“A mothers job is to teach her children to not need her anymore. The hardest part of that job is accepting success.” – Unknown
I remember the day my youngest child moved out of the house to begin his life as an adult. I found myself crying and curled up in bed in the fetal position … for a month.
What if the empty nest is just what a woman needs for self-discovery? What if the greatest gift a mother could have is the space to find her true self?
I was engaged at 26. Married at 27. I had my first child when I turned 30. By the time I was 32, I had a nest filled with two children, a Siberian husky and an entirely new identity. I was not only a mother, I was hell bent on being the perfect mother.
Trying to be a perfect mother didn’t allow me much space to be myself. I was so enamored with my children and mothering, that motherhood became more of a slippery slope and a gradual loss of my own identity.
By the time the nest begins to empty, many mothers like me, enter a period of mourning that accompanies a natural identity crisis as the mantle of motherhood begins to be dismantled.
Self-discovery requires space: space to explore and space to dream.
My nest emptied long ago. What I’ve found since that time is an entirely new me, a self I had lost along the way.
We play many roles throughout our lives. One of the roles many of us play is that of the mother. Yet, we must remember it’s a role and not our true identity.
I worked overtime to create that identity. I feathered my nest to perfection. I wore the role of a mother as a badge of honor, the proud identity I never had. The role of the perfect mother became my entire reason for being. It was the first time in my life that I felt I was good at something. I began to derive my self worth from being the perfect mother, only to watch it all crumble and fall away while facing the loneliness of an empty nest. I was completely enmeshed and entangled in my children.
My focus wasn’t on me. My focus was on the reflection of me through my children.
Just as a midlife crisis isn’t a crisis but more of an awakening, the empty nest isn’t a syndrome but an opportunity, an opportunity for self-discovery.
Motherhood naturally shifts our focus from ourselves to raising and caring for another human.
It’s a shift from within to the selflessness that motherhood often demands from a woman.
The empty nest is the opposite shift. A shift from selfless to self. A shift from without to within.
“Within” is the birthplace of inspiration and transformation. The Phoenix can only rise from within.
Dreams require space. Imagination and visualization demand space. The authentic self can only be discovered through wide-open space.
The beauty of the empty nest is the gift of space. Space for reflection. Space for letting go. Space for transformation. Space for inspiration and the creation of a new self along with a separate identity.
When a mother shifts her view from the coziness of the nest to a world that is undefined yet filled with possibilities, it can feel overwhelming. At times, terrifying. It was for me. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t want to begin.
Before a butterfly can emerge, it must spend time deeply immersed in a cocoon through a period of intense struggle, before it can fly with an entirely new identity and transform from a caterpillar into its true self, a beautiful butterfly.
A mother goes through a similar process of metamorphosis. Oftentimes, it’s one of grieving the loss of who she was in order to find who she’s always desired to be. I loved being a mom and there was real pain and remorse in leaving that identity behind. I still feel it sometimes.
Being a mother is an important role. Yet it is a role and not who we are.
The moment a child is born, the umbilical cord is cut so the baby can separate and begin to create a life of its own.
The empty nest is a way of cutting our umbilical cord with our children.
It isn’t letting go of the love!
It’s letting go of an identity and allowing ourselves and our children the space we need to find our true selves, our separate selves.
When we view the empty nest in this way, we re-frame it through a new lens, one that empowers both us and our children. It’s an opportunity to redefine ourselves and our relationship to one another.
Motherhood is a blessing and so is an empty nest. When our children leave the nest and begin to fly on their own, we can give ourselves the permission we need and the space we require to find out who we truly are. Only then can we truly fly.
If the nest we create during motherhood is the birthplace of who are children are, perhaps the empty nest is the birthplace of the Moxie that becomes the catalyst for the Phoenix to rise.
Cheers Beauties … Happy Moxie On Monday or M-O-M!