My kids are all in school, and it should be a celebratory season in my life as a mother. I’ve finally got some freedom. I’m raising humans to leave me, right? I should be rejoicing in this season of parenting.
Some days, let’s be honest – I do rejoice.
For example, we went camping recently, and we had plenty of together time. I had so much together time that I needed non-together time so badly afterward. I needed a serious break from raising humans.
I got the kids off to school, eager to tackle work projects and hear silence. I was eager to not hear about someone annoying someone in the back seat, or how someone may or may not have tripped someone on purpose. I was eager to not hear the cries of whiny kids that were overly tired from too much fun.
And, my day was great. They were gone all day and I stayed in my pajamas until noon working. I had a quiet house. And, then the inevitable text came in. The one asking if my oldest could go hang at her friends’ house. I said no for no good reason except that I wanted her home.
I mean, in my head I had lots of logical reasons to say no. She needed to work on a school thing, she had laundry that’s been sitting unfolded in her room for 5 days. There were plenty of things I could give her to do. But, the truth was – I missed her.
They’re all growing up and some days, that reality swallows me whole.
They came home and got their snacks. And, then the house was eerily quiet again. They dispersed. One found his Rubik’s cube and started playing on it, the oldest went into her room to check what texts she had missed out on during the day from friends, and the littlest ran off to watch TV.
They were all home, but it was quiet.
I made a few assignments for after school things like hanging up backpacks and putting away shoes left out, and then they scattered again.
I felt a knot in my stomach as my oldest went to her room to fold her laundry and shut the door behind her.
I wanted to cry as I finished wiping up the counters and cleaning up dishes from snacks.
Why was I being an emotional wreck all of a sudden? I felt punched in the gut by the sound of a door closing.
The loneliness, the growing up, the not needing me as much anymore is the part of motherhood that I didn’t expect to be so hard. I was counting down the seconds until this season of life.
I have written about it before, and will probably write about it again. The growing up part is heartbreakingly beautiful, but it’s also lonely. There are lots of things I didn’t expect to feel.
When kids are little we can’t wait for the growing up part. We want the little chubby arms to finally be able to hug us tightly around the neck.
We can’t wait for the first smiles, first steps, and first words.
We excitedly celebrate the first hour and a half of alone time we might get when they are dropped off at preschool, or when we feel human by putting on real clothes for a girls’ night out.
We enjoy adult conversations eventually and can look at our phones when we are at the playground.
We freak out with excitement the first time they grab a bowl of cereal and turn on the TV on a Saturday morning and realize we might actually sleep again.
All of these little milestones (that are really huge when you add them up) eventually morph into something we don’t expect – loneliness.
I’m not really alone. I have my spouse. I have friends. I have plenty of girls’ nights and if I’m lucky I even have the occasional weekend away.
But, what I didn’t expect was to crave the company of my littles that aren’t so little anymore.
I crave the hugs, kisses, and cuddles now in a way that left me feeling touched out before. I want to just hang out with my people (my not so littles) more now that they want to close the door to the bedroom or put in some earbuds.
Yes – I still get annoyed by the raising humans aspect of my job. They infuriate me some days as much as I love them, but I didn’t expect how in a single moment – I could feel this way.
I didn’t expect to feel lonely while still being surrounded.
And, that’s why motherhood is heartbreaking work. I assume it always will be this way from now on. Because the reality is this – eventually the ones we love most are going to leave us.
And when they do, we’ll rejoice, while simultaneously breaking on the inside. Because that’s what mothers do.