What Is A Mother Anyhow?

Now that my kids are “grown” adults, can I step into a new role as Mother? And if so, who gives me permission to create this new role? These questions float a nebulous cloud in my brain as I sip my first cup of strong breakfast tea. The November air a chill on the morning,  brings a freshness from the overnight falling rain, the sky a clear blue, “sky-blue” in fact matching the crayola crayon I remember from my childhood.

What prompts the question? The holidays, to start, Thanksgiving. Both son and daughter live and work in LA, a seven hour drive away or an hour by plane, My daughter, Kiva loves the holiday and dearly wants me to come and visit, to celebrate in the festivities, to eat the delicious dinner she and her chef boyfriend will prepare, to meet their new two puppies, and to see how she fixed up her yard, and living space. I love my daughter and her company and talking with her as an adult is a special treat, but this time around I want to spend time gathering up my various writing projects, prioritizing which ones I really long to pursue, etc. etc. and the expense and hassle of getting on a plane for a four day visit just doesn’t appeal to me now.

At first she doesn’t seem to ounderstand why I want solitude at that time and I am reminded how very much we love one another’s company. There is nothing quite like it. She makes me laugh with joy and gratitude when I sense how much she wants me to come and celebrate with her. She says things like, “You have plenty of time to be alone on other days.” and “You should budget your time better.” I agree that I should do so. But still I WANT THIS TIME FOR MYSELF. Just this once, and a trip down south would be disruptive–although probably also refreshing and lovely. When I mention the hassle of the travel part, she says, “Oh, that makes sense.” So she gives me permission to be myself. But is it primarily  because I’ve given it to myself to begin with? Talking witn my friends, Karen and Cheryl over coffee the other day, we all agreed that having given our all to raising our children to adulthood– the countless birthday parties, plays, cello concerts, track meets, graduation ceremonies we attended with gratitude and love in the past– finally we have EARNED OUR RIGHT to our own time, even around the holidays. But the thing is, I know I am so looking forward to my being with my daughter when she comes up over the Christmas holidays, only a month or so away. She’s younger. I hope she doesn’t  yet mind the hassle, and schlepping of all the travel part.

As a mother, how do you spend thanksgiving with your adult children who live a distance from you? Am I being silly or selfish? I’d love to know what you think.

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10 thoughts on “What Is A Mother Anyhow?

  1. I can see both sides, but I agree with Kiva on one thing, you are fortunate to have nearly all of your time to yourself, and countless hours to write, to visit with friends and to create the “life after children grow up” sort of patterns that come to us in midlife and beyond. It is hard to break the patterns of such well-earned comfort and holiday travel is certainly hard. Still, as grown children begin to build new traditions for themselves, they are now free to decide how to spend their precious time off. An invitation to be a part of that new life is a treasure. Imagine, she wants her mom to join her as she celebrates in her own grown-up home. Whether you go or not, you did a good job, mom!

    • Geri, Thank you for such a thoughtful, perceptive comment, and for the nice compliment. I agree, I need to better budget my time. I’m going to work on that so I can be better able to “celebrate my daughter’s life in her own grown up home” in the future. Her invite is a treasure, and I am so aware of that. I like how you cut through it all, and remind me of the proper perspective, and that I am still a good mom–that I did a good job, always a question in my mind. Thank you. thank you.

  2. I wouldn’t know what my own time is. I raised four sons, have a three year old grand daughter, a husband, one daughter-in-law and two of the sons’ girlfriends to interact with. They are seldom far from me, even though one of them lives a couple of hours away in Davis. There are times when I wish the whole lot of them would just disappear for a couple of weeks and leave me with time to myself, but that’s never going to happen. I can always count on somebody, even if it’s just my husband, showing up and looking into the refrigerator to see what leftovers are available!

    Having said that, I always keep an open home during the holidays and all are welcome: girlfriends, friends without a current job or current wife, the neighbors and tenants who live on the property with us. I love to entertain. I love it when I can gather the boys, their wives and girlfriends and my grand daughter together at my house for dinner. I reign as the Alpha female and chef and it makes me feel good to have reached that point. To Grandmother’s house we go!

    But sometimes I wish they would all disappear for a couple of weeks!

