We Can’t Be Number One With Our Kids Forever

I’ve always enjoyed Dame Maggie Smith’s work, so I found this recent interview with her interesting. In it she talks about her loneliness since she became a widow and how she handles it by working as often as possible.

One thing she said really caught my attention: now that her husband is gone, she realizes she’s no longer number one with anyone. That sounds like a very lonely place to be. Then there’s the unspoken inference: not only does she miss the special relationship she had with her husband, but as a mother of children, she realizes that she’s no longer number one with them.

And that’s how it should be, since adult children need their independence and all that, but it can be hard for us mamas to accept. We spent so much time with our children, and they looked to us for everything, so much so that sometimes we had to hide in the bathroom to get a little peace (and even that didn’t always work). Then our kids grew up and one-by-one left home and found others to spend their time with. Before we knew it, we became just another item on the to-do list (“Call Mom”) or just another Facebook friend.

I just reread that last paragraph and it sounds kind of cynical at the end. Sorry, but that’s how it feels sometimes, and I have kids who keep in touch. But I know others who only hear from their kids every few months, so it’s even harder for them. It’s not that we need to keep busy with our own activities (although that surely helps), it’s that there’s this big hole in our lives where our kids used to be, demanding snacks and needing baths; filling that hole with work and hobbies just doesn’t cut it.

I know there are lots of suggested solutions for this loneliness that comes from widowhood or an empty nest or both; clearly Dame Maggie Smith’s solution is work. But I think her honesty is probably the most helpful part of her example. It’s always comforting to know you’re not alone, I suppose.