There was a time when I thought I would never sleep through the night again, never have an uninterrupted meal (or shower), and never find time for myself. But just as all of my older friends had warned me, it’s here. Somehow I went from wrangling four small unpredictable children, to simply coaching from afar. But is it easier? NOPE! In fact, there are times when it feels harder. Primarily because I have so little control now and so much time to rehash all of my mistakes over the years. When they were little I took parenting classes and joined mom groups. I read books and made schedules and purposefully worked on parenting these crazy children. I understood development stages, learning styles, and love languages. I really tried to help them enjoy their childhood and grow into successful adults.
Now, 3 children are in college and one is in high school. They all have their own lives, their own goals, and are responsible for their own mistakes. The three older ones live 3 hours, 1 hour, and 20 hours away…and yet they still touch home base when they can. This summer everyone was home again for probably the last time. It was wonderful and loud and a chaotic mess. My driveway was full, by refrigerator and wallet empty. They spent fun time together, picked on each other, and argued like the old days. As a family we have been through many different growing pains with each of us. Each child has stories of when they were rebellious or in trouble for something. Thankfully each child has stories of success and moments of decision that lead to a better place. But what really struck me this summer is that the one who is struggling to grow, to be consistently kind, to identify their goals and to pursue their passions with determination and focus… that struggling human being is MOM! Yep, it’s me.
I have spent the last few years returning to a full-time career and pursuing specialization and further education. I have thrown myself into my job and I LOVE it! But I have struggled to find my place at home. On the one hand I’m kind of “over” being crafty and nesting and keeping the home fires going… on the other I’m irritated that I can’t do it all. But more irritating than anything is that I find my family doesn’t CARE that I can’t keep the house nice and the meals timely and the social calendar full. At first I thought that I was angry that they didn’t help more, but now I’m realizing that I’m REALLY angry that it’s not important to them! They didn’t care that I haven’t repainted their rooms and organized a nice social at our home in years. They don’t care that the carpet is stained and the dishes get done about once a week. Does that mean that I failed as a mom and raised slobs? Or does that negate all of the time and effort that I spend “nesting” and creating a clean, organized, event filled home while they were growing up??? Did I just waste all those years? How can they love coming home to such a mess when I know that I don’t!?!
I guess I’m learning some life lessons here that are long over due. Yes, they really do need to participate and help more around the house when they are here, but what really matters is that they want to be here at all. I have had many of my younger coworkers tell me that it’s unusual that my kids actually seem to enjoy being with myself and my husband. They actually enjoy their time at home. Of course, they enjoy getting back to school and their friends and their own spaces too! I know they appreciated at least some of my efforts over the years, as I found out when I tried to get away without decorating much for Christmas last year…. they were horrified! So, I scaled it back.. AND I made them help. They do generally admit that they don’t love that I work more and am less available… but they also freely admit that they are proud of me! I didn’t really see the point of attending the graduation ceremony for my doctorate… but they wouldn’t allow me to miss.
Neither my husband (of 29 years) or myself come from close families. We have worked hard on our relationship and committed ourselves to being the example of marriage that we didn’t have. So it’s very new territory for us to venture into this time of adult children. It’s exciting to see each of them, with the personalities they were born with, work out their futures for themselves. It’s refreshing to see that they are proud of each other and enjoy being together… at least in small doses. It’s frightening to know that soon it will just be my husband and I and we had better have something in common, something to keep us moving forward as a couple when our whole universe isn’t just raising children. So, it’s time to work on us. Time to renew some friendships that have suffered from the busyness that comes with raising children. Time to work on me! Not necessarily all career driven and academics, but soul-searching renewal to find those deeper parts of me that I’ve earned over the years. Like a pearl in a shell, those beautiful things sometimes need help to be unearthed. I am realizing that sometimes you just have to take the time to gently wash off the sand and debris from a life well lived. You have to use the tools that you have to chip away the crusty stuff that built up for protection. And you have to dare to let out that little pearl so it can be shined up and used to add a little more beauty to this world. Like any other growth process, this is a complicated process and takes time. But I have to firmly believe that the results are worth it. I want the results to be stunning. Not in a superficial, materialistic way, but in a way that brings meaning and joy and foundation for myself and my family. So even if the process gets complicated, or messy, or even a little smelly, I’m hoping my family will hang in there with me… I’m believing the pearl is worth it.