Mother. Homeschooler. Teacher. Guidance Counselor. Chauffeur. Cook. Health Care Consultant. Social Coordinator. When the things that have defined you for so long come to an end, who are you now?
I have five children and there are thirteen years between my oldest child and my youngest. The first three babies came within a 5 year span, then there was a 4 years gap and then a 5 year gap. Nothing about the spacing of our children was “planned”, but I think it turned out just perfect.
That means I was mothering a child under my roof for 32 years. Thirty-two years of active parenting, and 23 of those years I was homeschooling. It was a season that I had looked forward to for as long as I can remember. I was always a “baby person” – that girl who loved baby dolls, gravitated towards the baby in the room, and loved to babysit. I got married right out of college and two years later I was pregnant and ecstatic about it!
Parenting is hard. Homeschooling is hard.
You are on duty 24/7, and often exhausted, discouraged, stretched to your limit, challenged, frazzled, frustrated, uncertain, terrified, and convinced you are totally doing it all wrong. My husband was a help and comfort and rock of stability when he wasn’t annoying the heck out of me or making me furious.
I’ll add in here that marriage is hard too.
But despite the hard, this was the life I loved. In addition to the hard, it was wonderful and glorious and gratifying and so much fun!
As my kids grew to be teenagers I sometimes heard other parents make comments about how they were looking forward to the day when their children were all grown and out of the house. Inside, my heart would clench because I was not looking forward to that day.
Not. At. All.
When my oldest left for college he left a hole in the fabric of our family, but there were still four other kids at home and life was still very busy. Then my second child left, and now there were three. Still busy with kids at home and also trying to keep tabs on the college kids, making sure all was well in their worlds.
Because that’s what moms do – we can’t help it!
When the third left for college and the oldest joined the Army and left for far-flung places, I realized that more than half of my children were grown and flown. Even though a couple of them returned for a short period after college, they were still grown ups at that point, and living life separately from “the family”. I learned to enjoy relating in a different way with my grown up kids, and also thanked God that he had spaced things a little further apart at the end so I still had time before having to think about the “empty nest”, as some of my friends were now experiencing!
Since there was a longer gap between my children now, I had a few years enjoying our little group of four, and then we were down to just one child. Those years with one teenager at home were hard and wonderful. The poor kid felt a little lost without his siblings. Being together all the time as a homeschool family makes for a very close family bond. He also was now the sole focus of my attention! yikes. We really had some great quality time together over the next couple of years. But as his independence as a student and as a young adult grew and he spent more time at outside classes, basketball practice, and with friends, I started to get a glimpse of what my life would soon be. One without children who needed me the way they once did.
I cried on the drive home after dropping him off at college. Not just because he was my baby and I was grieving the loss of an era. But he was a Spring admit at his university, meaning he started in January rather than August. And we dropped my baby off as a freshman at his school on the North Carolina coast just as an ice storm was bearing down!! His dad and I had to basically unload his stuff and then jump back in the car, trying to get home before the worst of the storm! Not an hour later my boy called to say that the power was out in his dorm, orientation the next day was cancelled, and he would be sleeping in a conference room that night because his room had no heat!!!! Don’t you think that I wanted to turn right around and go back and get him?! College was obviously a terrible idea for this child and he/we needed to go home and think this through more carefully!
Cooler heads prevailed. My son spent a couple of days plodding around in the snow with the other Spring admit freshmen until the rest of the students arrived on campus, the ice melted and all went forward as planned. He was fine. I was…. sort of fine.
So I went home to my empty house and had to spend a while asking myself the question. Who am I now? I’m a mom with no kids at home, a teacher with no students, a chauffeur with no passengers, a health care consultant with no patients.
But I am also the wife of a wonderful man. I’m a daughter and sister. I’m a mentor in my community and a friend to some very treasured people in my life. I’m a learner and an artist, a baker and a reader. I’m a redeemed child of the One True God.
There is a lot for God to still work with there.