I am 45 years old. My oldest daughter is on the cusp of graduating from high school. In five months, my household will change forever. My role as a mom will shift in some major ways. I will have daughters in the first year of new school situations–college and high school. I have watched from the sidelines while some of my best friends struggled with their own shifts, and while I watched intently, I had no idea the inner turmoil that comes with this time of life.
Let me make it clear: I am thrilled that I have two healthy and active daughters who have progressed through their childhoods on a normal timetable, have handled all the conflict and upheaval adults have introduced into their lives with grace, and who still manage to maintain wicked senses of humor and self-confidence.
That was the goal, right? To prepare children to be decent young adults ready to face whatever life throws their way without losing their way? By doing the job correctly, moms set themselves up for this huge shift when the kids’ next phases of life begin. I do not mean to discount fathers in this equation, but from my observations and my current situation, I have noticed little to no angst of the part of the fathers in these shift scenarios. I have my personal thoughts on why that is so, but that’s another post for another lifetime.
I am not what could be classified as a “helicopter parent” in a traditional sense. While I have been actively involved in my children’s lives–many times being the volunteer to step in when no one else would–parental participation is built into Catholic school life. Occasionally, I went above and beyond, but for the most part, I have done what was asked of all parents in the school. I also have worked hard to make sure my daughters, especially my oldest, take responsibility for certain things. For years now, she has called to arrange her own orthodontist, doctor, and hair/nail appointments. This has helped her ability to express herself verbally by leaps and bounds. Both girls have ordered for themselves in restaurants since they were old enough to make themselves heard by wait staff in crowded venues. I always encourage each of them to try and address potential problems (with teachers, coaches, friends) first and, if they need an assist, tag me in and I’m there.
Knowing that I set myself up to have independent young people formerly known as my baby girls does not make this easier. Because even if I didn’t do everything for them and follow them around to make their lives easier, I did devote a TON of time to parenting, raising, teaching, loving, and sacrificing for them.
It seems like that is the rub–what do you do with yourself when the major function of your life for almost 20 years time suddenly shifts? A popular quote says that having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside your body…what happens when you go days or weeks or months without seeing your heart in person? I’m about to find out.
Maybe I’ll read more books, have a cleaner house, finally clean my room, sport a cleaner automobile, go out at night, be able to quit my sideline jobs, train my dog to drive a car, and go to the gym again. Maybe.
But until then, I’m going to have to figure out how to wade through these big emotions without being knocked off my bicycle or losing my stuffing.
Is this a transition you have made? How did the shift go for you? How long did it take to find a new normal? What’s it like on the other side of the shift? Spill your guts in comments, please.