embracing the changing roles of our lives

Infant. Child. Student. We’ve all been there. It’s after the school years, that our lives take off in different and varying directions, formulating the person we are today.

Doreen at 2

Doreen, age 2.

embracing our changing life roles

My mother died when I was just 13 years of age, morphing my tween years into that of a live-in maid. I had to learn how to cook and do housework early in life, as my brother was already living away from the family home, and my father was still working full-time, and had not previously ever had to attend to household chores prior to my mother’s passing. Together, we learned how to cope and survive the most significant change in our lives.

That prepared me well for my next major role in life. That of a wife. I married at the early age of 19, most probably driven by the desire to leave the family home. It’s not that I didn’t love my husband-to-be, but I think had circumstances been different, we would have taken our time in marrying, and I would have completed the degree I was engaged in at the University of Winnipeg.

Instead, I embarked on my next role–that of a gainfully employed woman. I began working for a large but local corporation in an entry level job, but over the course of nearly 18 years, acquired a significant amount of formal education (sponsored by my employer) which elevated my position to a fairly senior one by the time I took a severance package and opted for voluntary leave in 1993.

At that time, I embraced the role of entrepreneur, and became a self-employed communications consultant and freelance writer. My life has never been the same! No more stable income or health benefits. But a lot more freedom with my time, providing me with the opportunity to volunteer, travel, pursue my passions, and nurture and develop my skills as a professional writer.

Throughout my life, the role of caregiver has been prevalent. First, to my father who developed Alzheimer’s Disease in the late 1980’s, and passed from it and associated illness in 1994. And later, to my cousin, who was dying from cancer, my aunt who suffered from severe dementia, and more recently, to my loving (second) husband who is 25 years my senior and now suffering from the ailments of his age.

the role of wife is an important life role.

My wedding day with Reg, May 27, 1995.

Each of these roles has taught me so much, and sculpted me into the person I am today, and for that, I am grateful.

Have you taken time to reflect on the changing roles of your own life? Have there been monumental occasions that forever changed your life, created new opportunities and challenges and set you on a new, unexpected path?

I’ve written this post because I am embracing the changes that have resulted in my life due to circumstances beyond my control. I am choosing to find happiness in places that cause others to leave. And I am hopeful that someone reading this may find the courage to do the same.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

46 Responses

  1. A.K.Andrew

    Thanks so much for this post Doreen. You’ve had a tough time over the years, and our lives do change. But being a caregiver is a tough one, and a role that people tend to overlook as they focus on the person who is ill. It can be hard to move seamlessly into one’s “next phase”, especially when it happens because of things out of our control. I’ve experienced this for myself due to my own & my partner’s ill health, but as you say we change the things we both value and get pleasure from. FABULOUS photo from your wedding day!
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  2. andleeb says:

    I feel sad to hear about your mother and problems that you have faced in life.
    I feel that you are a brave woman who tried to help people in need.
    I think as a human it is great to take care of someone who is really in need.
    I love you wedding picture its amazing. I can pray for you to be stronger and the way you shared your story for sure it can help many to look on their lives in a positive way and give them courage to fight against all odds.
    It is nice that you started your work, it may have really given you a space and time to help others.
    All the best to you, I hope your husband will feel better soon.
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  3. Suzanne Boles

    Well said Doreen. I’ve heard snippets of your story but enjoyed reading it chronologically with your personal input and your always ever-present look at the bright side of life. Kudos to you and to everyone who takes on the role of caregiver. I also have known that role all too well.

    Both photos are great! The one of you at your wedding is fabulous. You look like an angel with your characteristic beaming smile!
    Suzanne Boles recently posted…BlogMy Profile

  4. What a touching post. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

    Becoming a born again Christian, my life was no longer about me or my plans, wants and needs only.

    My father passing away ten years ago and his death made me feel vulnerable. I realised that any one of my immediate family could pass away at any time. It was strange to know that my father was gone forever.
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  5. Doreen, you embody the saying, “Grow where you’re planted.” You constantly see the good in everything, and make your life, and the lives of those you love, so much better.
    I am honoured and grateful that you are my wonderful friend, as you have brought so much to my life. If I’ve been able to return that in any small way, that’s wonderful.
    You will continue to grow and change, and always for good.

