This has been on my mind a fair amount of late, admittedly Mothers’ Day is looming which is always a good way to highlight all my feelings surrounding motherhood. I was a young mother, my first bundle of joy arriving at my tender age of 19. The second bundle arrived 3.5 years later and so the story started.
Being a young mother is hard. You lose friends, especially when they are chasing careers, studies and other things and don’t really understand why you kept the child. I didn’t have many friends at 19 anyway, so my circle grew much smaller. I have issues with being abandoned and as such my circle is very small, it contracted further.
The kids grew up as they are wont to do. We had all the usual ups and downs, good and bad days and life happened. I learned a lot from my children as I tried to give them all the tools I thought they would need as they entered the world. I created a world where they could learn to voice an opinion, and do so respectfully. A world where everyone is treated equal irrespective of external factors and all were given a chance to be heard.
Then they left. Well more to the point, I left and the family became two. My eldest stayed with the ex and my youngest joined me. I suddenly was dealing with feelings of having let them down, of not being a good enough mother because I had split our family. The youngest left a year and a half ago now.
My world changed forever.
Empty nest syndrome is a real thing. It’s not the delusional anxiety of a woman longing for glory days (rose coloured glasses here). It’s the actual feeling of emptiness that envelops you once you have a moment to breathe.
It’s fun at first. There is no set time for dinner, or baths, or homework .. or anything that relates to a child. No more school, no more tantrums or arguing over pointless issues. You can do adult things at your own time in your own pace. No one will argue about what’s being served for dinner because you are cooking for you. No one will chase you off the toilet or out the bath because hey! you’re alone.
That honeymoon lasts a while I can tell you. Things you have done a million times are better now just because you are on your own. Reality does settle in and it does so quite hard. The honest truth is that when those children reach a certain age, they don’t need you anymore. You are merely a blip in their busy day-to-day lives. When you feel like communication it will be the last thing on their to-do list.
It doesn’t mean that as a parent you have failed. In fact I know my children are leading the lives I taught them to lead. Independent, on their terms and to the full lives. Every day needs to be lived the best way they know how. That means that I am not as important for right now. That will (hopefully) change with time, but right now I have that empty nest.
The hardest lesson I am learning is that I have to allow them to miss me. I can’t keep chasing them. I cannot force attention or recognition. I know they love me, just as I know that they are focused on their life right now.
I write this as though I have it all under control and yet I can tell you I don’t. I still cry in bed wondering if I hadn’t left if this would have happened, and I know it would have. I still cry because I miss them so terribly and all I want is a hug or a call – and it doesn’t happen. I cry because of all I have been through and it’s an effort to remember mum.
Yet through the tears I am watching them mature and I know deep in my heart that all is good. They are good adults and are making decisions and choices that are theirs to make. They have learned well. I need to let it go because the tears are more pity for myself than anguish at their choices.