You know when you are in the middle of something and you can’t remember the newness of the beginning so much, or possibly begin to comprehend the end? It’s a foggy space with limited visibility. The part where you’re living the mantra from Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming”, and feeling just as lost much of the time.
I’m right there, in the middle.
Middle motherhood has been a somewhat uncomfortable transition for me. I knew when my fourth child was born that she was my last. My body was pushed to the brink and I felt deep in my soul that she was it, the last one. That personal revelation felt grounding at the time, but the middle season of motherhood–the one where you know you’re not having anymore babies and your other babies are going ahead and growing up without your permission–this middle motherhood is trying to feel at home and welcome much like trying to fit the square into the circle in the game of perfection. It is right, but I’m not sure I am fitting it well, or that it feels good along the edges of my heart. I went from being the young and cute mom of babies and toddlers, navigating first soccer teams and recitals, teaching little people to read and play and ride bikes, to an older mom of teens and tweens with both permanent chauffeur duty and permanent bags under my eyes, first wiry gray hairs, a changing body that is not due to creating new life but rather caused from life being sucked away from it with even later nights and earlier mornings, and so, so, SO many more demands physically. And mentally. And emotionally.
There’s no more easy-going play group at the park on Wednesday mornings, or stroller-walking groups. Where there was once an abundance of mom-advice forums, blogs, and websites covering all the latest in baby gear, feeding schedules, sleep routines, parenting theories, workouts to get your pre-baby body back, date nights for young couples, babysitter advice, and on and on and on…there is now a startling lack of advice, forums and schedules to thrive in the middle season.
I’m on my own, and rightfully so. My children are growing up and are people I need to protect in a whole different way. Their problems and obstacles in maturing now require safe keeping and privacy that babies just didn’t, and yet I sometimes want to broadcast all the difficulties I am having raising them to hear all the advice and theories on what I should do that were once so readily available as a young mom. All that driving around means less time for seeing friends and catching up, swapping family meal recipes and lending advice and comic relief to navigate this stage of motherhood well. I know there is plenty of advice on curfews and smartphones for teens, but the more personal element of mothering these years just isn’t as readily available as those earlier years. Maybe it’s because parents of teens aren’t looking for just simple helps like gas drops, binkies, posh diaper bags and accessories. I’m looking wisdom, the kind that only can come from divine impressions, and boatfuls of patience, discernment and love. All the things that are more difficult to come by as kids naturally pull away in the necessary steps of learning their own independence and power to choose the good…or the bad.
I read recently that depression among mothers is highest when they have a middle schooler. Higher rates than postpartum, when all the hormones are roaring and disappearing simultaneously making us feel completely out of whack. I wasn’t surprised. When a child goes to middle school and beyond, it really marks the beginning of her pulling away as she figures out herself. She needs mom less. She communicate less, discovering a world of more privacy and control than she has experienced before. Mom’s live for this process of seeing their nurturing give way to competent and kind human beings, but the transition can be a difficult one.
Overall, I think I am doing pretty well. No major problems that have really stumped me just yet. There seem to be daily reminders of transition, however, that continue to catch me off guard and remind me that I have definitively ended the era of young mom and am now an older mom of teens.
Today, I went to see the doctor who reminded me that I cannot have any more babies. Saying he reminded me sounds so gentle, but really it felt abrupt and harsh. I already knew I had my last one years ago, but him saying it felt jagged and uncomfortable. Like I was losing something all over again. I can understand cerebrally why I feel this way, and yet my heart aching at it still catches me off guard. I don’t ever think about having another baby, but this reminder of an era that has ended feels stark and unfamiliar even though I have owned its presence for years now.
Does it get easier? Does the fog of the middle burn off at the height of the day? Do the Mt. Everest’s of laundry, hours upon hours in the car, eye-rolling and dramatics start to feel welcome and wonderful? I’m not asking for a friend. These are my Mt. Everests and my hours of my days. Above it all, I am so grateful to be a mother. A role I fail at daily, but I keep trying. I keep looking for the good and looking for ways to be more present and connect more. I want my children to see that I am happy in my life, through all the stages. Even the middle.