I dropped off my twins to their freshman year of college in late August. Separated for the first time in 18 years, they are at different schools, in the same state, but two states away from the nest. Like many parents, the lump still forms in my throat as I type the words.
For me, the last year and half were a thousand times more challenging than having three children under the age of two. The baby and toddler years? Easy-peasy compared to raising teenagers, going on college visits, and the actual moving-away-to-college process. Can I tell you? I. Was. Emotionally and Mentally Exhausted. by the time they left.
The last few weeks leading up to their departure, our dining room and great room were overtaken by the massive amount of stuff needed to dorm. My Mama’s heart comforted itself thinking of how neat the house would be when the “stuff” was out. On many summer days, I briskly wiped away tears, reminding myself of all that I would have the time to do after 18 years of parenting busy-ness. With now only one athlete at home instead of three, games and practices would be minimal, and the baby got her license the week after her siblings left for college. My goodness… the time I would have!
I would join another Bible study; preferably Beth Moore, so there would be plenty of homework to keep me busy.
Organize more, exercise more, volunteer more, restart my blogging…
Adopt at least one new hobby that I’d pushed aside over the years as I bought groceries washed and chopped vegetables cooked the meals cleaned the bathrooms cleaned the floors did the laundry …
If you’re a parent, you get it. You also know that all the same chores are required post-college-drop-off, just perhaps a bit less frequently and the cooking, a bit less plentiful.
Then I decided to go from part time to full time (temporarily) for the first time in 20 years, and I continued doing all that I had previously. My goal? Do all things perfectly (or close to it). This would surely bring satisfaction.
Within two weeks I felt worse than ever, exasperating the sadness that was just settling in over my half empty nest.
My baby came home from the 11th grade and said she was very excited about her guest speaker in entrepreneur class that day. “Mama I wish you could’ve been there. I thought of you the whole time.”
Did she think I was soon to be an entrepreneur?
“The lady was a life coach and she said that taking care of yourself is important. It’s not a bad thing and that everybody should do it. And, I don’t mean exercise mom! I just mean doing something fun just for yourself.”
While my mind and heart raced, thinking that I was a terrible example for her, I was at least grateful that she recognized that I exercise regularly. I was also terribly sad that in her eyes, I don’t have much “fun”. And, it’s true. I don’t.
Unless my kids are around.
We sing. I dance to just about anything, making all three of them very uncomfortable. My youngest and I have full-blown Taylor Swift concerts on car rides. We just goof off. My fun is largely dependent upon them and as any mid-life Mama knows, those bursts of laughter in the kitchen and silly games and endless flows of teenagers in the house s l o w s d o w n …
Adding more to-do and adding more pressure to make everything great – (since remember: now I would have the “time” to make all things even better), just left me miserable.
Since that late week in September, I pulled out bunches of scribbled-on papers. The words that a writer keeps writing, even though she doesn’t think it’s “perfect enough” to post to her neglected blog site.
I upped my yoga to four-five times a week. In my living room, on my yoga mat, with the same 4-pack DVD. The poses aren’t “perfect”, but my herniated neck disks feel much better.
I returned to the gun range and even though my target practice is far from “perfect”, I love the focus of the sport.
When I’m tempted to skip the yoga because the carpet needs vacuuming, I remind myself that 20 years of vacuuming has not gotten me anywhere. I’m a firm believer that a house should be in order, but as my kids get older, my example as a woman is just as important as it is to be their Mama. (See, like that sentence is not perfect, but I’m not going to revise it. And, this post is longer than it should be but I won’t proof to shorten it.)
I cannot wait to exercise until all the dishes are done and the floors are picked up like I’ve always done. For me, I can’t just do the dishes and be satisfied. I must clean the sink, wipe the edges, it’s ridiculous. There are always chores. It never ends. Then there are holidays and birthdays to plan, to prep, to make p e r f e c t.
When I run down to the basement simply to put away the pumpkin lights and I’m tempted to re-organize all the Christmas boxes for three hours, I don’t. The only one who cares about that “perfect” organization is me and it’s again, ridiculous.
I won’t be proofreading and revising my blog posts 17 times before publishing them. This bothers me greatly, but I’m doing it anyway :). The themes of my posts will also be all over the place, and I’m going to post them anyway. Thanks to all the followers who stuck around this year and kept peeking to see if I was back on line. I was humbled and grateful when I logged back on.
I wrote this down years ago and apologize that I don’t know who said it: “Perfection will kill your giftedness.”
Perfection is not my goal. If I’m supposed to be more perfect in Christ that means leaning on Him, and not continuously, silently labeling myself “less than”. This is part of why I’m no longer very much fun: if “it” – whatever “it” is – isn’t perfect, then I’m dissatisfied. I know, it’s ridiculous, but feeling this way has been very normal for me. It’s also been normal to only have real “fun” if my kids are around. This too has to change.
It’s been a little nuts becoming a mid-life Mom and raising three teenagers. Perfecting what I could helped me cope with other things that spiraled in ways I couldn’t control. But, no longer. Now, I’m imperfectly moving forward.