What Happens to Mom When the Kids Grow Up?
“In the end, I am the only one who can give my children a happy mother who loves life” – Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard
While many women dread milestone birthdays and the inevitable aging that comes with another passing year, I am not usually one of these women. Admittedly, my twenties were quite difficult for me. Though I was Blessed with a healthy, happy, and beautiful son in my early twenties, the majority of my twenties were plagued with crisis after crisis including a devastating miscarriage, death of beloved loved ones, a divorce, and major health problems. So when my milestone thirtieth birthday rolled around bringing with it the promise of a fresh, new, and limitless decade, I welcomed it with open arms. I’m happy to report that so far, my thirties have been the best years of my life. I found love again, I’m more comfortable in my own skin, I’m learning to accept myself as I am, and, perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to accept that I am enough as I am.
Yesterday was my thirty-fourth-birthday and for the first time, I felt the pangs of anxiety, worry, and even dread that women often refer to. As my birthday drew nearer and nearer, these feelings continued to intensify. Confused by these unfamiliar and uncharacteristic feelings, I began looking deep into myself to figure out where these feelings were originating from, and more importantly, why now and never before?
After weeks of soul searching, journaling, and many conversations with my uber-patient husband, what I learned surprised me. It wasn’t my birthday or growing a year older that was instigating apprehension in me. Rather, it was the realization that as I continue to grow older, so does my son. I realized that soon my role as a full-time-stay-at-home-mom may very well come to an end. This realization shook me to my very core. Since having my son, I have dedicated my entire life to him. I have fully embraced and loved being home with him. From the early days of late night and early morning breastfeeding sessions, to reading Good Night Moon countless times before tucking my toddler snugly into bed, to our afternoons at the kitchen table completing his homework together, to helping him create the perfect Science Fair Project, and even to chauffeuring to and from extracurricular activity to extracurricular activity, I’ve loved every minute of it; the good, bad, and the ugly. My epiphany that soon my son won’t need me as much as he once did (and for the time being, still does) left me feeling lost, scared, and sad.
I realized that I no longer know myself outside of my role as “mom.” I have intertwined my identity so completely with being a mom that the days of me being an extremely bright and successful academic scholar seem like a lifetime ago. I worried about what would happen to me when I was no longer needed at the kitchen table to help with homework or Science Fair Projects? I worried about how I will fill both my afternoons and weekends when my son can drive himself to and from his engagements; no longer requiring my chauffeur services? With all this worry torturing both my spirit and mind, I never explored what I could do to remedy my fears. I never even considered invoking my once relentless inner strength and determination to combat my worries and focus on myself, even for a minute.
And then I did. I dug deep into my soul and came to a few major realizations.
I realized that while being my son’s mother has been, and continues to be, the single greatest joy of my life, I need to be whole. It is not, nor has it ever been, my son’s responsibility to ensure my happiness nor to help make me feel whole or successful. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my happiness, wholeness, and success are entirely my responsibility, and I know that I am more than capable of achieving happiness, wholeness, and success as not only a mother, but an educated, thoughtful, and compassionate woman.
I wish I could report that I have formulated a complete and perfect plan for transitioning from my role as a full-time-stay-at-home-mom to that of not only a mom but a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and a friend. Though I haven’t yet, I have no doubt that I will.
Seriously considering returning to the world of academia and completing both my Master’s Degree and Ph.D., I recently spoke with The Director of Graduate Studies at a university local to me. I must admit, I haven’t been so excited by a conversation in a very, very long time. As I spoke with The Director of Graduate Studies I started recognizing feelings I once knew; feelings of inspiration, and intrigue, and promise.
And it felt good. It felt really good.
I’d really appreciate some honest feedback on this post.