Tomorrow (Friday) at noon (CST) I’ll be talking about the post-homeschool empty nest and also about preparing our children for the new economy with Vivienne McNeny, the Sociable Homeschooler. Listen live HERE.
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.
Apparently there’s a new reality television show in the works called “Mama’s Boys of the Bronx.” It focuses on adult men who still live at home and allow their mothers to coddle them. According to this article,
The show follows the escapades of these men at work, at home or enjoying New York’s nightlife before they come home to their doting moms, who spend their days trying to keep tabs on the partying, dreaming and scheming of their sons.
It’s easy to poke fun at these men, and I’m sure most young women would look at them as poor marriage prospects. I mean, who wants to compete with a guy’s mother for his affection?
That said, I can see how a mom might end up in this position if she isn’t careful. It’s hard to let go of our kids, especially with so many dangers in the world that we hear about every day; it’s natural to want to keep our chicks safely tucked under our wings. Then there’s the fact that raising kids to adulthood means losing control of their lives. That’s how it should be, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.
Those of us who homeschooled our kids to adulthood spent many years in control of our kids’ schedules, their meals, their activities…let’s face it, we were in charge of them 24/7. But once they become adults, we have to relinquish that control. (It’s easiest if you start letting go, little by little, when they’re in their early teens, but that still doesn’t make it pain-free for us moms.)
But if we don’t let go, if we spend our days “trying to keep tabs” on them, or even if we just try to weigh in on every decision they make, or prevent them from achieving independence by offering free room and board, free car use, and spending money, what we effectively do is cripple them, emotionally and financially. Doing so also keeps them from enjoying their freedom (hopefully in a God-pleasing way) before they start their own families. So even though it may go against our mama instincts, we need to cut them loose for their own good.
It’s also for our own good. Mothers who spend their time caring for adult children that are perfectly capable of life on their own are crippling themselves. Once the child-rearing years are over, it’s time for these women to go back to other productive pursuits in their lives. Perhaps coddling their adult children helps them avoid the reality that their day-to-day job is over and they need to figure out what’s next.
That’s a scary thought. It requires waiting on God to show us the next thing that “He planned in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). It also means letting go of our desire to control our own lives as we wait for our next assignment. As a recently retired homeschool mom, I struggle with this all the time.