|Two of my Teens on their first day of School|
I think it's time for me to start writing more about midlife motherhood. I've thought about this a lot lately. On my blog I have many stories of the ups and downs of motherhood, but they are all from when the kids were little. Why did I stop writing so much about motherhood now that my kids are older? Maybe it's because 2-year old tantrums and 6-year old messes are funnier than 13-year old tantrums and 16-year old rebellion. Maybe because my kids were too little to know I was writing about them when they were young, but now that they are teenagers I don't want to embarrass them. That's all part of it, I think. But I also believe there is more to it than that. Here are my thoughts:
2-year old tantrums are expected. Motherhood is expected to be exhausting when the kids are little. What do we expect midlife motherhood to be? I guess because we and our children are older we expect it to be better...less exhausting, less busy, fewer unknowns. But none of that is true! If anything, all of those things are magnified. Still, we don't talk about them!
I'm afraid to write about my teenagers. Not because they aren't great and it's not hard, but I guess it suddenly feels like their struggles are personal to them. Maybe their stories aren't mine to share. But my story is shareable. Confession: Midlife Motherhood is super hard for me!
I love that we can have deeper conversations, that we can all play games together and watch the same movies. I love that I don't have to drive them everywhere they need to go. I love that they have jobs and can pay for their own stuff. I love that I can leave the house without seven kids in tow. There are so many wonderful things about this stage!
However, I am still exhausted, the house is still a mess, and I'm still needed sometimes more than I want to be! Motherhood doesn't end when our kids grow up and I think deep down we expect it will.
A Mother's Love
One of the hardest parts of this stage, for me, is knowing when and how much to let go. In the Art of Loving we learn that a mother's love is the deepest. When two people get married they must learn to become one. For mothers, there are two people but instead of becoming one, the mother and her child must learn to move from being one to two, completely independent of one another. To truly love our children, we have to let them go. This is super difficult for mothers. I am no exception.
I recently read a book called Life Reimagined: The Art and Science of Midlife. This book helped me realize just how forgotten this stage can be. There is plenty of reading material for young mothers. There is much written and studied about the elderly. And yet, there is very little targeting the middle aged. Sure, there are many books written about and for teenagers, but most of these writing are dealing with teen behaviors. I haven't found anything geared to being a mother in this stage of life, being a woman dealing with her own hormonal changes at the same time as trying to parent and let go. Because there is little attention paid to this stage, maybe we think we should have it all together. We are, after all, grown up now with so much experience to draw from. Right? This is false thinking that can lead to burn out, depression, anxiety, and more. We cannot let ourselves be forgotten.
Another aspect of this stage is the idea of needing to "find yourself" again, especially if you've been a stay at home mom. More often than not, a mother immerses herself in her young children (out of necessity) and pushes her own dreams and desires aside. This is not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it ideal, it just happens. When the kids all grow up and go to school or leave the house, we suddenly need to discover what it is we want to do with our time and energy, what little of it there is to go around. Women go through various stages of redefining themselves that men don't typically go through. When they become mothers, when their kids become more independent, when they are empty-nesters, when their husbands retire (then it's both of you, I guess). All of these phases can be tricky to navigate and they are very real.
So, what's the point of my rambling? I don't really know, except to say: Midlife Mothering is hard and we need to talk about it more! I don't want to leave on a negative note, though. These are the challenges, but there is also much joy. For instance, watching my children become who they are meant to be is truly a blessing. There is joy even amidst the struggle, I guess I just don't want to feel alone in that struggle, that's all. Motherhood truly is an eternal, forever calling!