When I first quit my job to stay home with my kids I had big plans. Being with my kids was my only job and I was going to make the most of it. Those warnings about “appreciating the time with your kids because it goes by so fast” were not going to be lost on me!
I learned, rather quickly, however, that it’s really hard to appreciate EVERY moment, like the ones when, sleep-deprived and delirious, I would curl up on the floor of my younger son’s bedroom, praying that my mere proximity to him would help him drift back to sleep at four in the morning. I wasn’t trying to wish away his babyhood but, at that moment, while he giggled and babbled at me through the slats of his crib, clearly not going back to sleep, I would silently repeat the mantra, this too shall pass.
Then there were those mind-numbing days when we would make our daily park/library/grocery store circuit, desperate to fill the hours before bedtime. Soon they will start school full-time and I will finally be able to get things done, I would think.
Once they were in school I longed for the days when they would be able to do their own homework without my nagging, take care of their own things, and eventually be able to drive so I could skip the carpools and late night pick ups. Just this summer, for instance, as I waited up—again—for my youngest son to get home, I caught myself thinking, once summer is over and he is back at school I can finally go to bed before midnight.
This too shall pass…
And then it did.
And now summer is over and my youngest son has already had his last first day of high school and I’m wondering what happens when this passes??
What happens to me when my nest is empty?
When I dropped him off for the first day of his senior year of high school I thought I was simply sad because it had all gone by so quickly; he would be heading to college next year and, given his uncommunicative nature, I would probably rarely, if ever, talk to him. But then, when I realized that at this time next year I will have no one left to drive to school (or pick up after or make dinner for or dote on…), my unease grew rapidly. Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of doing whatever I want with my time and I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to be.
In my rising panic I turned to my good friend (who also happens to be a therapist) to help me deal with my immediate need to calm down. Christina Jones, LCSW, suggested that I view this new phase of my life as a time to figure out who I am today and who my “future self” can be.
“What if you see this as an opportunity to discover who you are now and accept that it might not be who you used to be, even as a mother?” she asked me.
I could tell this was not going to be a quick fix.
“You can never really go back,” she added, “But you can take who you’ve been – in every chapter in your life – and figure out who you are now. That can be exciting.”
Hmmm…exciting, terrifying, anxiety provoking, all of the above?
This isn’t the first pivot I’ve had to make. When I decided to go from full-time lawyer to full-time mom, I went into a bit of spiral, as well. I would joke that I was a “retired lawyer” instead of admitting that I was a stay-at-home-mom – I simply couldn’t let go of that persona even though it was my idea to make the change. It took me a while to let go of who I had been—or thought I was—and to come to terms with the idea that my focus had shifted and continued to shift with each new phase in my and my family’s lives.
And here we are again, new phase, new focus.
This time, as I plan my next act, I will try to be more mindful of the passing days and try to embrace even the moments that can’t end fast enough. In a year I will be a “retired stay-at-home-mom,” and who knows what else. Maybe “the mom who has to nag her college graduate son who moves back home for a year to save his money while he works before grad school”?
This is very exciting.
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