Sunday, April 12, 2015

Am I Happy Raising Independent Children?

Not one of my three children ended up being clingy, needy children. Here's where I'd like to tell you that I had everything to do with that. Not likely. Some kids are born with their little fingers tightly hanging onto their Mama's apron strings and some kids seem to snip those strings off just as quickly as they possibly can.



Right now I am the "Middle Motherhood" stage of life. Meaning my kids are old enough to get themselves a drink of water, off to school, dress themselves, and basically fend for themselves for most of their needs; but they still live at home with me (thank goodness since one of them is just about to turn 12, and we wouldn't want him out wandering the streets).

During the "Early Motherhood" stage of life I was constantly meeting needs: feeding, clothing, and caring for three very demanding children. What is this business with requiring three meals each day any way? I was tired (the dark circles under my eyes were proof of that). There were days that ended in tears. Days that escalated into chaotic craziness. It was all day, every minute, non-stop.

Somewhere along the road of my Motherhood journey those needs changed and developed into car pooling, last-minute school projects, pre-date preparations, and less constant hovering and more waiting on the sidelines.

Don't get me wrong. I'm perfectly happy not getting up every five seconds to change a diaper, fix a bottle, pick up a pacifier. I earned my Motherhood Girl Scout Badge, and I'm happy not repeating that stage of my life again.

But something that completely caught me off guard in this new stage of life? I'm a little lonely!

Somewhere along the line, I started judging my success as a mother through a daily checklist of "I've done its." I've done the laundry. Check! I made their school lunch. Check! I combed their hair AND brushed their teeth. Double Check!

But now that these kids seem more than capable of doing most of these things all own their own with a bit of nagging thrown in here and there I just don't feel needed much any more.

And this mama who really believed that when that day came that my kids didn't need me any more I would breathe a huge sigh of relief, is more than a little sad.

Trying to redefine myself in the "Middle Motherhood" stage of life has been challenging. I hover in the wings waiting to see if they need me. And then when they don't, sometimes I feel deflated and hurt. (Let's not tell them that, though, because really I do want to raise independent, strong children.) It's just this feeling that sometimes steals over me and leaves me feeling a bit lost.

I want to connect with my kids. And believe me we do. Our kids tell us everything from what that hot boy in Sociology said to the fact that half the boys in sixth grade still haven't discovered deoderant. Our kids are very close to each other too. We're blessed in that way.

But they still don't need me as much as they once did.

So now what?

Recently I returned from a short weekend work trip. I found each kid on a different TV watching their favorite show, and I got a brief hello and that was it. "They didn't even miss me," I thought. I steeled myself to accept that they are busy enough in their lives and secure enough in their knowledge of my love for them that they are ok. But I was like, "Man, how could you NOT miss me? I am the center of your universe, am I not?" But what's a mom to do, and I moved on to other things.

Later that night we watched a movie together as a family. I snuggled up next to my husband ready to watch the show when our 11 year old squeezed in between us in a space not quite big enough for the two of us to begin with. He couldn't get close enough to me. And sometimes when he's not realizing it, he'll reach out and hold onto my fingers and stroke them on his face. I don't even think he realizes that he's doing it. But somehow it brings him comfort.

The daughter is less open with her affection (I think she gets that a bit from me). But this morning as she prepared for school after missing several days for sickness, I walked her through the medicine choices she could take depending on her symptoms. As I walked away, she piped up, "I would feel better if you scooped it up for me," she said.

She still needs me. He still needs me. And although they might not even admit it or even realize that I am important in their lives, there are little ways they look to me to feel loved and cared for.

I am not forgotten. I am not alone. I have two beautiful children who still want their mom around (even if it's not all the time). So while I'm traversing this "Middle Motherhood" stage of life, I'm going to look for ways to appreciate the way they love and appreciate me now. They are there, they're just more difficult to find than the days when rocking a baby could put them to sleep with a smile on their face. It's less obvious and more difficult to spot the moments when they love and want to be around me.

But it's worth it to look, and I intend to be in their lives for many years to come. So as I transition from one stage of motherhood to the next, I'll continue to work through my loneliness and embrace this new-found freedom. Because in that freedom I'm finding new ways to be their mother.

11 comments:

  1. Great post! I'm still in the early phase of motherhood. Sometimes I long to move beyond the constant needs. This serves as a reminder to savor this moments. They will be over soon enough and I will never get them back.

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    1. Nita, it's hard to see ahead when you're in the thick of raising kids.

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  2. I'm dealing with both 7yr old and 12 year old at the moment - about to launch into that terrifying phase of teenagehood. not sure how I'll handle that

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    1. Teenagers. It's such an interesting place to be.

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  3. SOOOOO true ! good luck with this !

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  4. Oh Jen, I can SO relate!!! Brit just turned 17, just about finished with her jr. year of high school. Ben isn't too much younger than James (he'll be 9 this year). I kind of feel a little lonely too. My kids are pretty independent, which is good. I want them to be self sufficient, independent adults someday. Lately, Brit has needed me a little. It has been kind of nice. She is very much the less demonstrative kind of kid. So not outwardly affectionate with me. Ben, while he too in independent, I look forward to the cuddles every night. He is still a cuddly one. I will take it, as I know it is fleeting and won't be around much longer. My oldest (almost 27) who has been out on her own for awhile, also extremely independent, calls when she needs a advice or a sounding board, just someone to listen. She has always been fiercely independent. Stubborn and strong-willed, that one.

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    1. You can totally relate, Michelle! It's such a strange part of life and good too, though.

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  5. Such a sweet post. Brought tears to my eyes. :o)

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  6. I am a little late to comment but I read your post on the day it was up and your thoughts have stuck with me. I am at the same stage and have definitely felt much of what you described. I read this blog post recently and it really resonated with me so I thought I'd share it: http://www.homesanctuary.com/rachelanne/2014/02/dear-lonely-mom-of-older-kids.html. It really can be a bit lonely but at the same time freeing! Motherhood is a fine balance, isn't it? All the best to you! I am new to your blog, but not your creativity, I look forward to seeing more!

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