There’s a pivotal point in our lives as mothers when we realize we are no longer living for our children, but instead, we are living life alongside and with them. It comes without warning, and more often than not, catches us by surprise after we find ourselves gazing in the rearview mirror, having already merged into this new lane of motherhood.
No longer are our days consumed with being a 24/7 source of entertainment and provider of life-sustaining needs. Rather, we enjoy movies together that don’t require cartoon characters to keep attention, transitioning instead to discussions of current events and opinions on music and clothing choices. It’s an amazing phase worthy of the narrative, yet so often we are rarely prepared for this rite of passage.
For at least a decade (yes, I said a decade!) after giving birth and creating life, mothers are so closely intertwined with our babes that we know every detail about their world—minute by minute, hour after hour. From the number of wet diapers and foods they eat to the sleep schedules monitored in the latest phone app, we are in charge.
We are in control.
We manage babies, toddlers, and primary-aged children with a blend of imagination, tenderness, and routines.
We shift from a life of independence and freedom before having children to a life revolving around the needs of our offspring, to ensure they’re set up for safety, a secure foundation, and most importantly, feeling an abundance of love.
Living for our children is reflected in the multitude of late nights spent washing bottles and pump parts, making healthy meals for nourishment, monitoring and organizing playdates, and managing after-school schedules. Days are long . . . oh, are they ever long. The incessant cries of a newborn baby or the heated pushback from a strong-willed toddler were, at times, enough to send me spiraling.
Everything I did was for them.
To love on them, to make sure they felt loved and attached. I had no idea that these oh-so-long days would shift so quickly into years that passed in a blink of an eye and without pause.
Looking back, though, I know there wasn’t one specific day when it all changed. I suppose it’s true that the shift was gradual and there were clues about the impending separation, but I now find myself in a new role of motherhood: the consultant.
Just before entering his teenage years, my son started coming into his own. I love this kid (and all of my children) with all my heart. He is somehow more intuitive and compassionate than most adults I know, and truth be told, he’s just plain fun to be around.
Giving him room to become the best version of himself, though, means that this consultant mother no longer stays through each and every sporting practice. Instead, I drop him off and pick him up, oftentimes with a group of friends in the car traveling in either direction. He walks to school with confidence and doesn’t need to hold my hand to guide him. He has inside jokes and group texts with his friends. He has opinions on current events and public figures. His teachers are instilling accountability and independence within him as they lay the expectation that he is to manage his own school work. He is growing before my very eyes in ways I wasn’t prepared for.
It can be a grieving process to realize we’ve transitioned out of being the director of our children’s lives.
But I have chosen to embrace the change and find joy in this consultant gig, which still holds a crucial and influential role in my son’s development. While I miss the baby and toddler phase, I look at the young man in front of me and am so excited for him to grow into the person God is calling him to be. He can’t flourish if he doesn’t spread his wings a little. And truly, what better place to do that than in the safety nest we have created for him, surrounded by family who love him most.
And thus lies the transition of motherhood when we shift from living a life for our children into the phase of living with them.
My son’s life is not my own. He has his own interests, individual skillsets, exciting dreams, and unique passions. And guess what—so do I! In this phase, we get to pursue our interests alongside one another. It provides a new layer of conversation and discussion that keeps us connected. I learn a lot by listening to his point of view and fielding the questions he constantly volleys during conversations.
We are finding a rhythm of living life together.
Our relationship isn’t dependent upon me entertaining him every minute of each day. Quite the contrary. Our relationship grows by having different perspectives and life experiences and taking the time to talk about them. It’s a new world, that’s for sure.
But, living life with our kids means celebrating the wins alongside them, helping them navigate through tough situations, and being there any time they need us.
Parenting is unlike any other role I’ve assumed in my lifetime. Once you think you have a firm understanding of the landscape, everything suddenly changes. The needs, the wants, the challenges, and routines. Each phase brings about change, and each change brings along a new set of conversations and opportunities for growth. For both of us. Each change of motherhood produces blossoms and fruit more precious and beautiful than what we could ever find in any supermarket, and I for one am here for it all.