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There’s no going back. That’s what I felt in the eighth month of my first pregnancy. Then I felt it again (and so many other things) while giving birth to my eldest. Of course, most of his birth was a blur, but that one thought caught my attention and I’ve remembered it since: This is happening whether or not I’m onboard, so I might as well get with the program.
Another memory stands out from those early days. A month later, I was nursing my 1-month-old, and worrying about whether he’d stay asleep when I moved him to his crib—he never did—when the phone rang. My parents told me that one of my brothers, age 28, had been hospitalized. While I tried to sooth my tearful mother, she said, “Even when you’re all grown up, you’re still my children.”
I can’t extract myself from the mother that I’ve become. And while I want my sons out there living their own lives, I’m conflicted.
That was more than 25 years ago. I couldn’t begin to understand what she was saying. And now, at least in theory, my job is done, or at least two thirds done, with one in college and two graduates. But it isn’t. It’s part of me now.
And don’t tell me that it’s my generation with our helicoptering, overbearing ways. My mother didn’t helicopter. When I think of the things she let us do without her, I’m amazed. It was a great gift—living our own lives while knowing that she was there if we needed her.
So here I am in my empty nest. But my guilty secret (well, not so secret now, and actually, not so guilty, either) is that after 25 years of living with my fabulous sons, I’m thrilled to have the house to myself. For one thing, I don’t have to put on clothes to get something from the living room. For another, I don’t do nearly as much laundry. You can see the rabbit hole opening in front of me as I recount the joys of not living with children … No assignments or sports games written on the family calendar. A lot less food in the fridge. And, for the first year in 20, I didn’t go to a single Back-to-School Night (let alone the three I attended that annoying year they were in elementary, middle and high schools, respectively). So from the outside, I’m carefree—whistling the happy tune of unencumbered adulthood.
But the truth is that I haven’t been my old self since my eldest was born. And now parts of me are out there running around without me to supervise them. I can’t extract myself from the mother that I’ve become. And while I want my sons out there living their own lives, I’m conflicted. At holidays my mom has always said how great it is to have her chicks all in the nest. I didn’t understand before my own sons started leaving. Now I do.
So what I know is that this motherhood thing is never going away, no matter where my children are or what any of us are doing with our lives. Motherhood plus. It’s all good.