Boomerang kids… Sandwich generation… Failure to launch… Midlife crisis….
On Mother’s Day 2023 — a Mother’s Day in my midlife — I feel many disparate (conflicting?) emotions.
Though I have a “kid” (young adult) living with me, I was not at home to receive (possibly burnt) breakfast in bed. Instead, I spent the night at my boyfriend’s house after seeing a play together in Seattle. It’s a newish relationship. It feels good; deserving of time, attention, and prioritization. Still, I paused for a few seconds over the propriety of depriving my daughter the opportunity to be kind to me in the designated Mother’s Day sort of way.
She and I are working on the boundaries and expectations of sharing a home. Wait… That’s problematic phrasing — of sharing my home. It’s been such a hard thing for us to talk about. Why…?
For one thing, we haven’t worked out the details — despite — and this is embarrassing — that she’s been living with me almost a year. It was supposed to be temporary — cringe, cringe for my failing to address sooner. Any given day can devolve into old, unhealthy patterns. Just last week I resorted to “operation rescue mom” — it made sense, what needed accomplishing involved difficult driving and my daughter was not feeling well, and I offered, but that didn’t stop my resentment. By the end of the day, I was telling my daughter to stop acting like a baby as she threw up (on my expensive carpet) and felt like an unloved, burdensome child. We made up through text messages despite being only a floor apart. With the space to retreat, we got to the crux of the matter: She texted: “Mom, I’m still just a kid.” I responded: “Sweetie, you’re not a kid anymore, and I’m not doing you any favors treating you like one.”
Mind you, it’s not lost on me that by spending the night with my boyfriend (and depriving my daughter of the joys of serving Mother’s Day breakfast) I opened the possibility for my (“I’m just a kid”) daughter to spend the night with her boyfriend — at my house. Something I’ve so far prohibited — not because I’m “uptight,” or jealous, but because I don’t want to create another source of resentment. You can imagine the conversation: “No, your boyfriend cannot sleep over, and the two of you sleep until noon, when you don’t even have a job, or a way to support yourself, and forgot to take out the garbage the last three times I asked you to…”
So obviously, working out the details involves difficult conversations. Who ever likes those? LOL. To just sit and LISTEN as my daughter speaks her pain at feeling a failure; to hear her confusion and frustration and not jump in to “fix” things; to understand my own needs clearly enough to speak with confidence… Hard conversations indeed.
I suspect another thing is that these conversations are fraught with emotional triggers. You often hear described tensions between daughters and mothers because, you know, the former is blooming into her beauty and power as the latter is feeling unnoticed and unneeded. That’s not our issue — Her fears often feel so similar to, and have the potential to trigger, my own. My daughter is figuring out whose she wants to be and how to make a life filled with purpose and passion. Guess what? I’m asking those same questions as a single woman facing my third (final?) chapter. My daughter is trying to figure out what love means, how much romance matters, what a good partnership might look like. Ditto for me, a single woman who’s not given up on finding a loving partner to sail with into the sunset.
I also really just want her to launch successfully into independence. I’m really, really trying to be open, unconditional, lacking expectations about what that might look like. Still, I want there to be an end goal, at least a plan of action. So it’s a match up between “Unconditional Love” versus “Please Make Some Progress.”
I’ve come to believe that’s the real difficulty. This knife’s edge midlife motherhood requires us to teeter on; holding — in careful balance — wildly competing values. As a woman abandoned after 20 years of marriage — who’s done the work raising kids as a single-parent, started over in midlife to rebuild financial security, home ownership, a career, self-confidence — I hold tightly to my hard-won independence. I grant respect to my inner introvert. I demand alone-time and the opportunities such allows for creativity, growth, and self-care.
But I also value motherhood, perhaps more than ever. I’m still smiling at the wonderful, hour-long conversation with my son this morning, chatting like old friends about all things under the sun. I am grateful that with some lucky choices I can now provide a safe home for my children (even as adults) to land. With my independence, I value friendships and community more than. Not unlike trying on new relationships at this stage of life: To gain the joys of love and companionship, while keeping some of that hard fought for independence.
My intuition is that that these midlife challenges present competing — BUT NOT CONFLICTING — values. We can have it all. The trick is to build a tool box for honest communication. Not easy, but we’ve learned a thing or two by this point in our life.
Happy Mother’s Day!
One response to “The Knife’s Edge of Midlife Motherhood”
Brilliant article Lisa!
How can I share it?
I would like to share it in The Empowered MidLife Woman group, I feel sure there will be comments xx
My warmest wishes to you
Deb Johnstone Transformational Life, Career and Business Coach | Stylist | Midlife Transition Mentor | Yoga Teacher | Speaker | NLP | Extended DISC | Dynamic Mindset CBWC Sole Entrepreneur Woman of the Year Finalist 2016 & 2017 | Writer at Lifehack & Kuel Life
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