Kid 1 and Kid 2 in younger years
Tomorrow is the first day of school, and another summer draws to a close. As a mom, this is always a bittersweet time of year for me.
But on the other hand, it was also a crazy summer. On top of all the fun stuff, I had a household and life to manage, a podcast to launch, and a blog to run. Many days were as exhausting as they were exhilarating.
Sure, I had a choice. We didn’t need to go out as much as we did. I could’ve registered my kids for a slew of camps to give me a break and keep them occupied. That would’ve been easy and relaxing. But that’s not what I’m after.
So what is it? Why did I willingly take my life from unscheduled and slow to fully committed and bursting at the seams? (I am an introvert after all, and the energy drain from non-stop activities is real.)
The answer lies in an unavoidable truth: my boys are growing up fast. Too fast. And the sadness I feel from this is a constant reminder of the finite amount of time I have left with them.
The sadness of motherhood
It doesn’t hit often. But when it does, I feel as if all the air has left the room. It’s a crushing sense of sadness. A pining for a time long gone. It’s the reality that my boys are growing up. And they’ll never again be the little people they once were.
The sadness comes at the most unexpected moments… when I hear Rainbow Connection, sung by my childhood friend Kermit the Frog; when I see two little brothers holding hands and running around a playground; when I notice that my 14 year old, once small enough to fit in the crook of my arm, is taller than me; or when I realize my youngest, now 11, is starting his second-last year of elementary school.
How did they get so big in the blink of an eye?
I remember the little giggles. The adorable and impossibly-tiny-sounding coughs. The smell of their soft little heads as I read to them before bed. The crash-into-you bear hugs after a long day of kindergarten. I remember all of it… all those precious moments.
There are so many, and at the same time—not enough.
I’ve already carried them up to bed for the last time. Felt the weight of their little bodies in my lap for the last time. Splashed with them in the bathtub for the last time. All these little moments of everyday life—already done and gone for the final time.
How does a mom ever get over this sadness?
They can’t stay little forever
“It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.”
The above quote is from The Tail End from Wait But Why. In it, Tim Urban puts the idea of finite time with loved ones in stark perspective. It reminds me how close to the ‘tail end’ Kid 1, at 14 years old, already is.
Knowing this made this summer extra sad for me. It was the first time that Kid 1 spent so many days with his friends—away from us. Yes he’s 14, and in high school. This is all totally normal! But it doesn’t make me any less sad.
I try to focus on the positive: we’re lucky that he’s mostly happy to hang out with us and his much-younger cousins. He’ll still play tag and run around a playground. But more and more, he’s choosing friends or time alone over time with us.
And Kid 2 isn’t far behind, with less than two years until he hits his teens. Soon enough, he too will be off having fun with his friends; too cool to hang out with us. My heart already aches when I picture the end of our summer days together.
I thought I was ready for this
I knew this sadness would come, and I prepared myself so I’d have no regrets. I spent every moment I could with my little boys. I stayed home with them, raised them, never spent more than a couple of days apart from them.
I’ve thrown myself completely and happily into all our summers and vacations together. We’ve laughed, played, and explored. We’ve made forever memories and connected in ways we can’t during the madness of the school year.
In short, I’ve done my best to be fully present with my kids as much as humanly possible.
And yet, I still find myself mourning for who they were; trying to reconcile my rational thoughts with my emotions. Of course they need to and should grow up—that is the goal of parenting! I just wish there was a way to hang onto them for a little while longer.
Perhaps this is as it should be
As my boys grow older, so do I. And with age comes wisdom and greater capacity for introspection. In recording my thoughts here, and in speaking with other moms, I’ve come to a realization.
We as mothers feel this sadness and ache whether we work or are home full time. Whether we’re with our kids on evenings and weekends only, or we spend every waking hour with them. It never feels like enough.
So maybe the sadness of motherhood isn’t something that can or should be prevented. Perhaps we’re meant to feel it. It’s what makes the memories sweeter and the present worth savouring—sticky fingers, tantrums, and all.
The sadness of motherhood is what pushes us to keep making time to be with our kids (even if it’s sometimes hard).
What I want for you
I’m 41 now, and my kids are 11 and 14. I’m a little more advanced in age than most parents in the FI community. And let me tell you… the years have flown by. Our children are only little once. There’s no rewind. When we look back on the many years of our lives, the time we get to share with our children is so very short.
I hope that by sharing my story, others will find comfort and support. And that new and expectant moms can know what’s ahead. Perhaps it’ll be the thing that sparks you to fully pursue FI. Or it’s confirmation that you’ve already made the right choices for your kids and family.
Whatever the case… as we busy ourselves in the pursuit of FI, let’s not forget to check in with ourselves and our families. Make sure we’re living life in a way that’s true to our values—whether it’s to be with our kids as much as possible or to show them that moms can love and pursue their careers and still be amazing parents.
In doing so, you’ll know that the sadness of motherhood isn’t about guilt and regret. Instead, it serves as a reminder to savour the moments you’ve had and still have.
Share your story
Where are you in your motherhood journey? Does any of this resonate with you? How do you deal with the sadness of motherhood and letting go of our little ones?
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