I’ve been raising babies for 31-plus years. Many of those years there were 4 or 5 of them under our roof. They were my life’s work. I poured myself into motherhood. It was my calling, my ministry, my redemption. It was also where I made the most mistakes and how God uncovered my deepest flaws. Nothing grew me more than being a mama…
Growing up, I remember some of the vows I made to myself, even as a young girl. I vowed I would raise my sons to be sensitive and communicative, not afraid of deep emotion in themselves or others. I vowed I would raise my daughters to be strong and confident, not needing a man’s attention or approval to feel good about themselves. I vowed that my children would never let someone feel left out of anything as I always did being raised as the only girl in a family of 5 children. And finally, as an adult, I vowed that I would show my children the unconditional love that I yearned for all of my life and that I would do all I could to nurture them just as God made them to be, not trying to make them fit into some proverbial box that the world said was “normal” or “better.”
My children are all incredibly inclusive and it makes my mama’s heart swell with love and pride when I see how much they all make the effort to ensure everyone feels a part of things. My sons are sweeties, communicating their hearts and listening to others sincerely. My daughter is probably the strongest woman I know. She is more comfortable in her skin at 24 than most women are at 54. For the most part, her approval comes from Her Father and she has the kind of healthy boundaries I only dreamed of at her age.
Truly, they have grown up and into even better human beings than I could’ve imagined, both because of, and mostly, in spite of, me being their mama.
I remember when my oldest was born and I was neurotic about anything hurting him in any way. I was just sure he was too wonderful a blessing for me to deserve and as soon as someone realized their mistake, he would be taken from me. When my 2-year old stepson came into my life I remember doing all I could to be sure he felt like our home was just as much his home and that he belonged. The birth of our only daughter four years later brought this confident peace that our family was complete. Her big brothers adored her and we had a little girl to add to our precious family of boys. It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo and I was much more confident in my role as a mama. Life was good. When she was just 9 months old we found out that we were pregnant and then, a few weeks later, we discovered the reason I was so, SO sick was that “there were two buns” in my oven, as our OBGYN so politely stated during our initial ultrasound. It was a drama-filled pregnancy, financially, physically and emotionally. After a pretty scary emergency c-section delivery more than 6 weeks before our due date, having 3 babies under 18 months, two of which were premature, was a special kind of crazy. Sometimes I can’t believe we survived those first two years.
Truth is, I’d go back and do it all over again, if given the chance. I loved raising my children. Those years were the best years of my life in so many ways. I homeschooled them for many reasons, but one of them was because time goes so quickly and I wanted as many moments as I could get with them before it was time for them to leave. It’s funny because I committed to savoring every moment with them and it still feels like it went TOO fast and it wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong. My children often drove me completely insane and I would think, “It’s okay. They’ll leave soon and then you’ll wish you had this mess to clean up.” Almost instantly my sanity would return and I’d realize that just because I’ll miss them doesn’t mean I should be thankful for their messes! Right?!
As mad as the early years were when all 5 of our kiddos were young and living at home (when the older 2 weren’t with other bio-parents), it was a simple that I didn’t appreciate enough until it was gone and replaced by the teen years. You haven’t really lived until you go through that time with 2 kids from previous marriages at the same time and then again with 3 full time offspring. Seriously, surviving that with your mind mostly intact, is award-worthy.
And still, I would do it all again. Differently, better, hopefully, but truly anyway I could get it. I’d do it all again.
But, I won’t because I can’t, and that’s okay. Mostly…
moreso in a month, maybe.
Because last week our daughter moved out of our house and she was the only one left in my nest. After she walked out the front door with her last big load, our love and prayers poured all over her, I watched a movie with my Honey and went to bed. The next morning my Honey went to the gym with our son and I piddled around the house, rearranging the pantry and cleaning out the refrigerator. It was kind of glorious. Then I walked into our bedroom, sat on our bed, choked out the words, “My nest is empty” and sobbed, not boo-hoo cried, but full body-sobbed for 20 minutes, hard.
The most important work of my life has ended. It’s okay, even healthy, for me to mourn that. She tried to tell me that it wasn’t the most important thing I had ever done, but that’s because she isn’t a mama and she thinks that I’m hopeless if the most important thing is over. She said that because she doesn’t want to feel responsibility for my sadness – and she shouldn’t. She should know that I know that no matter what God brings into my journey, the thing I’ve completely poured myself into, grown the most doing, humbled myself the most before and feel that I was born to do and called to was being their mama. This new season is for her to celebrate and simply make space for me to process and grow.
