On Becoming a Mother… After 25 Years As a Mom

I started as "Mommy" to this little girl

I started as “Mommy” to this little girl

It’s that “Empty Nest” issue again- rearing it’s head like a unflattering shadow that you can’t shake. You notice that it doesn’t look the way you want or think it should: following you around looking chubbier, not standing up as straight as you’re sure you do… a shadow that doesn’t reflect what you want to see. You try to ignore it, understanding that it is a trick of light and movement, but it continues to follow you- leaving you questioning what’s really there. The Empty Nest, doesn’t happen all at once, when your last child leaves home; it isn’t clearly defined or obvious. It evolves over time, in bits and confusing pieces that cause you to question the life you’ve lived and are living, and your sense of identity. It follows you– it’s huge!

Each time I think I’ve got a handle on this evolution of parenting, this transition in my role within my children’s lives, and my new place in the world, I find another stumbling block; I catch myself swatting at imaginary boogie monsters. I lose my way for a moment and have to reconfigure the role I fill, all the while trying not to give away the fact that some days I’m distinctly flailing in the water.

I was having lunch with friend last week. Her youngest son is about to graduate and we were talking about the changes that come with that.

“I was with some other women recently and they were complaining about having to organize sporting events and school meetings, and I realized that this phase is almost over for me,” she told me. “He rarely needs me to be there anymore already, but in a few months it will be over for real. It feels so strange to think about not doing those things I’ve done for so long.”

She looked at me, uneasily- something I remember feeling so often last spring, when my youngest (as well as our exchange student) were transitioning out of the high school.

“How have you moved on so easily?” she asked me. “You seem so busy all the time, I worry that I wont be able to fill that much time.

I laughed. I groaned. It hasn’t been easy… at all.

“Man, it doesn’t seem possible that I’m not in the same place that those mom are anymore,” I told her. “It changed so fast. I thought that when Little Man (my youngest) graduated, there’d be more of a transition period. Now, I barely see him; he doesn’t really need me, and while I like having time to myself, that reality still feels strange. It’s like I went from being ‘Mom’ to a mother, overnight.”

And that’s when it really hit me. I have stopped being ‘Mom,’ ‘Mommy-‘ the person who my kids come to with everything. There are no more Band-Aids to apply; no teachers to talk to; no waiting up; few moments in the car, when I can connect with my kids and share their inner worlds. I do not hear “what’s for dinner,” every God-forsaken day anymore- something I thought would be more joyful. These things have all passed… in the blink of an eye.

There was a time when these guys all called me "Mom!"

There was a time when these guys all called me “Mom!”

Now I’m their mother. I’m the person they call when they want to run something new by me. When they need a modicum of advice or affirmation, but don’t want to be told what to do. They may still check in with me when life throws them curve balls, but they lick their own wounds; they figure out their own strategies. They don’t need a mom to hold their hands anymore. They need and want a mother- to watch from a distance and provide the slightest echo of the cheer squad I was for so many years, but they don’t want me to mommy them.

I get it; I really do. I’ve been transitioning for several years now, since my eldest, my daughter, went off to college and slowly began making her way to Israel- where she now lives. Nothing reminds you that you’re not needed in the same way you were, like watching your child move 7,000 miles away. As each of my three children have finished high school and moved on to new phases, I’ve worked on letting go of the roles I’ve cherished, and that I’ve been so comfortable in.

I’m grateful that I have good relationships with all three of my kids. We have certainly had our moments, including disagreements about various elements of those transitions. I’ve had times with each of them when I felt pushed away, and I struggled with that- not always handling things the best way I might of, and also shining in other challenging moments. And each of them has had their moments to sparkle and show me that they are becoming strong, independent, capable adults who I am proud to know- just as they too have had their moments to not handle these changes as well as they could have.

However, it is these moments, like the one at lunch with my friend, when all of that rises up and grabs me by the collar. <em>How have you moved on so easily… I worry that I wont be able to fill all that time</em>, she said to me. It’s amazing how our own struggles can look so easy to others. How these transitions, that leave me tearful, angry, proud, touched, empty, confused, exhilarated, or a power-punch of all those things at once, can look “easy” to someone else. It isn’t easy; it hasn’t been and may never be easy. It just evolves and stops being brutal. I find myself increasingly content in a quiet house, without a long list of things to do for others. I am less troubled when I don’t know what my babes are doing- every minute of every day. I feel excited when I find new things that are about my own passions, my own interests and not just about cheering on others. Honestly, I don’t miss “what’s for dinner.” It’s an evolution, and I’m evolving. After 24 years as a Mom, I’m learning how to be a Mother.

Bring it on!

Bring it on!

