“Mama– I’m sleeping” came my daughter’s voice through the telephone.
I accidentally woke her up the other morning, and magically–I was transported to an earlier time in my life. In that inexplicable moment, I felt my daughter’s tiny head tucked under my chin. Somehow I felt her little arms wrapped around me. I felt the silkiness of her hair against my neck, and the weight of her tiny body in my arms. And somehow I smelled her–that indefinable and extraordinarily beautiful mark of the child I created. She’s an adult now, but motherhood is still part of my DNA.
How do we do it, Friend? How do we create, from nothing, a vibrant human being, and then tenderly let that magnificent creature go?
Once it’s time, how do we gently allow motherhood to take second place, and pick back up other pieces of our identity that have been slumbering over the years?
It’s hard to do, isn’t it? Motherhood somehow doesn’t go away, even when the child does.
I confess I sometimes struggle with this balance.
Now that my child is an adult, I find myself gasping at moments of unexpected pain, when a memory, or a longing for some kind of do-over jumps out at me. Motherhood is one of the most powerful parts of my identity. I will never be able to let it go, even though it’s sometimes dormant. I’ll never be able to ignore the pull of my child’s voice, no matter how old she becomes. I will never stop being her mom, even though she has grown up.
Do you remember bringing your baby home, Friend?
How terrifying it was? We drive away from our birthing experience without being given any kind of manual, instructions or warranty. Silently, we watch our partner biting the inside of his lip, constantly checking the mirror as he drives his new family home. Then we look back at the new human that came out of us, nestled like some sleepy little raisin in the car seat. Quietly, we wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into. Once we’re home, we read, and re-read the instructions on everything baby-related, because we’re terrified of making a mistake. Suddenly–everyone’s schedules revolve around the sleepy raisin.
Then somehow the years race by, in an endless stream of demands and decisions.
The profound is hidden by the relentless volume of life. One day we look up, and with a start–realize a beautiful adult is staring back at us. How does this happen? Where does the time go? What happened to our sleepy little raisin? I don’t know, Friend. I don’t know.
Right now, I find myself in the middle of things, because motherhood is no longer my primary role. I’ve realized it’s time for me to start changing my self-image, because I have to survive this new place in my life.
My baby is now managing the big and scary world on her own, and only occasionally asks for advice or guidance.
My career has stalled, and I am occasionally startled by sharp regrets about choices, decisions or unmet desires for my life. I recognize there’s now more time behind me than there is ahead, and it’s time to start prioritizing the things I want to accomplish. I find myself wanting to stay relevant, but unwilling to waste time on things that don’t matter. Painfully, I’m discovering I have fewer friends than I thought. It turns out I have plenty of acquaintances, but fewer friends. There’s a difference, and I’m learning that I have somehow surrounded myself with many people who care less about me than I care about them.
I’m learning our world values immediacy, youth and speed. There’s less respect now, for relationship, and more demand for results. My personal value of person over profit seems quaint by today’s standards, and I sometimes fight to feel a sense of worth in today’s new marketplace. My accomplishments, all noble and legitimate, are now held up against my age and gender, and somehow aren’t enough to overcome the barriers I meet.
I struggle, in this new world, to find a place I am comfortable.
I fight to feel a sense of value and relevancy. My heart and mind compete with the lessons I was taught as a young woman, and the messages I am now being given as an older one. I’m neither emotionally nor financially ready to retire into a rocking chair and watch the sunset, but confess that many days–doing so sounds delightful, simply because of how tired I am from fighting these battles.
I can’t find anyone to hire me full-time, and so instead–have three menial part-time jobs. Jobs where I come home bruised, exhausted and sad, because I know I am capable of more, and am spoken to by the public in ways that wound. My writing is my passion, and what keeps me going, but sadly–it hasn’t taken off the way I’d hoped. I continue to pour my heart and soul into it, though–because I can’t help but feel it must resonate with someone who has a path similar to mine. Someone who has different gifts, and can’t express him- or herself as easily, and could find comfort from reading my thoughts.
So I keep going.
I keep facing each morning with hope, and praying that I have mattered during the days I’ve lived. Gently, I wipe away tears on the days when I want to quit. I wash my many uniforms, praying I won’t see someone I used to work with while clocked in at one of my menial jobs, and take it on the chin when someone I love causes me pain. Gently, I keep fighting for other women in my position, who also find themselves straddling the economy, motherhood and self-image, and like me, don’t know how to come out ahead.
I try hard not to compare my youthful expectations against my reality, because women my age were promised a great deal. Sadly, it seems that many of us put in all of the work, but haven’t been able to reap the rewards we were told would be waiting. We’re still fighting hard, but many of us are tiring.
Is there an answer to all of this? I hope so. In my own world, I will continue to write, and believe in myself. I will continue to pause, reflect and pray for us all. I’ll gently draw my circle tighter, continue to treat all with respect and kindness, and face each day with optimism. I’m going to let myself feel the pain of my broken situation, though. My distress is both genuine and deserved. I won’t let it be silenced.
What about You, Friend?
Are you in a similar place? Have you recognized that things in your life are not as you might wish? I’m sorry. Will you please tell me your story? Each of us has our own beautiful journey, and it’s by drawing together we can find strength. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, and then remember to subscribe, so we can stay connected. Do one of your friends a favor, and share this post, so others can benefit from the encouragement, too. We all have so much to learn from one another, and I’m willing to start the discussion, but people have to know this resource is available to them. Thank you in advance for making them aware.
And before you go, there’s one more important thing, Beautiful:
Life is tough. But you’re tougher.
Never forget it.
***Subscribe to receive your free TeamJeffers Life Balance Wheel, a monthly tool you can download to help manage a healthy work-life balance. ***
Subscribe to Blog via Email
**Chanler Jeffers has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent and was a single parent for many years. She has survived cancer, and gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Follow along as she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh, by the way–one more thing. She’s married to a Bass playing rock star, lucky girl.
You may also enjoy: