We have studied axisymmetric nonlinear αω-dynamo models taking the interaction between even and odd parities fully into account. It turns out that the dominating type of symmetry is not always determined uniquely, but it can vary on a very long time scale compared to the period of the magnetic cycle. In some cases the frequency of this long term variation is close to the beat frequency of the two solutions with purely dipolar and purely quadrupolar parity. The occurrence of a second frequency is typical of solutions whose trajectory describes a torus in the phase space. We argue that this finding is of relevance for understanding secular variations observed in the Sun. For example measurements of sunspots indicate that the spot number on the northern hemisphere at present exceeds the number on the southern hemisphere. The reverse seems to have been the case at the end of last century.