    • Thanks so much, Christine. Your comment has brought tears to my eyes.

      This blog has become the window to my life. And having friends like you and the others who have supported me thru my life’s journey has not only made it bearable, but enriching. Have a wonderful day, and thanks again for being an important contributor to this blog and my life. 🙂
      WizardOfWords recently posted…the importance of a good night’s sleepMy Profile

  6. Tim says:

    Life is about change and you have certainly had your share Doreen. Like you I embrace the chapters thrust upon me by life and have tried to adapt to each one. The role of caregiver was not one I have ever had to accommodate though, just on rare occasions, and I admire those who do it.
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  7. Rachel

    Do you ever have trouble keeping the roles separate, Doreen? As a teacher and mother, I find that I often have the urge to mother my students and teach my son. I even have taken kids from the school where I taught into our home to live as official or unofficial foster children. And more recently, getting more serious about writing, I find myself composing blog posts in my head no matter what I’m experiencing, at home or school or anywhere! Do you have that trouble too?
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  8. susan cooper

    Wow Doreen, your life has been interesting and it sounds very trying at times. But you handle it with such wisdom and strength. It really is about embracing all the curve balls life throws our way. Kudos to you.

  9. Lenie

    Doreen, you have had your share but you’ve dealt with each one bravely and head-on, as you say, embracing the changes in your life.
    I have had many unexpected twist and turns in my life – mostly related to my health – but I always felt there was a reason for whatever came my way, even though I couldn’t see it at the time. It’s when you look back and see the consequence that you can actually give thanks.
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  10. Thank you for sharing this Doreen. You have had an amazing journey … so far! I, too, have been in the role of caregiver for my mother-in-law, mother, and brother. It’s tough, but I ultimately found it to be rewarding. Sometimes that is hard to see ‘in the moment’, but I admire your courage in that you seem to be embracing the changes. So many do NOT do that! So my heart goes out to you and high 5 for meeting these challenges head on!
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  11. Tracey Arial

    Hi Doreen, What a heartfelt post, as always. You have a great way of viewing transitions others might resent so that they fit within their proper light–that is as opportunities to strengthen caring relationships. Great lesson for all of us. Thank you.

    Happy anniversary to you and Reg too. Love the photo!
    Tracey Arial recently posted…Joseph Pugliese wins Community Cares awardMy Profile

    • Thx for your comment, Tracey, and for the upcoming anniversary wishes. It really is insightful and awe-inspiring to think that I am now the age that Reg was when we married. I admire how gracefully he has aged, and how he has embraced my friends, choice in music and food, and learned to love travel as I have. He’s done much better at adapting to my habits and interests than I did to his (motorcycling and snowmobiling.) 🙂
      WizardOfWords recently posted…embracing the changing roles of our livesMy Profile

  12. Linda

    This post reflects who you are from the inside out. It is a brave sharing of some of the most challenging events in your life.

    Change often yanks us by the heart into directions we never dreamed of, as in your mother’s early passing. Some change we anticipate as inevitable, but frightening, as in the diminishing capacities of your dad and aunt. And then some changes creep up softly and slowly, as I imagine may be the situation with your husband’s health.

    You seem well versed in accepting all these changes with grace and elegance.

    I would never do well with the role of caregiver. I don’t like to be cared for nor do I like to care for others. I’m terribly selfish that way. I really admire the people like you, who step up time and again into that very difficult role. My best to you in your adaptation.
    Linda recently posted…After the rainMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for those words of confidence, Linda. I hope I can live up to them. The previous caregiver roles I held were much easier in that I wasn’t living in the same house as the person being cared for. It wasn’t 24/7. I’m so grateful that my hub’s health has bounced back from last year, as that was difficult for both of us. He’s now in a much better state of health–emotionally and physically, which in turn, makes it much easier for me.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…embracing the changing roles of our livesMy Profile

