Moving, Mid-life and the Motherland: an interview with my mom

Moving has been a theme of my adult life and is one of the significant "change" events in people's lives.

Change is part of the human condition, it's hard baked into our very cells and DNA with evolution, it's part of the whole universal design, and it is certainly a key feature of the modern human experience on both the individual and global levels. Moving and migration, climate changes, economic changes, technological and scientific advances that change how we work, where we live, what we eat, what we know, etc. the list goes on and on.

"Things change" is probably the truest statement there is.

Many changes feel forced upon us, and we resist. And perhaps we should. Not all change is good change. Some changes are instituted by maniacal oligarchs, some changes bring great loss and suffering. But regardless how it comes, living with change and adapting to change is one of the defining tasks we attend to as humans and as "beings" on a dynamic planet.

Moving has been the impetus for change in my own life. And one of the most significant moves was that first big migration when I was twenty-four.

After a childhood of living in one community, going to one church, remaining in one school district; basically a life in which my external world did not change significantly, I moved to a new country, and a new part of the continent with my husband and one year old baby. Of course I had already left my childhood home to go to university and get married, but I had remained "local" to my place of birth and upbringing in Central Alberta, Canada.

I don't know that I was "thinking" much about it but I had expected that my adulthood would follow the pattern laid down in my childhood; living close to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. That first moved shifted everything on its axis and I had no idea how different my life would look from my childhood norm.

It still surprises me that I'm here. Here at forty something, raising my own three teenagers, living in an apartment in Montreal. How the heck?!

Moving and living in different places, different from what I expected, different from my upbringing and origins, different from my extended family, has been one of the defining characteristics of my adult life. And moving from my place of origin didn't only inform the trajectory of my personal life and my husband and children's, it also changed the course of my parent's life. As you'll hear in this interview with Karen Toews, my mom.

Unlike my own story of "leaving the Motherland" - that place I was born, raised, met my husband, got married, and had my first baby - in my early twenties; Karen Toews moved in mid-life.

She too left the place she was born, raised, met her husband (my dad), got married, and had babies. But she had three more decades of life lived in the place of her birth before moving east. All told, she lived five decades in one community (with the exception of a couple years in college other places).

She made and lived a life in that one community, raising a family in the same church she attended as a child, building small businesses, becoming deeply connected to and woven into the fabric of the town I called home as a child.

There is a reason I call it the Motherland.

And then my parents moved. My dad wrapped up a business he had built and managed for thirty years, they sold a home, said goodbye to a large and connected group of family and friends. They moved east to Nova Scotia, of all places. To start again, to start fresh. As my mom says, they re-scripted their life.

The move was partly motivated by kids and grandkids living out east but a big reason for the change was to revitalize and renew their lives, even if they weren't fully aware of it at the time.

Karen changed after moving, her internal and external worlds opened up in ways she hadn't known before - travel, new cultures, and new places will do this.

That's just one thing we talk about in the interview. I could have introduced this podcast from a variety of angles: mother-daughter relationships and growing comfortable in your own skin; the evolution of marriage/partnership through the years of raising children, empty nest and beyond; and how to grow a healthy mindset.

It's all good, it's all here in this interview.

We are who we are because of where we come from, and who we come from, and of course all the experiences that, not only change us, but actually create us, along the way.

↓ Listen to conversation here ↓

Do you have a motherland? A geographical place that your family of origin has lived in for a while? A place where you were born and raised, your parents were born and raised, and perhaps your grandparents were born and raised? Do you live in the motherland? Or have you moved away? How do you feel either having stayed or having left the motherland?

This interview originally was published to a private Patreon community. It is now public.

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  • Jen

    Jen on Oct. 19, 2018, 3:15 p.m.

    My husband and I dream of moving west, specifically the Pacific Northwest, Oregon or Washington coast. But it feels impossible to leave where we both grew up, where all of our family still lives, while we raise our kids. I don't want to take my kids away from their cousins and especially their grandparents -who knows how much time they'll get with them? So, we think about moving once our kids have grown, but then we'll likely have other reasons to stay- grandchildren! Maybe I need to work on convincing (brainwashing?) my kids to move west when they're grown. As usual, Renee, lots of food for thought here. Thank you.


  • Renee

    Renee on Oct. 19, 2018, 3:25 p.m.

    Jen, convince the kids to move west :)

    One thing I've learned as an adult and perhaps a defining feature of reaching a certain adult maturity is that you realize nothing you do is independent of anyone, or anything else. You're not really a free agent. I think for a time in my youth I thought I was :)

    We're in this complicated web of relationships to people and place and therefore there isn't, there can't be, one clear, "right" path to walk. And then it gets extra complicated when our people are one place but we feel a strong tug to another place. I totally get this.

    These are not easy things to resolve and for some of us they may never resolve. I'm still searching for the "place" I belong. And although I'm hoping to find and feel it someday, the possibility of it seems slim with parents on one coast and three kids who could end up anywhere (and I intend to live near one or more of my kids when they are grown and gone). Where will that take me/us? I don't know. This is a conversation Damien and I have often.

    No answers, just a nod of understanding.


    • Jen

      Jen on Oct. 20, 2018, 4:51 p.m.

      Yes, and as a 9 on the enneagram, I feel like I am truly never a free agent! I'm still coming to this realization, and it helps to see how others are dealing with this struggle.


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