MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Motherhood

Ok, I know it’s a bit cliché to write a post about motherhood the week after Mother’s Day, but comments about “Real Mothers” in a book I’m reading not only made me giggle, but triggered my mind to meander through my years as a Single Mom raising a gifted child.

The book is “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult, and it’s been on my nightstand for years. I started reading it multiple times, but life as a Single Mom, or any Mom for that matter, doesn’t always allow the time to just sit and read.

BUT, having more time at home right now, and a child who is twenty and somewhat independent, I can say I finally carved out time to read, beyond the newspaper, blogs and reference books. A hobby I certainly missed.

The book is a story about a divorced, single Mom named Emma with an 18 year old son with Asperger’s syndrome, who is very verbal, and locked in his own world, but would very much like to make connections outside of this world, yet is clueless on how to be “normal.”

AND, there is also an older brother who just wants a normal life, but gave up hope of this ever happening, as the issues with his younger brother became the dominant factor in their household. Thus the title “House Rules.”

https://www.jodipicoult.com/house-rules.html

I won’t get into details beyond this because it’s insignificant to the point of this post. What is significant is that as can be expected this Mother has had a hard time at being the Mother she dreamed she would be. She’s spent a lot of time second-guessing herself, but with time has realized she has done what needed to be done to protect her children, especially the son with Asperger’s.

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MONTHLY MEDITATION – Quarantined with a Twenty-Year-Old College Student

As time starts to morph the longer our “Stay at Home” Order is in place, the more I’ve begun to analyze just how dysfunctional my Son and I can be.

OR, should I say, just how challenging living with a twenty-year-old college student really can be.

Granted he’s home on breaks, but that’s just it, a break. During those times I’m working full time, and so is he if it’s a summer or winter break, and our evenings and weekends are our time to hangout, which works out wonderfully.

The present situation is completely different.

I’m sort of laid off, but he has classes, or should I say class work. None of his teachers are using Zoom on a regular basis. He just has assignments to be completed by a certain date.

This leaves plenty of leverage when it comes to creating a schedule for my Son’s days, as I’ve suggested he do. I’m one who can’t stand seeing a day go to waste and want to use this time at home productively.

So for me creating a basic schedule allows me to break up my day and take time to write, work on unfinished house projects and explore other interests, or even just read. A luxury I don’t usually have time for.

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Navigating the Ever-Changing Terrain of Parenting

Parenting is a funny thing. 

When your child is young you need to be involved in every step along the way.

As they hit middle school years, you need to start stepping back; giving them the space they need to start maneuvering their world on their own.

By high school you need to be watching from the sidelines. It’s sink or swim time preparing for college.

The irony though is, if you’re too involved, you can be accused of being a “helicopter mom.”

AND

If you step back too much, you can be accused of not caring.

You’re constantly walking a fine line between over-stepping and under-stepping.

As my Son was growing up, I was by no means a “helicopter mom.” I was what I classified as his advocate.

An advocate he desperately needed at times.

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Signs of Growth

Last month I met an old friend for dinner. This is something we had tried to do for years, but between raising kids, and caring for our aging Mom’s, time just got away from us. BUT, with both of us now having our children back at college for their sophomore year we knew we had to make it happen

OR, it may never happen.

Once seated at our table, my first words to her were “How are you doing since the girls went back to school?”

Without any hesitation she stated sophomore year has been tougher than freshman year. I agreed, confessing I was downright depressed the first week or two.

I hate to say it, but it was refreshing to find out it wasn’t just me feeling this way. 

Freshman year I had many texts, emails, and even a somewhat regular Sunday afternoon call from my Son. Plus, I had a few runs to the college to aid with roommate issues and moving. And, bring things he discovered he needed for the dorm. 

This year however has been drastically different.

Which is good for my Son. It means he’s becoming more independent, self-confident and self-reliant.

For me however, it has been beyond challenging. The feeling of not being needed was overwhelming at times.

Before I let it get the best of me though, I knew I had to put my energy into something positive. I needed to be proactive and not dwell on the void.

With an endless list of unfinished projects staring me down, I set my sights on those, and created a plan of attack based on the time I had till my Son’s first visit home for Fall Break.

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Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

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Confused Self-Image

Self-Image –
one’s conception of oneself or of one’s role
the way you think about yourself and your abilities or appearance

One of the key things I’ve discovered since my Son went off to college is the fact that my self-image is very much tied to being a Mom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Being a parent is at the same time one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs anyone can take on.

As a parent you’re responsible for molding a little human. For me I prayed every day I was making the right decisions in guiding my Son on the right path to become a competent and compassionate human being, capable of standing on his own two feet.

I put my heart and soul into being a Mom, working tirelessly day and night never looking for anything more than a hug or an “I love you.”

My life revolved around my Son’s needs. I took a back seat.

Who I was before having my Son became a distant image in the rear view mirror of my life.

BUT, what happens to me when my position as Mom is downsized because my Son went off to college?

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OUT OF SORTS

So, after my ever-optimistic “Dare to Dream” post last month I headed into March feeling really good about everything. All seemed right in my little world.

I had direction and an end game when it came to my writing. Even if I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.

I was adjusting to being an empty nester and even looking forward to free weekends that I could start to fill with unfinished projects.

AND

I was in a rhythm at work, busy, but not overloaded. I felt like I was firing on all cylinders.

UNTIL

The first week of March when I started to feel ”out of sorts.” Everything seemed out of whack. My mojo was seriously off and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

OF COURSE THIS MADE ME WONDER…

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Change Ineffective Behavior

It is hard to believe my Son’s first semester of college is now behind me. Those first couple weeks my heart ached. I missed him immensely.

As a single Mom with only one child, when that child heads off to college, your empty-nest becomes salt in the wound of being alone.

I reminisced longingly at all of the highlights of his Senior year. And for that matter all of high school.

With time though I settled into my new norm and even embraced the opportunity to re-discover the me that got lost while raising my Son.

rediscover

Don’t get me wrong, I looked forward to every visit home he made, and was thrilled when we started to have weekly phone conversations. Something I certainly didn’t expect from a teenage boy.

So, I could hardly wait for Winter Break. He would be home for five weeks. And with how wonderful all his other breaks went, I thought for sure him and I were heading into a whole new dynamic between parent and child.

I was however in for a rude awakening, and a reminder that change does not come quickly or easily.

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