Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Musings on Midlife Motherhood

HHOS via Pixabay
I've been thinking a lot about motherhood lately, for several reasons. First of all, it's a theme that is emerging in my writing projects, as I pull together some of these thoughts and try to shape them into a book project. And, perhaps more important (and more of the reason I'm always thinking about this on some level), my "baby" turned 22 last week.

Parenting is one of those jobs that, of necessity, shifts and grows, changing along with those we are parenting. Parenting a toddler is very different from parenting a teen, and parenting a teen is different from parenting a young adult. At 22, my daughter is the keeper of all things with her name legally attached to them, from grades to student loans to medical records, and I've discovered there's something of a learning curve involved in figuring out what role I play in these areas. When she was little, all of these things were in my hands and I'm still adjusting to the fact that she needs to grant permission for my access to these things. I'm not so much annoyed by this as bewildered by it. When did the little girl I dropped off at daycare or the preteen I drove to middle school dances become grown up enough that her signature (or the lack thereof) carried so much weight?

Right now, in the first year seminar I teach, we are reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I teach this book to a different group of freshmen every fall, but each year, one quote pops up in the discussion: "The days are long, but the years are short."  Needless to say, my eighteen-year-old freshmen make different connections to this quote than I (or the author), but it's a powerful one, reminding us to seize each day.

In retrospect, the theme of motherhood was in my writing all along, something that both of the main adult characters in my novels grapple with. Whether we become mothers at sixteen, like Marita or thirty-six, like me, motherhood changes us. Together with our kids, we face challenges, celebrate successes and navigate obstacles, all the while intertwining what was a life that was ours alone with another life we are responsible for creating. Some days this goes smoothly; other days we wonder what we were thinking.

I'm happy to report that, twenty-two years and nine months into this experiment, I'm happy with the results. I have a kid who makes me proud, has good taste in friends and good judgment to boot. She's someone I would, as my mom used to say, want to hang out with even if she weren't my daughter. She makes me think, she makes me laugh and she makes me tired.

But just as I can't imagine my life without her, I know my life has changed -- I have changed -- because of her. I'm both softer and tougher, more patient and more impatient and every decision I make is imbued with emotions, knowledge and priorities that have arisen from this singular experience.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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