  13. Ken Dowell

    I recently had a fairly significant role change in that I retired. Doing so makes you look back at all the time you spent working and some of the stuff you sacrificed for the sake of your career. It also gives you the time and opportunity to correct some of those priorities. The name of my blog “off the leash” is intended to be a way to express that.
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    • So true, Ken. Retirement gives us a chance to recreate ourselves. I know many people who have gone on to great ‘careers’ in a whole new direction after retiring from their ‘day jobs.’ In a way, that’s what happened in my own career after leaving the restrictions of corporate life, I became free and reborn in the world of a freelancer. Cheers to you, and good luck in correcting/reassessing your priorities.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…the importance of a good night’s sleepMy Profile

  14. Harry Hobbs says:

    Doreen thanks for those poignant words and baring your deep emotions to us. I’ve been through some of those things – caregiver and decision maker for my mother who developed dementia in her last years. This was so challenging because it was long distance. Now like you caregiver for a spouse who needs my constant attention and pretty much ties me to home. But I am thankful for taking early retirement and travelling while we could. Great memories there. There are caregiving pleasures too like caring for four cats who give back as much love as I give them. I try to keep my faith and believe everything happens for a reason even if sometimes it isn’t easy to understand what that reason might be.

  15. It is well Doreen. Keep on pushing.
    This post touched my heart. Thanks for sharing.
    God that you brought you this far will never leave or forsake you AMEN.
    You are victorious x
    Keep on shining

  16. Margaret says:

    Like you Doreen, I lost my mother at an early age. I was 21 but she had cancer for 14 years, so my growing up years were overshadowed by wondering when she would take her final breath. She was a good woman, as I know from our previous talks, so was your mom. I feel a special kinship with you and your mom, Margaret.
    I know that there are ‘places in the heart’ that are created through struggle and a capacity for caring that might not emerge otherwise. Though at the time, it seems hard to accept, and wishing things were different is a natural reaction. You know I wish you the best and I have always admired that you stand and face what’s in front of you. Thank you for sharing this, it may seem that we struggle alone but the reaction to this post shows that we all have our life challenges to bear.
    Take care my dear and love to you and Reg.

  17. It’s funny. When I wrote this post, I didn’t intend it to be a pouring out of emotion or revelation, but it certainly has been interpreted that way by you, my community of readers. Thanks so much to everyone for sharing their thoughts with me on this highly personal post.

    Happy Easter/Passover to all. 🙂
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  18. I love this quote, and the heart behind it: “I am choosing to find happiness in places that cause others to leave.” That is what will carry you through. I’ve been thinking a lot about these types of changes since my little one started kindergarten. For some reason, that was a big change for me and catapulted me on my blogging journey. Thanks for sharing your story.
    Meredith recently posted…Shut The Front Door!My Profile

  19. Thank you for sharing your story Doreen, and I can definitely relate to your various roles. Though, I will be completely honest, I have gone out of my way to avoid the “caretaker” role in life. I was always the independent rebel and my sister happily assumed the caretaker duties. She still does to this day and talks about how much she has done for everyone and how much she has sacrificed over the years – constantly. Enough said. I wish you all the best with this latest transition in your life.
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    • Hello Marquita: I’ve never used the term “caretaker” as I feel that may be reflective of the martyr role your sister is portraying. I much prefer the term of “caregiver” as it is meant that the giving of care is given freely, without expectation of formal acknowledgement, but rather it is done out of love and caring. Thx for stopping by the blog, and Happy Easter/Passover to you.
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  20. Esther

    Doreen, thanks for sharing your story, also for posting those two lovely photos. Great wedding photo! You and Reg look so happy! Love and hugs to you both.
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  21. Cheryl

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Everyone has a story that has helped them become the person they are today. It would appear that you embraced each change that came along and look where you are today. I wish you a wonderful Easter!
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  22. Doreen — I didn’t know about your early years, which must have been tough. I understand the role of caregiver, as my dear, late husband, was in failing health for several years before he passed. As the caregiver, you learn to adapt and caring for someone 24/7 becomes your new normal. I’m not complaining. We became even closer as the end neared. I have no regrets and you move on in life, as you have.
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  23. Jeri

    Beyond a doubt you’ve been though a lot and you have a survivor’s attitude. You know you’ll get through what life throws your way because it’s already given you so much to get through.
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