  3. What a great thought-filled blog. Of course, you did a fabulous job, Elaine. The proof is that Kiva AND her boyfriend want you there. You’re being neither silly nor selfish. You’re being honest. We’ll be traveling 8 hours to go Oregon with 2 of my 3 adult children (& their significant others & granddaughter) to spend two days with my sister and her family. Yes, it’s a hassle. Possibly driving through snow. Yes, it’s an expense (3 nights for 7 of us in a hotel). My sis & husband don’t have a stove/oven due to remodeling. But we’re gonna make it work. We always do and we always laugh. That’s priceless!

  4. My daughter, son-in-law and 4-year-old grandson live in Brooklyn. I wish they lived as close as LA. The day before Thanksgiving, I’ll be driving from Santa Rosa to Sacramento to have a six hour visit with them before they go off to Merced with the in-laws for the holiday. I live alone and have plenty of time alone. What I crave is to be included in family things. Christmas was very important in my big Italian family growing up. So we all have different needs around the holidays! In any case, banish all guilt for wanting what you want. At the same time, if your daughter has opened a door in welcome and you don’t step through, will she open it as wide (or at all) the next time? Just a question.

  5. I am so appreciative of all of the comments posted on this blog. While my children are still 9 and 12, and I do not have the same perspective as a parent with grown children who is being invited to spend the holidays elsewhere, I do value that you are continuing to role-model “to thine own self be true.” You ask, “what is it to be a mother?” That is such an important question, especially when women today are constantly balancing, and adapting to the complexities of life. I think teaching our children that we, as individuals, need space, energy and time to manifest our own dreams is giving them life skills that transcend holidays. Yes, family and holidays are special and precious. But equally imperative, is our ability as mothers to teach our children that being introspective and honest, is in its own way, is celebratory. There may come a time, when your children will need to say no to you, a boss, a spouse, or their own child in an effort to create harmony and health in their life. Your role modeling allows them to assert their needs without guilt. Furthermore, your self-love gives them a broader notion of what motherhood is comprised of. What ever you decide, it’s a win-win!

  6. Elaine,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with me!
    So many thoughts and feelings.
    Somehow, our “no” (despite that inside automatic “yes”) becomes a stake in our claim for the finite–which seems more real as we approach our wisdom years. I won’t be able to deliver the goods all the time. And, you (our beloved grown children) need to know that you can do it without me. That confirms their own capability to discover and create their own customs, traditions, and choices and does so with love, respect, and a sort of blessed permission!
    I know that I have done my job–they have begun to do this without me–which, by the way, in no way excludes me, but gives me freedom to make the choices that I am faced with as I begin to experience my own limitations.
    Could I go and make everyone happy–except me? Of course. But then the aftermath of fatigue and disappointment for not having been true to that “soul call” inside will wreak havoc with my own spirit and probably, my body as well.
    The lesson for me becomes acceptance–for the way I am. For the desires they have. For knowing that this phase of life brings us to a deeper way of living in love with our kids and letting go.
    It seems that life’s most important learnings include letting go.
    From womb to breast.
    From breast to daycare.
    From daycare to school.
    From school to proms and parties and driving.
    From living at home to moving to university, and foreign travel.
    And on to their own families, customs, traditions.
    It isn’t easy for me to celebrate this evolution, at times. But my standing firm on what my insides tell me to do is the best gift I can give them.
    But I’ll bet, Elaine, that they know and love this part of you because they’ve seen it their whole lives.
    And in your practicing it, you have given them permission to do the same.

    • Oh my God, Lue. Your words brought immediate tears to my eyes. There is nothing quite like being fully understood and accepted. Your precise articulation in this absolutely awes me. And it affirms to me how your own daughters got to be so very authentic, loving and productive young women. The letting go of so many fears, like am I being a good mother by listening to my inner needs and limitations? The need to trust in the process of life, love and being true to myself. I especially appreciate the reminder that you and Jena Parsons-Pritchard offer me: that by being true to myself, it gives them permission to do the same. I love that. Thank you for your very wise and empathetic words.

  7. Oh Elaine! Your daughter WANTS to spend time with you! WANTS to share the success she has accomplished! Go. Just go. Make it as comfortable as you can for you and Bob – stay in a hotel, travel on the off days. Kiva’s invitation is a blessing you may not always have.

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