am was a homeschool mom. My first child was born in 1991. My sixth child was born in 2005. I was a SAHM who homeschooled. My kids did not go to school or daycare. For the past 31 years I have been on call 24 hours a day for my children. From morning sickness, ultrasounds, infertility treatments, C-sections, natural birth, VBACs, prenatal testing, to nursing all night and missing sleep with colicky babies, to figuring out homeschooling and Little League and church, my life has revolved around mothering.
My thoughts and my daily routine and prayers have always included making sure my kids were fed, safe, and had what they needed, plus worrying about their futures. Every grocery shopping trip, every meal I cooked, every dollar I spent, I considered the needs of my kids (and my husband, of course). When shopping I usually bought them something before I bought myself anything. I have lived a frugal and thrifty lifestyle for my kids’ sakes.
When they got older and I started running, I tried to include them. I dealt with guilt when I thought they might be feeling neglected. I blamed myself for their unhappiness. My heart was broken anytime my kids were hurt or left out. If I went out of town, I made sure they had their favorite foods to eat and someone to take care of them. They were my life.
Being a mom of five boys wasn’t always fun and rarely easy. Each one had their own personality, but they were all typical boys. The pre-puberty years were all about making sure they didn’t die from an accident, learned to behave, learned how to read, and learned about Jesus. We had a lot of fun, but they also got in trouble and made messes and noise. When they turned 15 they each went through a period of not liking me. They often didn’t want my presence or my input. That was okay because I had younger kids to take care of. And like many families, my kids did not go to college right after high school and only one of them left home at 18, so I had extra years of mothering adult children. I had to learn how to give them space while still being expected to read their minds and stay up late when they needed to talk, as well as continue to cook for them.
But eventually, one by one, then two at once, they moved out and started their own lives without me. Now I am down to having one 17 year old at home, plus my 21 year old daughter who is disabled. I am 58 years old. My 17 year old has one foot out the door already. He is very independent. Grace will always need my care as long as she lives, and my husband enjoys a high level of care from me, but since my two sons moved out last month, I really feel like I am entering a new stage of my life. What will I do with myself?
After getting over the initial shock and sadness over them moving out and letting me know (by ignoring my texts) that I was no longer needed, I refocused my mind on the two empty bedrooms and den that I get to redecorate and repurpose. One of the bedrooms will be fixed up as a guest room for them or anyone who comes to visit and the other one I am going to make into my own space. I’m very excited about that! I have desperately needed a quiet and comfortable room for podcasting and writing. We are going to soundproof the walls with some foam sheets that my husband got from work. I bought myself a desk chair and put it together all by myself. Up until now I have always had my computer located in the middle of everything, first the den, then the dining room. That meant if I wanted to record a podcast I had to STAND in my bedroom, which is the quietest room with the best acoustics, but has no chair or desk. I used to set my laptop on top of a pile of stuff on my former sewing machine table.
I still have my daily routine of taking care of Grace and the cooking and cleaning and usual stuff, but the mental and physical work load is dialed way down. I’m looking forward to lower utility bills and groceries lasting longer and a much cleaner house. And I am ready for this new stage of life. I do hope my kids will keep in touch and come visit. But I am not going to bug them. They need the same time and space and freedom that I had as a young adult to build their lives, without me expecting to be consulted or informed. It’s my job now to back off and trust them to figure it out.
If it sounds like something has changed, it has. I have turned a corner and mentally shifted gears. I’m almost 60. I need to stop thinking of myself as a mother and discover what else I can do. Sure, I still have one son at home and I will be here for him if he wants my help or advice. But the thing about boys is, after a certain point, they start to turn away from mom and want help and advice from MEN. My son has plenty of older brothers, his dad, and coworkers to help him figure out how to be a man. Occasionally he will ask me a question about how to do something, but he’s growing up and away. This realization was pretty painful. I felt obsolete, unneeded, and rejected. But this is what is supposed to happen! So now I will rejoice that my sons are secure enough to leave me behind. I never wanted to raise momma’s boys. Hopefully they will eventually return and be my helper and protector in my old age.
I find myself musing over how my adult life was so different than the majority of women my age. I know some of you reading this had/have a life like mine, but many did not. They had a job from the time they finished school even if they had kids. Some women had two or three kids, not six or more, and they went to daycare and school. Their kids went off to college after high school. They were great moms, but they were not on call 24 hours a day and literally living all day, every day with their kids. Honestly, I feel like I had the better deal, I can’t imagine being a mom AND working full-time outside the home. It seems like two jobs to me, but I know everyone has their preferences. I’m very thankful for those years at home.
Now as I try to figure out what I want to do in Life: Part Two, I ask myself what do other women do with their time after their kids grow up? Some have grandchildren and it seems like their mothering never really stops, but that is not my life yet. I love traveling, but my husband still works and I have Grace, so that will be a limited activity. I could get a job, but that’s complicated, too. I still plan to go to Bible study and church, so that won’t change. And now I am volunteering at the school, but that’s only 45 minutes, once a week. Basically any major changes would require finding a caregiver for Grace. For now, I am praying and waiting to see what God will do. And I am working on my house. Actually, it’s been really nice being able to read, watch movies, clean, and drink coffee! It’s all good. I am hopeful for the future, thankful for the memories, and blessed with my adult children!
I only have one teenage boy left in the house, as well. My other three left home as soon as they were 18. They are very independent. But I also have my mom in law who moved in with us a year ago…so much for the grand ideal of raise your kids and then go have fun and travel. That is life for you. It is right and it is good to be invested in family, even though I feel slightly like George Bailey right now. I wish you many blessings at this juncture of your life. Having a room to yourself is a big game-changer.
Thanks Jill. I wish you the same. I didn’t mention it in the post , but my mother lives across the pasture in her own house . She’s 81 and I foresee myself helping her more in the near future. So… How has your life changed as your kids have moved on? Have you found any new interests ?
I’ve always had several hobbies, but my husband had purchased me an accordion when I was forty and I didn’t start playing it seriously until a few years ago.
I can hear it in your voice (you turning the corner, however tentative) My wife has (and is still) wrestling with some of what you are wrestling with. Being a mom, is the hardest job on the planet, hands down. Mentally and emotionally. I didn’t really get that when ours were younger. I do now. 5 boys…..wow. Paula, you have so much wisdom to share w/ younger moms…. Blessings. Signed, a fellow home school parent.
You’re not no longer needed. They just need to figure out who they are by themselves. It’s growing pains for all of you. Don’t be so hard on yourself re being a parent
Definitely a transitional time , but it’s a good thing.
Each step of our lives is transitional. Sometimes more dramatic or startling than others. Just keep moving along, everything will fall into place.
Praying for you Paula! I know I will be at that stage soon enough…gulp, lol 🙂 And on one hand, I am looking forward to it, but on the other, I know I will be sad and go through mourning, but like you said, our intention was never to raise children who were dependent on us. So very glad you have started to turn a corner, you will find your grove and God will lead you to where He wants you to be. God Bless and enjoy this new season of life!
Thank you! I went to visit my sons and the mess almost overwhelmed my resolve to keep my mouth shut, hahaha! But I think I did okay.