*     *     *

GIPYHelp Me Reach My Goals! I’d love to see the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 700 likes in 2015. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, where I’m forced to be brief. Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think. Honest, positive or constructive feedback is always welcome. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  ©2014  Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.



About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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40 Responses to On Becoming a Mother… After 25 Years As a Mom

  1. And part of that learning is stepping back and letting them find their way. It’s still nice to be wanted and to think we have advice they might want.


  2. jgroeber says:

    Absolutely beautiful. I am touched by this, as my four-year-old plays with my watch (on my arm, as I type) and the others tumble in the hall. I feel it all spinning by, creeping by, flying by. Thank you for both mourning and celebrating for all of us. It is a reminder that we’ll miss it… And that it will also be okay if we’re okay. Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: On Becoming a Mother… After 25 Years As a Mom | ugiridharaprasad

  4. Katalina4 says:

    Sigh…. when my boy walked out the door last December, on his way to spend a month at a friend’s, I burst into tears… It was supposed to be a great, productive time, I’d set up my paints all over the house, get lots done…. Oh, it felt so sad, and yet I’m happy for him when he goes off into a more age-appropriate life. Yah, it’s a strange transition… You’re doing really well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ME says:

    I’m almost empty nest and once I got over that feeling that I had to keep busy, I was able to indulge in pure relaxation without feeling guilty. It is a wonderful feeling to not feel guilty, I do not have to volunteer for every good cause I can pick one or two. I can enjoy my last year with my youngest and not worry if she doesn’t make it into a “brand name” college. I can avoid all the crazy-making parenting workshops and help her guard her free time. I can bless her with the peace of mind that she doesn’t have to earn my approval or be whirlwind of activity to be a valuable asset to the world.
    PS The less I do, the less resentful I am when others don’t. It makes for much happier relationships!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, yes, yes to all of that! Too bad we couldn’t embrace more of this with our older children. It’s a blessing and curse to be the first, the middle, the last child… for so many complicated reasons. And, I would add… the process is just that, a process. You may feel very differently in a year, two years, etc. I certainly hope we can find time to discuss that on the same sofa, and not just on line! miss you. xox


  6. Very poignant and heartening; it ends and begins and ends and begins with love.


  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    I always enjoy these posts of yours, Dawn, because as you know, I have a senior who will soon be leaving the nest. Just the other day I sent out a joking tweet about how when my kids are both gone, I won’t miss the phrase “what’s for dinner?”. But then I wonder, maybe I will, because it’s a reminder of what’s no longer there.


  8. mamaheidi60 says:

    Whether they are 7,000 miles away or just down the street, we carry them in our hearts and we are still mom. While the nest itself empties, it is perhaps temporary as our children bring their lovers and companions into our home and then into our hearts. Our daughter hasn’t lived at home for almost a decade, living in another town, traveling around the world, returning to settle down here. She has a family and so I’m her mom, I’m a mother-in-love and Grandmama. Now it’s “Mom, can you take the middle one for the week-end? She needs space.” or “Mom, we’ve got meetings scheduled, but the youngest still needs a ride to rehearsal. Where are you for the next hour?” For me, the shift is about another phase. I’m the one asking hubby What’s for dinner? I have long, silent mornings, like today, and boy do the days and calendars fill up. It’s not what I imagined it would be at, really. I have no new hobbies. I do have more happy hours. I’m in a book group. I work half time instead of full time. I probably volunteer a little more. And frankly, I do not miss one single minute of standing out in the snow watching a soccer game. Not once have I gotten up on Saturday morning and said, “Gee, I wish I was out on Northwest watching a game today.” I’m sure glad I did it for my daughter, but I’m happy I don’t have to. To the young moms, I would just say, enjoy it, be present. You never know what’s ahead. Life changes in an unpredictably fast way that you just have no control over. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Last year when my son went to Mountain School for 3 days (up river by Diablo Dam) and my husband was in Seattle for the week, working, I got a tiny taste of freedom that I had been jonesing for. That first night, I missed my guys so very much. But by the second night and definitely by the third day I was very much enjoying the freedom. But knowing that it’s wasn’t forever made it that much sweeter. Having the little bird leave the nest, I’m sure will be much different.

    The one adjustment I’m a little bit worried about is when Hubby retires. As he’s in his early 60’s and his buddies are in various stages of being retired or about to be retired, Hubby talks about “when I’m retired” a lot. That’s when I remind him that he has a kid in sixth grade, and that he still hasn’t sat down and crunched any numbers yet.

