By: Barbara Schwartz
The baby’s crying, you haven’t slept for more than two hours straight in a month and you have no idea when you showered last. Welcome to motherhood! For the next eighteen years, your child is your top priority. You will work around their schedule. You’ll sleep around their schedule. You’ll eat what they eat. Weekends will be filled with ball games, hockey, dance lessons, play dates, and sleepovers. Your car will look like the junk food and drink sections of a mini mart. And most of the time, you will not think of yourself as anything but ‘So-and-So’s Mom.’
Blink once. You’re still not sleeping. But now you’re looking at the clock at 11:45pm waiting for your 17 year old to come home from his friend’s house. You get to shower more often, but you worry about drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, and how to pay for college.
Blink again. You have an empty-ish nest. Your child is in college. You shower regularly, eat broccoli again, start to exercise, and maybe even see your friends and spouse. You still worry, but there’s little you can do other than wait for the text or call telling you that your student is ok. Just when you get used to the empty house and a lower grocery bill, summer comes and your kids are back. Once again you don’t sleep as you wait for them to come home from work or outings with friends – but now they’re adults – no curfew. You skip showers because if they get to the bathroom before you, there’s no hot water. And the food bill…OY! But they’re back and you get to see them and talk with them and yes, check on them when they’re asleep because you’ll still do that!
Blink again. Your adult offspring is about to graduate from college, move out, get a job or go to grad school. You can sleep whenever you want, eat whatever you want, have full access to the shower and the hot water supply. But who are you now? For 22 years, you have been So-and-So’s Mom. Every breath, every decision, every plan involved your child. Who is no longer a child.
There’s no going back, Mama. And it’s HARD! But it’s what is supposed to happen. And I’m writing from experience. In the last several years, our community has seen several young people die tragically and too soon. So missing our kids because they’re off making their own lives is the preferred alternative, albeit an adjustment.
Here’s where you get to enjoy the people your children have become. I love talking with my son about life, politics, religion, science and music. I’m so proud of who he is evolving into. I’m learning to take time for myself now, too. More exercise, better meal planning, planned time with friends, classes and trying new things for myself. It’s the next chapter. I have to admit, it’s hard. I have become dependent on my role as Mom. It’s a personal identifier. But I am more than that and now it’s time to find out about those other roles!
In the meantime, my kid and I still have the ‘check in once a day’ rule. We still plan concerts and trips. He calls me for advice and I now ask him his opinion! It’s not easy. But it’s what’s supposed to happen! So be brave with me, Empty Nesters. It’s a whole new second half for us as we get to be there to watch and support our little birds fly!