Months ago, I was introduced to the Highwomen and specifically the song “My Name Can’t be Mama.” The lyrics include, “I’m not the kind of woman that would throw it all away, but my name can’t be Mama, today…” That’s today. This song is about me, about to embark on my empty nesting years. Because Mama is so done!
My youngest just finished high school. I am at the end of the full-throttle parenting world. And, if I’m honest, am so freaking tired. Tired of so many things, but most importantly, I’m tired of treating myself (and allowing other people to treat me) like I am second fiddle. This is Texas, so I take those words seriously. I’m ready to be the lead of this band again, and I’ll take the steel guitar as my instrument if I get to pick.
I am Ready for Empty Nesting
Motherhood swallowed me whole more than two decades ago. Confession: I really did not intend to be a mom. But I met someone and they liked kids. And, well…
I didn’t think I would survive the early years.
I defined myself in their worlds in the middle.
When we made it to the teen years, I hoped it was my time to shine. My best historical evidence told me that teens liked me. I was a “cool” adult. There is, however, a mystery that I failed to see. Cool MOMS are unicorns. And from my experience, the offspring of said mystical creatures rarely see the magic.
My kids embody that reality. They find no joy in my silly. They find my requests annoying. They hate my music and clothes and shoes. Very loudly. These things would be hard enough, but the developmental tragedy of adolescence ascends to a new level around 17. They began disagreeing with your beliefs. They start questioning even the most basic of your life choices. Even the type of noodles I use in spaghetti is wrong today. Being a parent of a teenager is freaking hard. And that’s when your kids are “good.”
My kids have not been in trouble. Not in school, not with the law, and rarely at home. Nada. They are by everyone else’s vantage point some of the most interesting and mature young adults around. They have great grades, are pursuing higher education, visit their grandparents and will be contributors in this season and beyond. At the core, they are good. AND. They have made the last few years of my life the toughest and most uncomfortable of my five decades.
I could give you all of the other reasons why the end of this season needs more than a backyard party for the kiddo, but I must just pause and let you know I have a celebration planned for myself. It’s coming. But for this conversation, I need you to know that no matter the day, I’m ready for launching. I’m ready to wake up in my house and not dread the heavy pounds of pouty feet. I’m ready to drink my coffee and not fear the whining that will begin when I ask about school. I am ready to not feel the weight of daily managing mental health and safety. I’m ready to know that they can access their own healthcare and be physically, emotionally and sexually independent and healthy. I’m ready to eat what I want every day. I’m ready to sit on my porch at night and not fear the anger and angst that could come with a curfew. I’m ready to take a deep breath and actually let myself relax.
I’ve had a teenager in my home for over a decade, and the single greatest challenge has been watching myself fade in that process. I’m not a weak or quiet human. I’m full of passion and desire for life. But the last decade has felt like a slow leak in a bad air mattress. I wake up every morning with my hip bones on the ground and my 50 year-old body reminding me that I was not created for this way of life. I am depleted. Most days, I feel like a shell of the human that once was. On the worst days, it feels horrifically overwhelming.
What I Need
Lest you believe that this way of feeling is perceived as acceptable in my mind, let me assure you, it is not. I have sought help in all of the places and spaces. I’ve screamed from the rafters that this season has drained me. I’ve got GREAT friends. I have a partner who loves me. I have quite a collection of tools in my tool belt. I know this. AND. I’m ready for the kids to be gone.
There. I said it.
My name can’t be Mama today.
I need to laugh without judgment.
I need to travel and dream.
I need to not dread their disapproval.
I need to walk through my kitchen excitedly telling a new idea and not be minimized.
I need to be able to freely cook in my kitchen.
I need to allow my decisions and priorities to be about me.
I WANT this next season.
And, if I’m going there, let’s just go there. I will never, ever, judge a marriage that ends when the kids leave. Good people WANT to do this together. We do. We love our kids and we want to prioritize them over the 9,725 things that our world asks of us. But that takes a toll on a relationship in ways that I find unique. The call of parenthood, especially when you value it, allows us to forget what keeps us alive. We do it all in order to help them thrive and it can destroy the deepest fiber of even the strongest parenting teams. My experience in this world shows me that the deeper the divide in the WAY you each choose to parent, the harder it is to find common ground in the war zone. So if this hits, consider this my virtual hug. I see you. I am also not giving up after 26 years.
We are All Ready
I know there are good days ahead. But, I have also begun navigating the water of the 20’s. They are no joke, either. They just don’t have to live in my house anymore….or have avenues to give daily opinions about everything from what gas I put in my car to the way I reheat leftovers. (There is no safe zone, young mommas, take this as a warning.) Come August, you will find me in my peacock-colored chair with my too-long hair and my annoying mix of 90s anthems and modern country blasting on my super extra record player. Because in MY new world order, the music is going to be SO GOOD!
I know so many moms are dreading the August drop off. I’m not a fool. OF COURSE, there will be sad moments. BUT!
My kid is ready.
My marriage is ready.
And I’m ready.
Here’s to empty nesting and all the self-love, curiosity, and compassion as we embrace the beauty of new beginnings.