Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

I knew when my first child left home for college that I would miss him—his smile, his hugs, cooking out by the pool, binge watching a favorite show. I knew I would miss watching him wrestle with his little brother or help his little sister with her homework. I knew I would feel an ache every time I set five places at the table instead of six.

Still, when the day came, I cried, and I felt sad, but even then I didn’t really understand what it meant to say goodbye when my husband and I dropped our son off at his college dorm. After all, I had weathered saying goodbye to all the other phases of his childhood—always sad to see one stage end but excited to see another begin. Letting go and moving on was nothing new to me. It’s what mothers do. But what I didn’t know was that the leaving home goodbye is about so much more than simply moving on to the next phase.

This goodbye isn’t at all like the other changes we mothers endure—the change from baby to toddler, toddler to child, or child to teen. The leaving home goodbye is the most profound because when a child leaves home, what it means to be a family changes. Sure, I knew when he left things would change, it just hadn’t occurred to me that they would never be the same.

The redefining of my family began when our eldest started college in 2014 and will continue until 2023 when my last little chick leaves the nest. With each college drop off, there will be a shifting, a readjusting, a new dynamic that will alter how all of us live and relate to one another.

Of course, this can be said of every stage of parenting. When our first child was born, my relationship with my husband was forever (and for better) altered. With each new baby we adjusted and readjusted, making room in our home and our hearts for a new little person. As our children grew, my husband and I changed how we spent our time and our money and how we interacted with them and with each other. The nature of family life is constant change.

Yet, none of these changes had prepared me for the slow, steady dismantling of the life I love—a life surrounded by all of my children. Yes, I know that these changes—college, internships, jobs—are good and necessary and exactly they way it’s supposed to be. But it doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes when all of my children are home for a weekend or holiday or special occasion, when we all linger at the dinner table or go for hike or go to church together, when I lie down at night with the peaceful assurance that all of my children are safe under our roof, I can’t help but think that this, this loud, chaotic, laughing, loving mess, is how it’s supposed to be. Not just a few times a year but always and forever. And the knowledge that our time of living all together as a family is over, takes my breath.

But then there are other times.

There are also the times when it isn’t just my husband and kids and me. There are, and have always been, summers and holidays and special occasions when my family is surrounded by even more family. I watch as my dad, the same man who used get on the floor with my children and build elaborate block cities, pours my grown son a glass of wine and listens to him talk about the old house he’s fixing up. I watch my mom and my daughters look at the photos of our girls’ beach trip—three generations of women laughing all the way to the Gulf. My son’s girlfriend walks through the door with her beautiful smile and a homemade pie, and I realize that my own daughter isn’t the only one I’ve missed while she’s away at school. Or I lie in bed and listen to my kids and their cousins playing cards and telling stories and laughing way too loud for such a late hour.

In these moments, I know that some of the best memories of my 20+ years of parenting have been times like these—time spent in the loud, loving, laughing, chaotic company of our family, extended family, and friends.

It’s also these times, when I know that all the moving on, all the nest-leaving, and the regrouping aren’t a dismantling of my family, but a restructuring, eventually even an expanding, of this life I love.

So, yes, I miss my kids. I miss the time when all of them were home and our family shared a daily life together. A part of me will always grieve that those days are over. But I also know that those days of living and loving under one roof are the foundation on which new families will be formed—families of brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents who, if I am as fortunate as my parents, will sometimes come together under my roof where the joy of family life will be multiplied exponentially.

You may also like:

Spread Your Wings and Fly, My Darling

Dear Teenagers, Be Patient While I Let Go

You Don’t Have to Cram Everything Into 18 Summers

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Laura Hanby Hudgens

Laura is a junior high teacher and a freelance writer. She lives on a buffalo farm in the Arkansas Ozarks where she enjoys cooking and baking, which is also the key to bringing her busy family together. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Huffington, Post, Grown and Flown, Aleteia, ChurchPOP, and elsewhere. Find out more about Laura here.

There’s a Little Less of You Here Each Day

In: Grief, Grown Children
Elderly man and younger woman's arms around his neck

I’m sitting here on the front porch, and I’m sobbing. I’m finally grieving. I’ve finally reached the place where my heart knows what my brain has known for years. I am now dreaming of the day we meet again in Heaven, Dad, and you look at me and I will see in your eyes that you know it’s me: your daughter. I won’t be “the woman who comes by every day to our house” as you described me to Mom the other day. And this sucks. This early onset Alzheimer’s has stolen a brilliant mind. It’s stolen my mother’s dear...

Keep Reading

Our College Visit Disaster: What You Should Learn from My Mistakes

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Mom and teen daughter selfie, color photo

With a song in my heart, I got in the car to drive my daughter to our first college visit.  We drove two hours to a school nestled in the mountains. It was a state school, not too big, not too small.  She knew plenty of alumni from her high school who attended there, and I was convinced it was going to be the perfect fit. We pulled up to the student center, and I jumped out of the car. I glanced around for her and realized she was still sitting in the car.  “Mom, I’m not getting out. I ...

