I had coffee with a friend this week, and she reminded me of something I went through, and since it’s Mother’s Day Month, I thought it was a perfect topic to blog about.
Who are you? Do you remember? Do you remember a time when you were more than ‘just mom’? When you had your own desires, and hobbies and likes and dislikes, and time? When you chose what movie you wanted to watch because YOU wanted to watch it? When you ate the food you actually loved, rather than what your kids will eat? When you flipped through magazines because you felt like it? When you went to the loo with the bathroom door shut? Do you remember that person?
So many moms complain to me all the time that they never have time. That they are feeling overwhelmed. That they spend all day in a car! That they are forever baking and doing homework and having parent teacher meetings and sitting on the sides of sports fields, and … and… and!
We get so good at being MOM that we forget to be ME. We forget who we are and what we enjoy and what we want. We seem to put our life on hold and take the reigns of our children’s lives and go with that.
Then our babies grow up. And disaster strikes. Now what? Now you aren’t needed 24/7… and now you feel lost. It’s not the empty nest syndrome, because they still need you, but they are more independent now… at school in the morning… going to friends’ houses… staying at parties without you… sleeping over! And what do you do? Who are you now?
What tends to happen is we suddenly become ‘guilty’… guilty that we aren’t spending enough time with our children. We hold tighter and work harder at being MOM. But why?
I believe it’s because we NEED to feel needed. For so many years, our selves have been defined by what our children needed. And now they are becoming more independent and we suddenly go through a crisis. I see it often. It’s either around 6 … when your child starts big school… or it’s as your youngest starts to gain independence… start nursery school… become potty trained… start asking to go to Nana’s house. Little things like that. Suddenly they separate from you and you are left feeling empty.
I want you to embrace this. Pat yourselves on the back and say “Well done mom! I’m doing it!” You are doing just what you are meant to do! You are raising independent, strong kids with a good sense of self. That is your job. Make them stand on their own, so they know who they are and what they want and what they like.
But you have to hang on to yourself at this stage too. Start allowing yourself to enjoy this stage. Remember who you were before kids and what plans you had. Go back to gym… pick up your pottery classes again… sew… scrapbook… get a part time job… volunteer… do the things YOU WANT to do now that your children are growing up.
What you cannot do is this. Do NOT cling to your children and MAKE them need you again. Do not stop them from growing and learning. Because they will become more clingy. They will ‘need you’ more. And it will fulfill something in you, but it will weaken your children and make them dependent and unconfident.
Try remember how you were with your first child… excited about their firsts. Excited (although teary) when they went to nursery school. When they played their first match. When they brought home their first painting. When they had their first play date. Don’t hold on to their ‘babyhood’ because it makes you insecure. I was guilty of this… I wanted to hold on to my ‘baby’ and keep him little. I forced myself to send him to nursery school… but first only 2 days a week, that was all “he” could handle I was sure! Then this year he hit Grade One and once again I dreaded it. I thought about keeping him back. I put off buying his uniforms. I held his hand on day one (deep deep down secretly hoping just a little bit that he would shed a tear so I could rush in and save him and be his hero and take him home and snuggle him and say “I told you he was too little to go to school now!”). I didn’t want him to grow up because then where would that leave me?
But I was brave. I severed that apron string and he was fine. And he still loves me. And he still needs me. But in different ways. I enjoy the time we do have together – with all of them – because it is less and I know as they get bigger it will become even less still. But I see other moms clinging to their children, making excuses for them, and I am proud of my strong, independent kids.
Yes of course I wish they were still little, but they are growing whether I like it or not. As Daniel always says “It’s not my fault mom, it’s God’s fault!” So they will grow. And down the line I can either have an 18yr old who needs me to hold his hand when he does anything and everything, or I can have an 18yr old who is independent and only needs me for moral support.
And for the record… my 12yr old still holds my hand in shopping centres… he still wants to tell me things he won’t tell anyone else… and he still asks me to help him with things just because he wants me to be involved. He still needs me.
So remember who you are … you are not “just mom”. You are you. And you should model to your children how to be you and make yourself, your dreams, goals and time, a priority. They will respect you and themselves because of it. That is what being ‘just mom’ is about.