Yesterday I wrote a Facebook post about my trouble adjusting to this new season of life I have been walking out the past year. Two of my kids got married and moved out. (Yes, even as I type that it doesn’t seem possible. How am I at the stage of life where mother-n-law is now part of my title? ) More than one person commented on how hard its been for them as well, and that they weren’t prepared for all the emotions either. Someone even mentioned that no one is talking about it. Well I am here to talk about it.
When I was a little girl people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I only had three ambitions in life. I wanted to be a mother, a singer, and a missionary cheerleader. Now I can only imagine that the same look you have on your face after reading that is the same one I would see when I was little. Yes there is such a thing as a missionary cheerleader. It looks a little like this. Dress up in a cheerleading outfit, grab your pom poms, and go tell people about Jesus in the form of cheers. In my head it was a real thing, but in the culture I grew up in that job wasn’t looked to kindly on for some reason. So instead I changed my career choice to be a singing mother. I would stand on my bed and sing and dance into my hair brush all the while keeping a close eye on my “babies”. I loved singing and I loved my dolls. Fast forward a few years and I was 19 and married. I had one friend that went off to college to be a nurse, and part of me was jealous, but since I can’t really handle guts and gore I knew that profession wasn’t for me. So I settled into the role of wife. (I didn’t do that to well at first because even though I wanted to be a wife and mother, I had spent more time at my piano as a kid than I did in the kitchen learning all the wife stuff.) I was always a dreamer and a go getter. My personality is all or nothing. If I’m going to do something I do it with all my guts. About 7 months into marriage I found out I was pregnant. Gasp. How could it be? Well I know how it could be, but really how? I was on the pill. My desire to be a mother came quicker than I anticipated. I was only 20. But in typical Melanie fashion I dove right in. This baby of mine was going to be so loved and cared for. And thus began the journey into motherhood. From the moment they laid her into my arms my only goal was to make sure she knew she was loved and protected. My other dreams and ambitions faded very quickly into the background. Then before I knew it I had 3 more. For the past 22 years I have been mom 24/7. I was needed. I was wanted. I was tired. What day was it? They want to eat again? I wiped more butts and noses than I care to remember. Why can’t they hit the puke bucket for the love of God? There was school projects, homework, drop off lines, sports (so many hours sitting at practices and games). Seriously what day is it? How many kids do I have? Stitches, broken bones, hospital stays. I listened as they learned to play instruments. The violin being my favorite. (insert sarcasm) I sacrificed, I prayed, I cried, I laughed, I was mom. But I loved every single minute. Well maybe not the cleaning up of puke. I could do without that. People would tell me “Enjoy it. It will all be over to quickly.” I wanted to punch them in the throat. You don’t tell a mom who is in the middle of it all to enjoy it. She is sleep deprived and probably can’t remember the last time she showered or ate something other than the food left on her kids plates. When you are there you can’t see past the chaos sometimes, and you think you are stuck there forever and ever. I can honestly say that even though I was overwhelmed and tired (so tired) 90% of the time, that I loved it! I loved the squishy faces and pudgy arms and legs. I loved when they would crawl up on my lap and snuggle. I miss them crawling into bed at some point every single night. I miss going into their rooms and watching the rise and fall of their chests as they slept, usually with some food stuck in their hair or on their face. I miss feeling so needed. I don’t miss the sassy eye rolling, stomping up the stairs and slamming door phase. There were times when I did wonder why God ever thought I was capable of keeping so many of them alive at the same time, but somehow with His help I did. Now here I sit all alone in my very quiet family room listening to the tick tok of not one clock but two others in other rooms of the house. I so miss the noisy supper table when all 5 kids (as if having 4 in a short period of time wasn’t enough we adopted a 5th right in the middle of all the chaos) are trying to talk over one another and all Kent and I could do was look at each other across the table and shake our heads. Somewhere I read this quote “The days are long, but the years are short”. Truer words have never been spoken. There were days I thought would last an eternity, but all of a sudden my baby is almost 15. I blinked and it happened. I miss it. The chaos. The loud house. The chasing after toddlers. Helping with homework. Reading books together. Putting together train tracks for the 1000th time. But I don’t want to spend my days wishing back something that never will be again, so now what?