    I truly admire your candor, sharing this time of transition with us. I look forward to when my son is an adult and wants to bounce something off me, or ask for some wisdom. Your post is beautifully expressed, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susan, I have no doubt that you will enjoy your freedom one day… but yes, you do have a wee ways to go! Like pregnancy, it does gradually shift, and we are a bit more prepared than if it just happened over night. Thanks for sharing your insights; they are always appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m in the silent countdown phase right now. My youngest will be graduating and shipping off to college in the fall. I find myself watching every move a little differently…the silence of the house is deafening. It’s shaky ground this mom to mother. As my oldest moves on independently, driving forcefully through her 3rd year of college, I know we’ve done a good job as parents. I’m melancholy but moving though with a beaming heart. I’m just not sure what to do with myself. Good post, thought provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think this opportunity to consider new directions and new choices in life is one of the truly special elements of what is otherwise a difficult transition (emotionally). It’s been a long time since I’ve really sat down and thought: what do I want to do? That, is exciting! I know you will find a very fulfilling direction to go in, Audra. It will be to reach out and share these changes. 😉 Thanks so much for lending your perspective to the discussion.


  11. Mike Lince says:

    After reading your story, your eloquent insight into ‘Mom’s World’, I picked up the phone and made a lunch date with my daughter. Her boys are taking a long weekend in Arizona (my grandson is excited to attend his first NASCAR race). She seemed both surprised and genuinely pleased to put this get-together on her calendar.

    I was never the mom. I missed a lot of the times like you described – bandaging an ow-ee, driving them to and from afterschool activities, having conversations that only stay-at-home moms get to have. I am pleased to see my two girls have grown to become such fine adults. I look forward to spending some quality time with one of them. Thank you for reminding me how fortunate I am to do so. – Mike

    Liked by 1 person

    • This comment probably touches me more than any other… just the idea that you called your girl and will share that time, from my post… wow! THAT is truly meaningful, Mike. I hope you tell them how proud you are, to see them raising your grandchildren so beautifully; to see them as strong, talented women– we need to hear those things from our dads. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this lovely comment; it means so much. xo


  12. sara says:

    Ooh – moving from mum to mother…great description. As you know, my kids are still young, Dawn, but my son is going to highschool next year, so we are undergoing a transition of sorts now. For the first time he will catch a bus to school, and be totally away from my care. Yikes!


  13. Amy Reese says:

    I’m still a little ways from this although I can see how it comes up quick, in the blink of an eye! I’m sure I won’t be ready, Dawn. Poignant post.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. María says:

    I read this being on the other side since I recently left my nest, though it was long overdue I guess (but that’s a whole different post on the cultural differences between citizens of different countries etc).
    My mom at the first couple of months was struggling and so was I! Endless calls and advices and tears and weird pauses. Now it’s getting easier for the both of us.

    A big hug to you! You are one great mom!!

    Ps: On a side-note: How ’bout a dog? I have one and it brings out my mother insticts…lol

    Liked by 1 person

  15. hbksloss says:

    Interesting distinction you made between ”Mom’ and ‘Mother.’ For me it felt abrupt when our youngest left the nest, but I was fixated on getting ready for our 5 month sabbatical in Australia a few months after that so I had no time to brude. When she is in school I miss her, and when she gets home it is a mixed bag. I love having her around, but I also love the new normal of our new life without kids living at home – something I never imagined I would feel. It all feels a little “circle of life” to me theses days. I love your “bring it on” sentiment and can relate – might be part of why we are moving to the city after 25 years in the suburbs! Of course I have to admit I’m totally jealous of your upcoming grandma adventure. Hoping my oldest and his girlfriend wake up and hearing the clock ticking!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yep, you nailed it, Dawn. All those conflicting emotions all at the same time. And just when you think you get the hang of this new role, Bam! The offspring have little offspring of their own! We’re 9 week old grandparents and THAT is a whole new amazing role I can’t begin to put into words. Maybe you will?!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. oneintercessor says:

    Reblogged this on A Common Life and commented:
    Another poignant post written by Dawn Qualye Landau. It has reminded me to cherish these daily moments of being needed day in and day out, because I do LOVE them…the moments, the hours, the days, of homeschooling and being with these three children all day, every day.


  18. Pingback: Spring is Here (Said No One in New England) | jen groeber: mama art

  19. susanissima says:

    Beautifully expressed, Dawn. When our children move deeper into their own lives, which often involves locating across oceans, continents, mountains, we both exhale and gasp. The peace of not being needed brings is eclipsed by the ache of missing our kiddos. And then, if we are very lucky, along come grand-babies and we’re at it again, falling in love with little creatures, looking after and worrying about them, celebrating their amazing accomplishments…and then leaving them to their parents’ devices. Repeat. Is anything more delightfully complex and cumbersome than being a mom, a mother and a grandmother?

    Liked by 1 person


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