In September, when everyone’s Facebook feeds were filled with back to school photos and brightly decorated college dorm rooms, I felt particularly bereft. I mean, no more so than now I suppose — with Thanksgiving looming and all, but it was a different kind of ache.
At the time I’d read a couple of essays and articles written by mothers who seemed relieved that their children were leaving the nest (or, at least, trying to convince themselves that they were relieved).
I get it – I really do – it’s a tremendous milestone when your kid goes to college, a parental shift that ushers in an entirely new phase of life. But what really struck me and kind of got under my skin was a recurring theme about how motherhood diminishes women, that it somehow robs us of our identity or dreams or purpose. I guess if I’m being completely honest with myself, there is some truth in that perspective. Motherhood involves sacrifice. I really do get it, but…
I’m sure I read these pieces the wrong way – from a place of longing and anger – from wishing that I’d had more time with Ana. I’d tried to imagine what life would’ve been like if I’d never been a mother–would I be happier? Would I be somehow…less? Would I be different? Yes, of course I would. But diminished? No way. So I wrote about it (of course).
The Washington Post published the piece today and I think the timing is kind of perfect since it’s hard to find gratitude right now, on the cusp of the first major holiday without Ana, and this piece reminds me how lucky I was (and still am) to be a mother.
I’m so very sad. I’m so very grateful–to have known Ana, to have been her mother–and I’m feeling particularly blessed to have Emily. They both amplify me, my sweet girls.
Anyway, after all that preamble, here is the piece.
Cancer took my nearly 16-year-old daughter in March and now I am the mother of one daughter, not two. My youngest is 13. Her wings are feathering while I anticipate the day she will leave this broken nest. As my friends and acquaintances age with me, my Facebook feed is filling with the triumphs of their parenting acumen.