My kids are all grown. They live on their own, have full time jobs, have relationships, pay their own rent and bills, have friends I’ve never met, do things I’ll never know about (probably a good thing), and live their own lives according to their own values and rules. I couldn’t be prouder or happier about the adults these beautiful children have become, but this stage of motherhood is different and not well defined.
My role is no longer to look after the kids. They can clearly look after themselves. One daughter is married with her own children, my son runs a company and travels all over the US for work, one daughter runs her own business in addition to holding a full time job, and the fourth, and youngest, works out of the country for months at a time. Of course there is nothing I like better than to bake up some cookies or muffins when they are visiting, or to take them shopping and buy them a little something, but that is no longer my role. They don’t need a caretaker.
My role is no longer to keep the kids safe. As much as I worry about their safety (and the world’s safety for that matter), there is really nothing I can do about it. They are all pretty savvy about the ways of the world, and they are not completely irresponsible. Everyone is at risk, of course, but again, keeping the kids safe is no longer within my purvue.
It’s not my role to keep them fed or dressed. It’s no longer my responsibility to make sure they get a good education (I don’t miss those tuition bills!). It’s not up to me to set expectations or limits. So then, what is my role as a mother? What does motherhood look like at this stage?
This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day. We attended a play in New York City, followed by a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite spots. We were all moved to tears by the story that unfolded on stage. We were incensed by the intolerance of some and the inability to stand up for what is right by others. We were broken-hearted by loss and angry at the lack of fairness that exists in the world. We talked at dinner about the play, about books we’re reading or want to read or want each other to read. We talked about politics, ideas, and, of course, some of the more mundane parts of life. As my husband and I drove home from the city, I thought about my role as mother. Maybe it’s time to just be myself in the presence of my children. Maybe it’s time to let go of the care-taking, the safety-ensuring, the minding, the managing, and just fully enjoy this stage of motherhood.