I’m going to live in Europe for four months starting in January. I’ve been raising four sons on my own for the past 16 years, and now my youngest is moving out and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with the rest of this life. I’m taking a month for each loss, the greatest loss I’ve ever experienced. Because I lost those boys of mine to their adult selves, and I lost the only version of me who makes sense to anyone all at the same time.
When I try to think beyond these months ahead my mind goes blank. I hit a wall I have no clue how to climb beyond - a wall I knew I was approaching but remains insurmountable nonetheless. On the other side of that wall lives a new mother I have no clue how to be. A peripheral mother, a phone-call-on-Sundays-and-turkey-at-Thanksgiving kind of mother. I don’t recognize this woman. I don’t even know how to want to recognize this woman.
I’m going to try to meet this unwelcome new mom I’m supposed to be in Europe. I will live in Italy for two months, and then France, and then one extra as-yet-to-be-chosen location that I’ve decided to call “Dealer’s Choice” for the sake of spontaneity. At the end of this trip I’m flying my sons over to me as a sort of rejoining of our family. They will bring their girlfriends and their own agendas. I know this; I know they’ll never feel like mine they way they did just months ago. But still, we’re going. I can barely afford it, have almost no savings in the bank, and no extra income to fall back on. But still I’m going.
This trip is my epic maternal pause. My moment to exhale when all I’ve been doing is holding my breath for so long. This September marked the first time in almost 20 years when I have not had to consult a school supply list at Staples or check flyers for all the BOGO shoe sales and hope for acceptable styles. The other day I started to rummage through backpacks in Winners and realized I don’t need to buy a new backpack this year. The rest of the world went back to school. Not us. The moment left me mute with shock. Stunned by the depth of my mourning. Standing in the parking lot, holding my key fob, looking off into a vacant future I have no way of predicting.
Most of my life I have been growing boys. I’m not even someone who likes to do math, and lately all I can think of are the numbers of my life. First son at 21, second at 23, third at 27, fourth at 28. Single mom by 30. Two or more jobs at a time for the past 15 years. One dog bought in the first grip of divorce guilt - a dog who is now 16 and will most likely live forever. One cat who ran away when he realized we were never going to be a good fit. Thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on renting at least seven homes. