I believe that being a mother is one of the most thankless jobs a woman can experience. I know that sounds harsh and maybe even petulant, but as my children age and move toward adulthood I am persistently stunned at how awful I feel the majority of the time.
They are at such an exciting time in their lives. The later high school or early college years, their lives are just beginning. Anything is possible. And their mother is superfluous. What never ceases to amaze me is the fact that if I hadn’t been a pretty decent parent they never would have done so well. I’m the one making sure proper nutrition is available, making sure alarm clocks were heard, making sure they remembered their homework, and making sure they remembered to register for the SAT. I allowed all the sleepovers, I gave all the rides to friends and I’m the one listening to how great their day was when they finally wanted to talk about it – at 11o’clock at night. I have given of myself to my children in a way I would never do for anyone else. Even for me.
And I guess that is the rub. I’ve spent the majority of my life taking care of them and meeting their needs. I didn’t want to have any parental regrets and so I did everything I could to ensure their individual successes. Now I have four happy, healthy, successful children on their way to beginning their adult lives independent of me. They seem happy for the opportunity to let me know how small and unimportant my city is and how much they can’t wait to get away from it. To get away from me.
I’ve arrived at middle age alone and I don’t even know who I am. The house is quiet. The car hardly ever needs gas. I have nowhere to go because nobody needs me to take them anywhere anymore. I can’t seem to figure out what to do with myself. I’ve been so busy with them that I forgot about me.
And so as the very proud mother of four lovely and thriving young people, I have to wonder where on earth do I go from here? First I’ll phone my mother to say thank you. And then, I have no idea.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.