There is this feeling when you are walking through a dense stand of trees that it goes on forever with a sense of which way is out?
Motherhood is like that; the trees are so dense you feel lost. The actual experience, when you get to take a breath though, is beautiful. For me, now, the trees are starting to thin out, and I can see where the open spaces begin. I am soon to have both of my children in college and out of the house.
This time is cutely named “empty nest,” which I never liked as a way of describing the next phase. I think it is better explained as “Now what?” or more aptly, “WTF?” People have started to say, “Wow, how exciting you can now be/do what you want…what is it you want?” Well if that isn’t the question to end all questions! Long ago, I had to put who I was in a little box that I placed on some shelf in the back of some closet that I long ago forgot the location. So, now when asked, “What do you want to do with your life?”my eyes glaze over and a sense of panic starts to bubble up. I have no clue what I want or what my “passion” (another word I have come to dislike) might be. Though I feel as if I should have that answer at the ready; I mean, I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, right?
Wait, what? 19 years seems like plenty of time to have figured it all out, right? Women are almost made to feel badly if that don’t have a quick answer for that age-old question: what are you passionate about? There’s that damn word again.
For 19 years, I’ve been a mom in the trenches, trying to raise good humans while also being a decent wife, house keeper, cook, personal shopper, therapist, dog walker, care giver, and good at whatever employment I had at the moment–the list is endless. Knowing what I want is somewhere at the very end of that very long list–no one tells you how lost you will get in motherhood, no one tells you at some point they grow up and leave and you must turn and face yourself. Wait, what? 19 years seems like plenty of time to have figured it all out, right? Women are almost made to feel badly if that don’t have a quick answer for that age-old question: what are you passionate about? There’s that damn word again.
I have a PhD in Molecular Immunology. I worked long hard hours to achieve such an accomplishment; I did research, and I wrote peer-reviewed papers for top scientific journals. Once, I even had goals of running my own lab and being a successful scientist making a difference. Then, I made the decision that children came first, and I bowed out of science to stay home with my kids in the early years. I thought how hard can it be? Well, I quickly found out all that PhD crap was a cake walk! Being a mom trumped any long night in a lab waiting for some experiment to be completed or even writing a thesis or presenting said thesis to a bunch of scientists lying in wait to pounce. Motherhood is challenging in ways no one can understand until they do it. Science quickly disappeared in my review mirror, and I had to keep marching through the forest. You put your head down and you do what it takes, and you get lost in the process. Don’t get me wrong, it was worth having that time with my kids and being a mom is amazing most of the time, but now the trees are thinning out and I’m hearing that inner voice screaming, “No seriously, WTF now?”