Stretch marks are not just for bellies.

photo credit: banded rubber via photopin (license)
photo credit: banded rubber via photopin (license)
Nothing brings out my mother insecurity like the start of school. The kids gone all day: self sufficient, learning, living their teenage lives. I know they need parents, they need me, but the work has changed.

I insert myself here and there, especially when the red flags are waving, but for the most part, particularly with my olders, the stage is set. Independence reigns, responsibilities known (not always accomplished), accountability necessary.  They need their parents, we know this. No longer are we managing basic needs.

I find myself confused, as a stay-at-home parent. I love answering only to myself, a quiet house with time to get things done, exercise, write, clean, visit with friends, lunch with Eric. I am available to help. All of this wonderful, a true gift, not taken lightly. All allowing me to be the family’s undergirding, an essential and life-giving role.

The mother-insecurity curls and winds up and through my being when I consider what I might be missing…a career, paycheck, goals outside of these four walls. I relish my work as a wife and mother, but I have made sacrifices. I cannot, with abandon, pursue all goals. Much of what I choose must be weighed, measured, considered. Potential impact studied.

I struggle with why this is. Why do I feel passionate about so little, about things that will not garner a paycheck? My work is thinking. If I got paid for thinking, for mulling, for considering I’d be rolling in it. I don’t love busy, I don’t need busy to define my value. I know my energy level is finite. The last thing I want to do is make my family pay because I’m worn. These days are so short, the time limited before they hopefully leave the nest.

When I gave birth to these babies, I bonded, I smelled, I fed, all while sacrificing my own resources. I was stretched, the return to old or former, impossible. Comfort had to be newly defined. No longer was my life my own. I was changed. Myself was set aside for the survival of the most helpless of creatures, my basic needs no longer an entitlement.

Now, I’m able to regain some of what I gave up. But I am a mother, I’m not the same person. I have borne bodies from mine. I have lost precious hours of sleep. My heart now walks around outside my body…times three. The level of vulnerability required is often too much. As a balloon is nearly impossible to blow the first time, the second is a breeze. When one is stretched and pulled they do not return to original, to same.

My new normal means I have to dwell in tension. The tension between parenting, staying solid in my marriage and becoming the person I was made to be, knowing that life as I know it is constantly shifting about. Things rarely static. Negotiation and change are my new normal, my new expectation.

Good parents work themselves out of a job. Good parents provide the framework and boundary structure for children to make mistakes, to fail, to succeed. I’m still in the trenches, but the battles are different. The work is strategic, supervisory, foundational, teaching…no longer about food groups, going potty, warm or matching clothing. We are now on the mission of raising adults, respectable, kind, generous, thoughtful adults operating out of character and integrity.

I know they still need their mother. They need me to be present, available, watching, sniffing. They need me asking questions and setting appropriate boundaries. They need me knowing their friends, hosting. They need me laughing, joking, crying around them. They need to see me human, flying off the handle, reconciling, forgiving. They need to see Eric and I in partnership, negotiating, communicating, setting our own boundaries, dreaming together.

None of this wins admiring accolades or Mom of the Year. I will not be revered as the amazing-mother-who-does-everything, helping at all events. I am quite selfish and selective with my six free hours, enjoying the slow pace, some days more productive than others. Naps are always a priority.

I have forever been stretched. I know sleepless nights will be my companion for the rest of my days. The tension of making it about me, or making it about them will never end. And a day is potentially on the horizon where truly I will not be needed.

Ultimately, to be honest, my hope is they will still need me, in some form, even if they must manufacture a job description.