Traditionally, it has always been the women who have waited. From the earliest recorded times to the present day, the mothers, wives and sisters have been the ones to stay at home and watch their menfolk leave for battle, on fishing ships, down the pits and to a host of other dangerous jobs, not knowing if they will return.
Nowadays, it’s not just the men who leave family waiting behind, and it’s not always for dangerous reasons that they go. We wave our loved ones off on holidays, to university, to jobs and homes in other parts of the country because that’s the way our world works now. Transport connections allow us to zip up and down the motorways and along railways lines in ways that our ancestors could never have imagined. Internet connections allow us to talk to our families on the other side of the world and our anxieties in waiting for them to return are lessened as we are able to be in touch with them on a daily basis.
Or are they? Do we ever stop worrying, even if only in the backs of our minds? My husband jokes about my “inner sheep dog” and my need to know that my flock is safe, wherever they are. Is it a Mummy thing? I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know that I am far happier when I know that my family members are all present and correct.
Big daughter is just starting her second week in Peru, so she is half way through her travels. The time has gone much more quickly than I expected and we have had several messages from her to let us know that she is safe and having a wonderful time. We know that she loved working on her social project (so much so that there were tears all round when they left) and that this weekend she is trekking high in the Andes. I am hugely thankful for even the short contact that we have had, knowing that it was much worse in times gone by when no news was good news and a telegram could only bring heartache.
Despite this, there is still a part of me that wonders every day if big daughter is happy and if she is safe. I don’t think that I would be able to turn that off even if I wanted to. I think it is something that is inbuilt into all of us to a greater or lesser extent and not just exclusive to mothers, even though historically we have always been the ones left behind. Our bonds to those we love are stronger than gender roles and society’s expectations. In two weeks’ time, all being well, we’ll be at the airport to meet big daughter and hear her stories first hand. It’s something that we’re looking forward to very much, but in the meantime we will do what families have done for centuries; we will count the days and wait.