No one ever told me how it would feel or what to do when the humans I was given by God to mother and nurture and keep alive would one day walk out the door. I’m left standing here thinking “Now what do I do?” Let me just stop and say here that I am not a depressed mess of a woman laying on my couch every day bawling into the cushions. I’m not. I am so happy for my kids, and I love seeing them spread their wings and experience life and love. I love their spouses. I have had so much fun helping them set up their own homes. (I have enjoyed getting some of the clutter out of my house) I have loved watching them find love. Also, no one ever told me the importance of finishing strong. That when you get down to the last ones at home you don’t slow down or slack off because your “tired”. I have heard more than once that the youngest kids get away with murder because the parents are just exhausted from parenting all the older kids. What a load of crap. That is a terrible disservice to the youngest kids. I want to be on my A game and bring the best of myself and my parenting to the last two at home as well. Moms, don’t buy into that lie. You may not be as young as you once were, but ALL of your kids deserve your best. Do the same things for the younger ones as you did for the older ones. Take the time, make the effort.
A question that I keep asking myself is “Who am I now?”. Not that I am not a mom anymore. I will always be one. The job description is just changing. Instead of needing me to cook them a meal, they now need me to listen and give advice. Sometimes only listen. Instead of needing me to drive them to work or school, they drive themselves. Instead of snuggling on my lap and wanting me to read them a book, now I facetime and hear all about what’s going on in their lives. My role is radically and swiftly changing. I am not needed in the same way I was for 20 years. My hands and feet aren’t as busy, but my listening ear and my praying knees will always be needed full time. I think I’m supposed to feel relieved, but I feel so torn. Can one be happy and sad at the same time? I think so.
Here’s what I have been learning about this period of transition. I am still me. Who I am at the core hasn’t changed. Yes role of mother has been a huge part of my life the past 20 years, but that isn’t all that I am. I am a wife. A friend. A worshipper. A song writer. A child of God. One thing I wish I would’ve learned better was to not put so much of my identity into the “mother” part of me. This transition would be easier. My identity should first be in Christ. I am His daughter. Don’t allow yourself to become one dimensional. Have other passions and hobbies. Give yourself grace. I think as mothers we are so wired to be “on” 24/7 that when things finally do slow down for us we feel useless and lazy. Or maybe that’s just me. Its hard for me to sit and relax. Don’t feel pressured to figure out what you are going to do next. I pressured myself so much the past 6 months, that I became miserable and so frustrated and discouraged. I was rushing out to find a job and when I couldn’t I felt less than. Girlfriend you have worked more hours in the past 15-20 years than anyone. Even bedtime for a mom isn’t bedtime. We always have to sleep with one eye and ear open. Allow yourself to REST. Take time with the Lord and ask Him what He wants you to be doing now. Pick up an old hobby you laid down. Start a new one. Look for ways you can encourage and help younger moms without telling them to “enjoy it, it will be over soon” lol. The next season will start soon enough. Allow yourself to enjoy this time. And remember……You are still you! You are more than being called “mom”. You are special and unique and needed on this earth. Your new season is just about to begin. Its ok to look back, but only do it to remember the good times and lessons learned. Look forward. Take God’s hand and together jump into the next adventure He has for you! As long as you are living and breathing you have not outlived your purpose. Take time to figure out what that is. If it’s to continue to stay home, then do it with excellence. If its a whole new career then face it with confidence. Learn who YOU are without your kids, because I guarantee you, you are pretty awesome and amazing! I am still learning how to do all this myself. So I am preaching to the choir here. Have fun dreaming and resting and all the things you couldn’t do for so long. One thing I do enjoy immensely about having grown up kids, is peeing without an audience. God has a place and a plan for you. You are still very much needed. It just looks a little different now. Let’s face this new phase of life with grace and confidence together! Maybe I’ll see you at the coffee shop or an afternoon movie. The possibilities are endless 🙂