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ParentsFebruary 22, 2017

Cutting the apron strings: Redefining motherhood when your children leave home


What is it like when your children leave the nest? Amanda May writes about what she had hoped for and what it feels like now that her home is quiet.

In the maelstrom of life, where the to-do-list is ever nagging, I have had moments of yearning for time out, space away from the responsibilities and roles that this motherly life brings – the taxi driver, teacher, nurse, house maid, cook, coach, counselor, advocate, and peacemaker.  I have had thoughts about a time where birdsong or the warm breeze brushing palms fronds might be my only interruptions.

Recently, that moment arrived.

Now young adults, my children are no longer audible; their presence does not fill our home and I am experiencing the silence of them following their own lives, their own dreams and goals.

It feels strange, uncomfortably quiet and my conscious thoughts are of them.

This new position that I had dreamt about was soul-searchingly discordant. My schedule was lacking times and venues and lists; people to be there for, to do for, to schedule into my day. Like a rudderless ship, I aimlessly wandered the house searching for reasons to create some structure, some function to this new found “freedom”.

I felt mixed emotions: pride in my offspring that they had made it this far, successfully followed their hopes and aspirations with an independence, a character, that was their own. Then the sadness – an overwhelming sense of loss; a sense of acknowledgement that my job was almost done.

We spend so many years investing, sacrificing, encouraging and supporting, with a mastermind plan of self sufficiency and success for our children. And yet, as I reach the cusp of this chapter of life, it feels so very different to that which I had imagined.

So I sat and I listened. It was quiet, so very quiet. I missed them. I missed the revolving schedule of maternal life. I missed their banter, their chatter, and their sometimes annoying, frustrating behaviour.

I missed it all.

Life moves on and we must move forward. Sometimes willingly, other times reluctantly. As I sat and pondered the new chapter I was entering, it was with an uncertainty that felt new.

They no longer needed me, my attachment was redundant. Time, then, to create a new schedule that would fill the void. Yet the sadness did not shift. My purpose in life was changing and I wasn’t quite sure if I liked it. For so many years, my thoughts, my actions, my plans, my schedules – all had been subconsciously organised with my children front of mind.

This is what they call “cutting the apron strings” and yet I was clinging desperately to the remaining threads with thoughts of what once was.

But I am coming to a realisation that no matter how grown up, how independent my children are, there will continue to be times where they will still need me and I them. There will continue to be times when we will seek each other’s reference, even though our opinions may differ. There will continue to be times when we simply need to hear each other’s voice as a comfort, or reassurance, or as some guidance in moments of life.

I know and understand that they will form new relationships, share unique bonds of attachment and security, where they will find confidence, comfort and a new kind of love. Which is how it should be.

Yes, the apron strings have been cut, but that unique connection, that mother-child bond remains. Our care for one another and our unquestioning love will ensure the threads of the maternal apron strings will never be completely severed.

I’m okay with that.

Amanda May is a mother of two with over 15 years experience as a Health Visitor and Public Health Nurse. She understands the challenges of motherhood and supports women through her coaching – “mastering motherhood, one step at a time”.

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