clubs into the car, the first day of an undirected life. 

Which is exactly what happened to one of my neighbours.

Twenty years later his widow is still driving around the neighbourhood, earrings matching necklace, car window rolled down so she can stop and talk to everyone she sees.

I am entering a new decade next month and will be retiring in stages sometimes over the next five years. I love my job but increasingly only take on what I really do love, that means more time with the kids, less time with the adults.

Observing what my next transformation looks like, this is what I am picking up:

Learning to be older is partially a process of learning to be alone more. With the kids gone you can go out when you want and there is no time you have to be home. In my case, with work continuing to call my husband away on projects further and further away, it also means more cooking for one. 

Looking around I can see that the cheerful older women are those who don't rail against being alone, but who get good at it. Many of those are sewers, many of them are those who appreciate and develop their female friends. If those women sew, so much the better.

I am also noting, and this is a surprise, that as you move into this next stage it is your domestic skills that are most appreciated.

After years of having those activities only on the edges of my career I wasn't expecting this, but a summer of a lot of caregiving has reinforced it. 

Despite all the other things I still do, it has been the meals I have made, the children I have babysat, the mending I have done, the dogs I have walked, my canning, my sock knitting, my "how do I get that stain out" advice that has been most appreciated. Who's going to feed the cat when you are away?

Mom can do it.

Men who leave the boardroom and become dad in the baggy pants down the basement seeing what is wrong with the dryer probably feel this too.

Sure I can still discuss Syria and I still have too much work to do but I am beginning to hear the call home, at least some of the time.

I have a big work project to figure out, and I have to think it through. Today I don't have classes so I am staying at home, away from the interesting corridor chat, and setting my laptop up on the island in the kitchen. My plan is to wash the kitchen floor and make some crabapple jelly from the bathtub full of crabapples we got down from the tree over the weekend and write down my plan as my thoughts on this one come together.

I am not quite ready to take some of that jelly and leave it on desks at work, but maybe one day I will do that.


Janlynn said...

Well said. We have to keep reinventing ourselves and moving forward. So many of us of a certain age are resistant to change and technology. We must keep learning too.
You are an extremely bright woman and I am sure that you will be happy in any and all of the different stages of life.

Lynn said...

Beautifully put. I was an engineer for many years until I quit to care for my ailing mother. After she passed, I met a wonderful man and married him. I also moved from where I had my jib to where he was living. I now know people who never knew me working. I was surprised to find I didn't all mind being "David's wife" as opposed to "Lynn the engineer". You live, you grow, you change. How you accept those changes determines how happy you are in your life.

Karin said...

As always, you musings inspire!
On a more mundane note, I'd be interested in your recipe/method for making crab apple jelly. There is an abandoned crab-apple tree near me and I would like to make use of it!

Donna W said...

Just want to let you know that I really enjoyed reading what you wrote. I am semi retired and am comfortable with this stage of life. When I retired from full time work I was lost but have found having more freedom is enjoyable.
Thanks for posting!

Jacq C said...

Hi, I have just found your blog and it is delightful - my OH thought I'd finally taken leave of my sense as I sat laughing aloud (I'd claimed to be cleaning the house in preparation for weekend visitors, not blog surfing!). And I have year's worth of posts to catch up on - brilliant. Lovely to 'meet' you :)

Patty said...

Thank you for a very heart-felt post. Life is full of transitions, and I feel that you hit the nail on the head with identifying those changes, especially at mid-life.

LinB said...

Just be sure to remember who you really are, whenever you reinvent yourself! Sometimes we can get lost in the roles we play. Perhaps we are not "re-inventing" ourselves so much as "uncovering" ourselves ... It can be a relief to take off all those heavy masks as we age, to let the true self shine forth. (Unless, of course, your true self is a dark and hairy beast. Don't let that self out to play with the rest of us, please and thank you.)

fittingtips said...

Love your perspective. I think you've expressed it well, priorities change. If we can change our perspective and keep it all in line, life is much sweeter. I'm ready for retirement in a few years too. After more than 30 years in the professional high pressure arena, I thought it would be hard to walk away, now I'm thinking, not so difficult as I once imagined. I enjoy your blog.

Sewfast said...

Thanks Barb for putting it so eloquently. My thoughts exactly!

Rose said...

You've written an excellent blog post, Barbara. Life just keeps getting better. Each "reinvention" can include past good things and get rid of some of the garbage. I never thought that I would like retirement, but I discovered sewing. :)

Paula D. said...

That was so eloquent and right on point. I'm a recent empty nester and back sewing again and enjoying my life at my pace. It's more fun than I thought it would be. Thank you for such a heartfelt post.

Mary said...

Hi Barbara, I retired early (55) and have totally enjoyed myself. It is so interesting to have the luxury of time to follow interests and passions. I did retire with intent, and spent a few years beforehand getting ready to leave the workforce and rediscover other parts of my self. Good luck in your own journey and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and musings.

Vicki said...

I can feel change coming too with both my daughters out and about more now that they are older (19 and 22). Soon they will be gone and I will be alone. I can feel sewing and gardening calling my name but for now i am enjoying anytime I can have with them.

Sandra said...

Barb, thank you for this post. Last year was my year to get used to the idea that I won't have any grandchildren. It's also the year I retired, a little sooner than I had planned to. This year I've been getting used to being retired; in fact, I've come close to unretiring a few times. I've also made some important health improvements. These have not been difficult changes for me, but each has taken more time than I expected. I am really really enjoying right where I am. (How about that, I think!)

VeraVenus said...

"...and often in the same day." Too true!

Yes, hold off on distributing jelly at work a little longer. I gave home-made Christmas cookies to a bunch of young high fashion co-workers a few years ago. They mostly just looked very confused and were probably wondering if I was trying to sabotage their waistlines.

Wonderful post, thank you.