Keep Reading

Everything I Know About Motherhood, I Learned from My Mom

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Mother and daughter walking down snowy path, color photo

I lay in a hospital bed, and the doctor placed my brand-new son into my arms. As I held him close and stared in wonder at this tiny new life, the gravity of being totally responsible for another person settled in with an enormous weight. I could hear my mom’s voice in my mind, “Support the head, hold him close, let him feel you breathe.” Words from my youth when she taught me how to comfort my crying baby cousin. The first lesson I had in taking care of a baby. When I brought my son home from the hospital,...

Keep Reading

I’ll Send You off with a Million Prayers

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Teen walking down sidewalk with suitcase, color photo

I think one of the hardest things about launching your big kids is wondering what baggage they will take with them. Did I give them enough for what comes next? Enough guidance? Enough wisdom Enough confidence and encouragement? Or will they end up carrying the weight of all of my mistakes? My exhaustion? My insecurities? My misplaced fears? What will they hold on to and what will they toss aside as they make room for new experiences, new people, new dreams? RELATED: My Mama Heart Breaks a Little Every Time You Go What lessons will they remember? What moments will...

Keep Reading

Dear Future Daughter-in-Law, I Hope We’ll Be Close

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Wedding preparation buttoning up dress

Dear future daughter-in-law, My son loves you enough to want to spend the rest of his life with you. That’s a big deal. But I hope you and I can have a relationship too. While I think he’s pretty terrific, I want to know all about you and to have a relationship of our own. I know you are more than his significant other—our relationship may be because of him, but it can also be separate from him. Stop trying so hard. Just be yourself, the woman my son fell in love with. I don’t want you to try to...

Keep Reading

My Mom Made It Look So Easy

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Mom twirling little girl silhouette

I assumed I’d have turnkey kids. In my mind, I was a turnkey kid. I survived the toddler stage, complied at school, and learned how to earn favor from decision-makers that nodded in approval when I was developing on par.  From my perspective, parenting didn’t seem tricky. As easy as 1-2-3.  1. You have the kids. 2. You love the kids. 3. You send the kids to school where they learn life and social skills. This naivety followed me for an embarrassing number of years. I can do this, I thought. I can have kids, love them well, show them...

Keep Reading

Grandma’s Christmas Angels

In: Grown Children, Living
Little girl and grandma playing piano

My grandmother had quite a collection of Christmas angels. They were all different shapes and sizes. Some were plastic and some were very fragile—she must have had hundreds of them. Every Christmas, she would bring them out of storage from the attic and artistically design her living room to showcase each of them. The living room was always adorned with the Christmas spirit from floor to ceiling. Every Sunday in the month of December after church, she would always have an open door policy for people to walk through the display of angels. She would greet family and friends with hot...

Keep Reading

It’s Lonely As the Daughter of a Narcissistic Mother

In: Grown Children, Living, Motherhood
Stressed woman on beach

You hear a lot about being mothered during your mothering season . . .  Calling your mom throughout the day to share your ups and downs.  Calling to hear a soothing voice to get you through your child’s tantrums.   Calling to ask your mom to come with you to doctor’s appointments you’re nervous about. You hear about how you now understand what your mom went through raising you as you’re raising your littles. But you don’t hear about the pain a girl feels who longs for a bond with her own mother.  You hear about people inviting their moms...

Keep Reading

She Wore Caesars Woman and It Smelled Like Love

In: Grief, Grown Children
Woman with two children, color photo

They say the brain rewires itself to accommodate for losing one or more senses. A blind person develops great hearing, a deaf person great sight. Neither deaf nor blind, I have some loss of both. The result: a finely tuned sense of smell that intertwines with my memories and emotions. The aroma of cut grass transports me to summer. Cigarette smoke in the bathroom reminds me of my abusive grandfather. Loves Baby Soft powder scent embodies the year 1987. The pages of a book smell of escape. My grandmother’s perfume exudes love. Grandma Darleen shined like a beacon in an...

Keep Reading

When Mom Died, We Had Tea

In: Grief, Grown Children, Living
Table set as a tea party with framed picture of a woman, color photo

My mom was never, ever without a cup of Lipton’s tea. Like a dear friend, it held her hand, kept her warm, provided comfort. She boiled water in her navy-speckled kettle, then poured it into a cup and, completely ignoring the recommended four-minute steep instructions, immediately lifted it to her lips. It always mystified me how her mouth didn’t suffer third-degree burns. Mom’s penchant for thriftiness compelled her to use the same tea bag multiple times; only when it disintegrated and leaf particles floated to the surface did she accept defeat and reach for a fresh yellow packet. RELATED: Moments...

Keep Reading