I came to an awful realization the other day. My son had just left to get something to eat with his friends before the football game, dropping his sister of at her friend’s house for a scary movie marathon. Hubby was at work and the dog had gotten into the garbage earlier that day so he was sleeping off a food coma. There was no one to make dinner for and no one to fight when they didn’t eat or like the dinner I made. There was no one to drive anywhere or beg me to take them to the mall.
For a split second, I was overjoyed. I could do what I wanted, eat whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted to go. In that brief moment, I was giddy…I had my life back! For the first time in 17 years, no one was hanging on me or demanding my attention. So I immediately started thinking about what I should do. Should I go work out? Or maybe read a book? Or go wander around the mall without anyone to bug me to buy them something. Maybe I should go get a pedicure, or even just take a nap?
I Just Couldn’t Decide
With a sinking heart, I realized that the reason I couldn’t decide was that this newfound free time was actually a new life stage. With horror, I though , “Oh my God, I’ve become obsolete to my family!” All those years that I wished for this moment…the moment I could finally do my own thing…it was here and it suddenly terrified me.
A Whole New World
The seemingly endless midnight hours of soothing a colicky baby, which turned into a teething toddler, a preschooler with night terrors, and then a school aged child with “The Sunday Night” affliction that didn’t allow them to sleep—those days are now a thing of the past.
The school projects and the interminable hours of trying to recall third grade math—done. “Hey Mom, watch this” called out a million times an evening as my daughter does a cartwheel or tumblesault or a leap in the pool…done. And so are the games of catch and slow pitching in the backyard. The cutting up their food, the tying their shoes, the wiping their butts, done, done and (thank God) done. The cleaning up the split milk and juice…done (mostly).
Those agonizing moments of not taking my eyes off them as they toddled near the steps…over. The days of reading the same book a million times before they’d finally go to sleep…over. All those times of reminding them to go brush their teeth…over. The agony of making sure they washed their hair…AND rinsed out the shampoo…over.
Everyone Warned Me This Would Happen
But…I just didn’t realize how soon this day would come. Hey, I was the last person on Earth who would have thought I would feel all out of sorts the day I realized my kids didn’t need me anymore. I have plenty of hobbies and interests outside of my children. I was mentally playing this day out in my head as I struggled to get the kids out of the house when they were in elementary school, trying to make sure everyone remembered EVERYTHING they could possibly need for school, making sure no one had knots in their hair (and no, not just the girl child), and everyone had shoes on. I’m pretty sure I was dreaming of this day every time I played the millionth game of “Go Fish” or “Memory” of the night as I longingly stared at the book I had been dying to read—within my grasp, yet so far, far away. I prayed for the day when I didn’t hear “Mom, I thought you were going to wash my uniform/ socks/ underwear/ Buzz Lightyear costume!” I was making plans for the summer that I didn’t have to keep them occupied 24/7 (in separate rooms, camps, states, etc…) And I know for certain that I couldn’t wait to have night where we weren’t trying to scarf down dinner before we had to go to back to school night, football practice, gymnastics, AND grocery shopping all in one night.
Is motherhood as I know it over? No. It’s not. It’s just different now. I mean, while they don’t NEED someone to mother them…at least not like they used to, they do need a mother. A mother to comfort them when they have a bad day at school or work. Someone to cheer them on when they are trying something new. A mother to be proud of their accomplishments. Someone to remind them to actually do the things they don’t need me for anymore. They still need me to worry about them and they still need me to listen to them…just not as much as they used to. They need me to be there for them when those moments come. And most importantly, they need a mother to love them them forever…they will be forever my babies…even though they’re big kids. They may not need my hand to hold, but they need to know that my hand is always there for them.