Category Archives: Transitional Woman

A mother’s pearls

On this Super Bowl Sunday, my thoughts wander to memories of my mom. She was the one who taught me to really love football, insisting I understand the game before I attended my first high school football game. Shortly after I entered my 40’s, I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my mother. Though we spoke often at the time, I didn’t realize just how much she was still my sage. Like most women out there, my mother had been my first mentor. She taught me so many things about “what it is to be a woman.” For most women, it is a mother, for some, a grandmother, aunt, family friend, or other consistent female that serves as primary role model in the formative years. In motherhood, we transfer what we have internalized to the next generation when we become the role models.  Through our example, we teach our daughters and sons our definition of a fulfilled woman worthy of support, love and respect.

Through my teenage eyes, my mother had a larger-than-life, over shadowing personality. At times, ours had been a  contentious relationship. She raised 9 children , 6 of whom were daughters. Despite her experience, I often rejected her advice as outdated, inapplicable, or hyper-critical. Regardless of the type of advice, be it mothering, marriage, or womanhood, my pride routinely served as powerful earplugs, blocking my ability to absorb her messages. Casual conversations regularly yielded  pearls of wisdom whose beauty, sadly, went unseen, unheard, and unacknowledged at the time.

I like to think we grow wiser with age, and, with maturity, I have come to recognize the timelessness of her wisdom. One “pearl” I clearly remember came when I was in my early thirties. I had told my mom how much I was enjoying my thirties. She responsed, “Thirties are good, but oh honey, wait until your forties. Fifties are even better!” She was right, forties have been pretty darn good, but I miss her guidance, tremendously.

Rarely do we scrutinize what we have internalized, going through our closets of old beliefs and discarding what doesn’t fit anymore. Whether as a consequence of my mother’s death, being the mother of teen girls myself, or in preparation for the transition years, I began to do just that a few years back. Though I still embrace all that my mother taught me, creating my own definition of what it is to be a woman, wife and mother has been transformational. I am not a carbon copy of my mother, nor do I routinely reject the parts of me that reflect her. Today, I gather “pearls of wisdom” from books, my sisters, friends, my daughters, and the echos of my mother. I am inherently myself and a unique refection of them all.

As I approach my fifties, I understand why my mom said “fifties are even better.” Hindsight is often 20/20. In reflection, her “larger than life” personality, that I struggled against as a teen, was really the glow of a woman embracing her uniqueness.  Becoming the best, original version of ourselves is the best gift we can give ourselves and our families. By becoming my own woman, standing in my own light unimpaired by anyone else’s shadow, I can fully appreciate the importance of  stepping out-of-the-way so that my daughters can bask in their own light, unobscured by my shadow, as they develop their own unique identities.

We are their role models, and they are watching our every move, internalizing our modeled beliefs . Someday, my daughters will scrutinize what they have learned from me. Hopefully, they will shed what does not fit. I learned a lot from my first role model, most importantly the joy that comes from “growing into your own skin” while allowing children to grow into theirs. For this I say, “Thank you, Mom. Your pearls have not been lost.” 

Ask yourself, “What am I modeling today?”

Childbirth–in reverse

I have always joked that the birth canal is a one way door–what comes out most certainly can not go back in. Ask any woman who has given birth and she will likely tighten her pelvic muscles at the mere suggestion she should accommodate a “revolving door.” However, those sentiments change, just a little, as a mother approaches the days of an empty nest. In some ways, the journey toward the days of an empty nest parallels the journey down the birth canal; both are dark, at times so painfully restrictive you want to give up, are transformative in the process, and result in the emergence of a new life. 

It’s easy to joke when the little bundle you have  dreamt about, talked to, nourished with your body, and nurtured with your soul has just emerged into the world and been placed into your awaiting arms. In that moment, all seems right with the world. The road ahead  appears full of promise. The road ahead is full of promise, and is also filled with sleepless nights, doubts, guilt, tears, misunderstandings and frustrations. With a child come diapers, birthday parties, crushes, disappointments, academics, friends, and shared family memories. There is also a lot of joy, laughter, tenderness and love, that bolster the transition of a husband and wife from “couple” to  “family.”

I remember being warned, like every new mom, “Don’t blink because she’ll be grown and gone before you know it.” And like every new mom, I did not–could not–fully appreciate the truth in those words. That was until I found myself facing the inevitable reality of a fast approaching empty nest.  The “transition phase”, considered the shortest and hardest phase of labor, in may ways epitomizes the teen years that prelude adulthood. Both are typically filled with physical and emotional exhaustion  and, in the absence of an epidural,  a heaping dose of physical pain when the time comes to push them out. Through the breathing, some fast and shallow, some deep, and the fear, there is also the excitement of a new beginning for both myself and my children. 

However, new beginnings are endings, and endings are new beginnings. The passage to the empty nest is certain to be filled with the tears of an ending and the excitement of a new beginning. 

I learned a painful lesson when I switched from being a “corporate career woman” to a fulltime, stay-at-home mom; I had unknowingly wrapped the bulk of my identity up in my job. Although I was married, had friends, and hobbies,  my job is what gave me real “value”–or so I thought. Like many, I had read the “What to Expect” books during pregnancy and felt fully prepared to handle diapers, breastfeeding, and teething. However, I was completely unprepared for the pivotal transition from career woman to stay at home mom.  I had not anticipated the impact of the abrupt changes to my daily routine, let alone the new wardrobe requirements. (Outside of maternity wear, I think 85% of my clothes were dry clean! Are you laughing with me moms?)  

Although that was over 16 years ago, the importance of that lesson has stayed with me. Parenting is a non-stop series of small transitions: from breast or bottle to solids, crib to toddler bed, diapers to panties, high chair to table, and so on. We call them milestones. Mixed in are the bigger milestones that pull harder at our heartstrings and our imaginary, not yet cut, umbilical cords: the first step, first lost tooth, first day of school, first date, and more. In essence, every step of the parenting road has been in preparation for that big leap to independence. 

I have thought long and hard about the mother and woman I want to be during this transition to the exciting next chapter in life.  I figure I have a couple of options when that inescapable day of “moving out” comes. I could resist–be the mother desperately holding my child back so that I still have “value”. However, I choose to be the mother that will give wind to their wings and celebrate as they take flight. Only by encouraging their flight, can I allow myself to rejoice in the visions I have for my next chapter.

So come on moms–don’t be afraid to shout out with me, “TOWER, REQUEST CLEARANCE FOR TAKE OFF!” Join me as the adventure unfolds and the metamorphosis begins.