The other day I watched a beautiful David Lynch film called ‘The Straight Story’. It seemed slow-moving to begin with but the beauty was in its simplicity. Half-way during the film, an old man is talking about family to a young girl:
“I’d give each of my 8 kids a stick and, one for each one of them. Then I’d say, “You break that”. Course they could real easy. Then I’d say, “Tie them sticks in a bundle and try to break that”. Course they couldn’t.
Then I’d say, “That bundle… that’s family.”
It got me thinking about my own family. I come from a close family of six; 2 boys, 2 girls and my brilliant parents. As I was growing up I never knew if that closeness was because our extended family mostly lived on the other side of the world…or if it was just because my parents worked hard at instilling certain values into our home. We always ate dinner when my Dad arrived home so we could all eat together and talk about the day. We didn’t have any technology in our rooms, so the lounge became a place we would all come together (until I turned 17 years old and spent a LOT of time in my room on the phone to my mates!).
I never truly appreciated my family until I was pregnant with Emma. Until then, I took them for granted a little…and still do sometimes. I don’t speak to our brothers and sisters as much as we like and need to call home more often. But when I found out we were expecting, I started thinking about the family dynamic all of a sudden. There are so many things that you’ve never thought of before that are now important. What are our values as a couple? What do we want for our family? Together we started to talk about these things and I realised that I wanted both James and Emma to have that unbreakable family bond, just like the bundle of sticks.
Now that I have my own family, I often think that I’m completely sorted…that I don’t need help anymore. The proud side of me wants to cope with everything without that help from family; after all my parents have spent a lifetime offering me advice, support and a shoulder to cry on many times. But the other day, as I begin to make some crucial decisions on my career, my Mum was there for me yet again…offering me not just advice but exactly what I need to facilitate this huge change in my life at the moment.
The truth is that being a freelancer and having left my job to be on maternity leave was a little scary. And moving away from the city where you started your career, away from people in the industry who you know would champion you, was even scarier. Whenever people asked me about when I will go back to work, I would make some joke about my previous job being ridiculous and brush it aside. But I always knew that I’d have to come up with a realistic plan…and now it’s somehow fallen into my lap. But one thing’s for certain: it would not be remotely feasible without help.
I know not everyone has the same dynamic in their family and I’m very lucky to have such support in my life. It was a wake up call for me to remember that I’m not the lone wolf I sometimes try to be. It’s OK to need a bit of help now and then. It’s OK to not be able to do it all. It’s OK to prioritise things and give something you really want a go. And above all, I hope that one day in 30 years time, I will be helping Emma in the same way, offering her that helping hand whenever she needs it.