I don’t like to admit it, who does!! But truth is sometimes I feel I am in the midst of a parenting fail.
I have always been the best Mum I could be, that was often a long way from the best Mum, whoever she is.
Does she exist?
Are we all comparing ourselves with and striving to be a mythical being?
I think so, an ideal, a dream, an illusion ……. well if she does exist I haven’t met her yet.
Regardless I have always tried, just like you I am sure, to be the best parent I could be and sometimes I do pretty well, other times I go to bed thankful tomorrow is a new day to try better, to do better, to be better!
My children are older now, 20, 20, 19 and 11, surely that is easier than when they were little, surely I am better with all that practice…. that is what you would think but here is my reality.
It has definitely changed as they have gotten older, our relationships have grown and deepened and changed, I have had more joy and I have learned a thing or two. Reality for me though has also been that as they have grown the challenges have changed, the goal posts move so quickly that I often can’t even find them and feel like I have no idea what game I signed up for. The stakes also seem to get higher, the risks greater. Just when I think I have got this parenting thing sorted, something shifts, the rug gets pulled out from under me and I feel like I am skating uncontrollably on a huge lake with very thin ice.
I coped pretty well with my children being babies, I just surrendered to it, I went with the flow but I have struggled with my children entering adulthood, being what I call ‘emerging adults’, staking claim to their independence, making their own decisions and not listening to my loving, well intentioned, knowledgeable, gained from experience advice ;) perspective I know!! I get it, I understand, I can remember being there but none of that has made it easy to experience.
That isn’t my parenting fail though.
This is and I don’t like admitting it but surely someone else feels like I do and maybe, just maybe, it will help them if they know they aren’t alone.
I feel I need to take a deep breathe and dig into my courage just to admit this.
You see I love seeing my kids happy, I want nothing more than for them to be happy and healthy but I noticed something last week when we visited our 20 year old daughter in her new home in Melbourne. It was something that shocked me, something I am not proud to admit and something that made me feel a bit like a failure as a parent.
I loved seeing her happy, seeing her and her boyfriend together, being shown her new apartment and new city but part of me was also sad.
Sad she had found this happiness without me. Sad she was turning to him for reassurance or advice and not me.
Sad that she didn’t need me!!
Now don’t get me wrong she wanted me there. She loved having us but not being needed felt like being stabbed in the chest with a knife. I know that sounds dramatic but it did. It literally knocked the wind out of me.
I have spent the last 20 years being needed, really needed, sometimes painfully needed by my kids and here my eldest was and she didn’t need me!!
I was happy for her, really happy, but truth is I was sad for me.
I sat with this realisation and my first reaction was to deny it, tell myself all the reasons I shouldn’t feel like this. But reality was I was feeling it.
My eldest, my baby, the one who has often needed me the most didn’t need me anymore and she may never ‘need’ me again and wow did that hurt.
Does this make me a bad Mother, is this a parenting fail?
I wasn’t sure.
This stage of parenting isn’t talked about a lot, there is no real support. It seems you are just meant to get on with this stage and accept it as it is and be happy for your kids. Well I couldn’t help thinking what about me? What did this mean for me? What happens to me?
I know this is a transition phase and that is what I am going through. I know I am really, when all is considered, a good mum, definitely the best one I can be. But can I honour my own feelings, my own sadness and still be a good mum?
Yes, I think I can.
I am allowed to be sad and mourn a significant part of my life, the ending of my most valued role and job description. I know I am still a Mum, my parenting is far from over, in fact it never ends, but it does change and my role and experience of it does and still will change.
And yes I am allowed to be sad, not to hold her back or drag her down, but yes I am allowed to feel sad. I can feel sad for me while being happy for her.
And I better get used to this as I have to go through it with 3 others and I am sure this isn’t the last of the parenting transitions I will have to face but this experience taught me something.
My kids will change, our relationships will change, I will change…… and I will allow change, I will support my children’s decisions and continue to be there for them. I will continue to guide and offer advice, but I will also slowly step back so I can allow my new role to emerge. But I will also support and honour me, I will honour my feelings and allow myself to feel.
I am sad those years are over, I am sad that my children no longer think I am the best person in the whole universe, that I am not the centre of the world any more, that just a kiss or hug from me can no longer cure almost anything, that the only person able to bring light to darkness is no longer me. I miss the conversations in the car after school where they just wanted to share everything with me. I miss them thinking I could solve any problem. I miss being their safe place to fall, their answer for everything. I miss their little soft hand in mine, holding tight and not wanting to let go. I miss them wanting me to be in their audience, to witness their dancing, their swimming race, their rugby game. I miss being the most important person on their sideline!
Or maybe I am still some of those things to them. Maybe they need to step away from me to realise all I can still be, all they desire me to be.
Regardless they both need and deserve to develop a life on their terms, to be completely independent and capable and I am so happy for that but yes, I am also sad.
I am so happy for them, but I am sad for me.
Does that make me a bad mum?
Is that a parenting fail?
Maybe it makes me a fabulous Mum, a parenting success even, I am not sure because all I am is a mum doing her best and watching her kids fly and trip and fall and get back up again, sometimes with my help, but more and more often without.
Yes, I am happy for them, I am happy for my daughter and her new life but just give me a moment while I allow myself to be sad for me.