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True Personal Growth Is the Courage to Be Yourself

Tamar Atuashvili, 60. Kakheti/Tbilisi.

I am a village girl, who moved to Tbilisi at the age of 13. Am I Kakhetian or Tbilisian? It’s up to you to decide. I finished my 8th grade in Vachnadziani, then I entered a Medical School in the capital and started to work as a nurse at the ambulance. Soon I got married and started a family life. I loved my job and stayed in the medical field for almost 15 years. In the early 90s, Georgia faced economic difficulties and the salaries of the medical staff were no longer paid. That’s when I left my job and moved to the hotel where my husband worked.

The first years in the new family were difficult. My husband’s parents were elderly, they were very nice people, and they treated me well, but as a mother, I went through many challenges. Raising 3 children with an interval of 2 years, taking them to school and various classes. I didn't want them to miss any chance to be well-educated. I kept up with everything and stayed up late at night, I couldn't remember when I slept and when I would wake up. I used to be an example in the neighborhood: how much this little girl can do, she leads a big family and does so much for her children, they said. This was an incentive for me and I pushed myself even harder.

The times when I had all three children at home lasted for a short while. Sometimes I was neglecting or harsh because I was in charge of both family affairs and raising children alone, and it was difficult to distribute equal warmth and attention to all my children. It wasn't my duty to purchase food and various household products but it was up to me to feed the family and keep the house clean and tidy. My mother-in-law was applauding me, "What a smart girl you are", and it made me invest more resources into the daily work. Now I regret so much that I didn't take care of myself and I got to the point of physical burnout. I think I would have been able to stay healthy and active longer if I had divided my time equally between work and rest. Doctors ask me where I worked with such a physical load when they look at my X-rays. I regret it.

Even though I studied well and entered the university in the first year, I was hardworking, and I had support from my parents to grow further, marriage prevented my professional development.

I had my first child at the age of 21. The family had no financial issues at that time and my income did not mean much. It seems that I did not have enough courage to prioritize my professional aspirations. The new family was satisfied with the fact that I was raising children and cooking dinners.

I love needlework. Knitting and sewing help me relax and I have been good at it since my childhood. I have been singing in different choirs since I was little and I remember wanting to be a singer. I loved gymnastics and practiced everywhere I could. I spent nights watching figure skating. Sports and music filled me up and lifted me. Watching football with my brother's friends was a big celebration. I was active in my youth. I had a wonderful time as a student, we traveled a lot, and we visited all of Georgia, including Sukhumi and Abkhazia. We were able to do this with our salary savings.

I don't remember well the first two years of marriage. After living an independent and active life, I suddenly found myself in a small house with my in-laws, sister-in-law, and her family. I was mostly at home, I didn't go anywhere except for work, and I was somewhat ashamed to hang out with friends as usual. When you try to be caring towards every family member, always smile and then you realize that it’s too much. When the possibility of moving to another place with my husband and children arose, I hesitated to express my desire. They had one son and how dare I take him away from his family.

It’s bad to get married at a young age, you can’t understand anything, and you are too immature to see what is best for the future.

Now the second circle has come when both children and grandchildren have grown up and the choice of an independent life has approached again. You don't know how long you live in this world, so if I can find enough courage and decide that I can still do things that I like and that I’m good at, I'd love to create more.

Do you know yourself?

At the age of 60, yes I know. I didn't know before. I didn't even think about it, I was just busy with daily life. Now I want more good people around me, I reflect on how I am to others, and I want to become more interesting myself. As you get older, you need people like you to escape loneliness. You feel that you are no longer needed as you were before. These thoughts led me to get to know myself better. I have been soul-searching for 2-3 years. I also ask my acquaintances to honestly share how I, as a person, look in their eyes. Sometimes you play a little bit before you become what you want to be. Now I know what I want to become and I am working on it. There's a lot to sort out and change within myself. I am direct and quick-tempered, I express my opinions without taking the time to think about and analyze them.

I see the lives of elderly people in Georgia through a negative lens. I can imagine how meaningless life will be when you cannot physically help your children and others. As people age, they degrade, fail to realize themselves, and lock themselves up, my perception is such. My friend and I sometimes encourage each other that our free life has just started and that we still have a lot to see, to be financially independent, to travel, and to enjoy life. We never know what life has in store for us.

A small house that doesn't need a lot of maintenance is perfect for me. Living alone, or with my spouse if he stays supportive. My own space would be very relaxing. Where I would not tire myself by cleaning the house and taking care of a big family and would free up more time for self-awareness.

The event that changed my life was the death of my mother. My life was divided before and after that day. Mother filled me with hope. Having a mother is different.  She is the only person who is always there for you, and who cares about you unconditionally. Even if I’m sick, how can I not be there for the surgery, she told me. That’s when I fell into a deep depression.

What are some advice for women?

The opinion that having many children is good for the family and societies, is popular. From my experience, I would rather have a few children and raise them well. You simply can’t give them enough. It’s impossible. If the family supports the mother in a way that she only needs to take care of their education and upbringing, of course, the more children you have, the better it is. More children bring many sorrows, but joy prevails, many children will fulfill you. But when you are not financially stable, the children are oppressed, they can’t develop well, you can’t support them in many ways, and then as you age, you have many regrets.

I advise women to have children when they are ready to do everything for them, for the sake of their peace of mind. If you have the means, having many children is wealth. If you can't afford it, have one and give him/her everything that it takes to raise a human.

A woman must follow her path. It is also good for the children to see a strong and active mother, they have more hope then. When they grow up and see you being weak and vulnerable, they won’t be able to fully spread their wings. A woman must have her work and path.

I am not in favor of early marriage. You can't think well, you are immature. It depends so much on the new family. Will they support your growth or will you have to forget about your desires and aspirations?! You realize many things on the way and you try to change, some things work out, some things not anymore. Be thoughtful and only when you’re on your path and independent both financially and emotionally, you can plan to have children.

The happiness of your children makes you happy, the sadness of your children makes you sad. You feel well when your children are well. There is no other factor contributing to a mother’s happiness as strong as this. When I see that my children are strong, joyful, and healthy, it’s enough for me to be happy.

When I’m going through difficult times, God gives me hope. Proximity to him is so fulfilling. If you believe that you are not alone in your ups and downs and that God is always with you, then nothing will scare you. I want to be like that, to have the ability to feel it all the time. It is often the case that God is remembered during difficult times. I want to be close to God all the time and have no fear of anything in this life. I want to be spiritually strong and to visit the church more often. I know what peace of mind and healing feels like when you’re close to God.

In the next life, would you be a mother again?

I would definitely be a mother, but I would be a better mother than I was. With the experience I’ve already gained, I know what to change and how to do things better.

I thought that providing education, clothing, and food was enough to raise a child, but it’s not so.

You should not be a slave to anything and dependent on anyone, you should be an emancipated individual, you should not follow the crowd/flow and you should not be in obedience. A person, a woman, should be strong and courageous. If I’d had more courage as a child and a young lady, I would have said a lot of things instead of being silent and ashamed of expressing my opinions, I would have changed a lot. Spinning this energy wishing yourself is damaging. You have to release what is ripening in you and you have to bring it to the ears of others. Those who like it will follow you. Those who don't like it, fine, let them go. I regret that I wasn’t that courageous girl but I'm learning to be one now.


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