Being their mama is not all that I am and my life is certainly not over because I am no longer raising my precious children, but it was def the meat of my life-work sandwich. And this is my mourning season for all that those years brought me, that I am only now able to slow down enough to reflect on with the self-forgiveness, wisdom and grace that I simply didn’t have when we were all living it.
I loved my children well. I wrestled with my control issues for years in order for them to grow into who God made them to be. We all made mistakes, but not one of them was because we lacked love for one another. We were and remain human beings who make mistakes and need God’s grace, as well as one another’s. As I watch my 3 youngest begin to take flight, I feel a sense of joy and pride that comes with a job well-done. I have a confidence that they are all striving to be in God’s will and that is enough for this mama. I don’t expect their lives to be without strife, but I am sure of His plan for their lives being more than I could ever hope for because they have chosen to follow Him with abandon. I have this hope for my life as well.
I quit my teaching job last year for more reasons than you have time to read about. I then nannied for several families for a little more than a year. It has been hard and wonderful. I’ve done several other jobs in the meantime, but my husband asked me to stop working for a bit and figure out where my next step should be. He wants me to spend time writing because he knows this is how I best find my center. Even my daily prayer time is journaling a letter to Jesus, rarely do I pray aloud. My sweet husband has watched me go through a bit of a mid-life crisis and feel like I have been so busy trying to take care of everyone and everything that I’m not slowing down to hear My Father calling. So, naturally, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks of semi-unemployment cleaning the house, rearranging everything just so and NOT writing nor slowing down.
This is Day One of unemployment and I’m working on this blog I started a week or so ago.
Here’s the great stuff… My life’s work is pretty much amazing. My babies couldn’t really “wow” me more than they do.
My husband and I started this great journey of ours with a 2 and 3 year old in-tow, so, in 28 years, we’ve never just been “Us” without little ones or bigger ones to consider. I have looked forward to this time of just the two of us for more years than I can remember. There is something magical about those all alone times you have as a couple and except for an occasional weekend in the beginning, we’ve not had much opportunity to enjoy being just a couple. We’ve worked really hard through the years to stay connected so that when this time came we wouldn’t be lost, we wouldn’t be unable to find “us” again, but here we are and there is a little bit of relearning who we are, who we’ve become and what we want to do with all of that. Honestly, he is one of my favorite people in the world. He is funny, protective, and works harder than any man I’ve ever known. He’s a ESFP, a hard 7 on the enneagram, and his love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. He could not be more the opposite of me and I could NOT be more thankful for that. He just seems to get more handsome as he gets older and that’s impressive and wonderful and also, just a bit irritating, as I do not suffer from the same condition! He’s much easier to get along with than his younger self and I find myself both loving and liking him more and more as we grow in years together. God willing, we are still young enough to enjoy each other for many years. It’s blowing my mind that we are finally here!
Our 3 youngest come to see us because they want to spend time with us now, not because they have no choice. Well, they also come for food and gas money, but usually they stay and actually have conversations with their dad and me. This is the stuff. When your children grow up and you can see the best parts of you and your husband in them and you truly enjoy their company. My children challenge me in my walk with God, in my relationships with others, in my personality junk that gets in the way of my being who He calls me to be. Honestly, it’s humbling in the best way and so rewarding. I just stand in awe of the humans they’ve become.
I’ve found friends (finally) who are real and that is a gift for a girl who searched high and low for far too long only to come up empty on too many occasions. It’s also a blessing to not have to have your kiddos tangled up in your friendships because, let’s face it, we all think our kids are the “good” ones and while your babies are happily making up after a tussle with each other, we are usually still harboring that mama-bear resentment that is waiting to spring at any wrong move from the other side. I am enjoying friendships founded on 2 women with their own personalities and not founded on our children becoming friends. After homeschooling and working full-time for so many years, I am beside myself that I have the time to go to lunch with friends that I’ve made on my own, in a city that I love.
I have time with My Father like I haven’t had ever before. I’m not having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. before my children stir, I’m not having to fit Him in when I can because my job sucks the life out of me, I’m not forced to rush through my time with Him like so many times in the past when I had so much on my plate. I’m thankful for these extended periods of time so that I can be still and listen for His voice. I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to sign up for everything so that I can feel like people like me or I’m earning my keep, instead, I can wisely wait on Him to call me and serve where I’m called to serve when I’m called to serve and be comfortable in not being busy.
So, my nest is empty and this new way of living for this hard 2 on the enneagram is anything but comfortable right now. I love my children with my whole heart, but I am more than a mama and a wife. I am a woman who has reveled in and hidden behind her husband’s and children’s wants and needs for 31+ years. All at once, I am terrified of what the future holds, while also waiting with hopeful expectancy for His direction. There’s no place to hide and no time to waste anymore.