Over the next few weeks, we are launching our daughter. After 20 years of loving preparation, she is leaving the nest and taking her next steps. Typing those words sends tears down my face; the part of my heart which has resided outside my body is now exiting my home, and I’m grieving hard.

And summer vacation means all day every day with my other kids, including my youngest, who is a full-volume, super active child who is up daily at the crack of dawn and still needs constant supervision all day long. These days are demanding, draining and busy, often leaving me feeling like I want to escape.

I am both.

I am both the grieving empty nester and the exhausted, overwhelmed mom who needs a break, and I’m here to tell you they aren’t mutually exclusive.

When I’m up with the early sunrise each morning, fantasizing about what it would be like to just once sleep until even 7 a.m., I’m also completely aware of what it will mean when that finally happens.

When I’m brain-fried by lunchtime from the high volume antics of my little man, I’m dreading the days when there’s nothing but quiet.

When I’m jumping through the bedtime hoops and frazzled by the nonsense that always seems to catch me off my guard, I wistfully recall the last time I tucked in the oldest.

I am both.

When I vent about needing a break, I am also soaking in the giggles.

When I joke about running away, I know how fast I would run right back.

When I’ve picked up the house for the umpteenth time in a day, I know just how melancholy I’ll feel when it stays clean all the time.

I am both.

I don’t need reminding of how short our time is with our kids, I’m living that right now. I savor the joy and boy do I know how fleeting the time is, and I sometimes feel like losing my mind. Even with the one who is launching in a few weeks, I’m torn between dread and joy. I catch myself constantly both flustered with her and clinging to every moment.

I am both, and I’m OK with being both.

In fact, I think it’s the most normal thing in the world.

You may also like:

The 18th Summer

I Just Left a Piece of My Heart in a College Dorm

10 Perspectives on Motherhood from the Empty Side of the Nest

Alethea Mshar

Alethea Mshar is a mother of four children; an adult child who passed away of a drug overdose, one typical daughter and two sons who have Down syndrome, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder and complex medical needs. She has written "What Can I Do To Help", a guide to stepping into the gap when someone you know has a child diagnosed with cancer, which is available on Amazon, and is publishing a memoir titled, "Hope Deferred". She can be found on Twitter as leemshar, and blogs for The Mighty HuffPost as Alethea Mshar, as well as her own blog, Ben's Writing Running Mom on https://benswritingrunningmom.wordpress.com/. She is also on Facebook as Alethea Mshar, The Writing, Running Mom.