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The End Game of Motherhood

The endgame of motherhood is to make yourself obsolete. This is how you know you’ve succeeded, when they launch into their own lives and no longer need you. It is a hard thing. It is why I find myself crying on a sunny morning in a bright new year feeling sadness because we’ve just concluded the final holiday season when all the kids live at home. Kiki will come home for Christmas next year. I know she will. But it will be different. I don’t know about the year after that. Too many changes loom in the next few years for me to be able to predict what life will look like. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to go back and redo anything I’ve done in the past seventeen years. No major regrets haunt me. I just wish this holiday could have lasted longer, that I could have savored it more, or stored it up for later. If only moments could be preserved like home canned food. I try with blog entries and photo books, but the memory of a moment is not the same as the moment itself. All of the moments for this holiday are gone.

The future is bright and full of possibility. I’m excited to see where Kiki will fly. I’m excited to launch the other kids into their futures too. But I now know–in a way that I did not before–that I will cry. Again and again I will cry. Because it feels like I am departing the heart of my life and I don’t want to. I’m going to miss this. Life will be different and I will find new ways to enjoy it. But just now I can’t imagine it being any better, because this part has been the best bit. I finally understand all those fervent exhortations to “Enjoy them now. They’ll be grown before you know it.” It was usually spoken by some stranger to me when my toddler and baby were climbing precariously in a shopping cart. I thought the advice givers were wrong. They were and they weren’t. For some mothers the best bit is when the kids are little, that is the heart’s home that they miss. I don’t miss the baby and toddler years, though I enjoyed them while I was in them. Right now is what I will miss. I’m going to miss four at home, two teens two kids, all of them running in different directions, squabbling over the cat, and the incessant sound of video games. This is my heart’s home and just now it feels like I will spend the rest of my life missing home.

I have eight months left. No wonder I have no desire to travel anywhere. I just want to be at home while home is still here. There is time afterward to figure out which new dreams will flow into the spaces that are opening up in my life. New happiness will come. Old dreams will become possible again in ways that they aren’t when I have primary care of developing human beings. I will find laughter and adventure. Things will be good, but they will be different and I can’t quite picture how it will be. So today I cry a little. Then I wipe my eyes and proceed with the day. No sense wasting what I have by grieving for what has not even happened yet. Once the kids come home, they hug me and all is well for now.

4 comments to The End Game of Motherhood

  • I so much understand where you are right now, Sandra! Last year my two oldest decided to both go and graduate high school at the same time. I never thought I would be a weepy mom. I never cried when kids started Kindergarten, but the thought of losing two at once, two people who had become my best friends, was really heart-breaking. Of course, you know they need to go off on their own and make their own lives. You know there will be great moments ahead. But still, it hurts. Even when my oldest is home for Christmas, it hurts because I know she has to leave again. I am so selfish, because I want her here for me. And my other daughter decided to stay home another year and annoys me because she’s not at school and not at work. And yet, I love that she stayed. Selfishness. I will be even more heart-broken next year as #1 goes on a mission and #2 goes off to college. I don’t miss the baby years. But oh, how I love teenagers. Other parents say they are glad when the teenagers go, but that is the price I pay for loving teens so much. I can’t imagine being happy that they are gone.

    • I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone in this. The grief feels foolish, but it is real and trying to pretend it is not there does me no good. I’m better today, but it will strike again.

  • Chris Battey

    My son is turning one year old in six weeks. Already I can feel his childhood slipping away from me – he’ll be walking soon! He’s starting to figure out words! Soon I’ll never hear him babbling random syllables again! But each new milestone is a sign that we’re doing our jobs, and every giggle and smile is a sign that we’re doing them well.

    When he was born, I realized that my primary goal in life was now to turn this fragile little bundle of needs into a happy, healthy, capable adult human being. I hadn’t thought of it as making myself obsolete – but of course one of the hallmarks of adulthood is no longer having to rely on one’s parents for one’s day-to-day needs. But hopefully I can still be a guide to my children well into adulthood. (I dearly wish my mom was still around to talk to about raising a kid, though I’ve had some great talks with my dad about it…)

    • I wish Howard’s parents were around to talk to. I’m pretty sure my kids have Tayler traits and being able to ask what Howard was like as a child would be really nice.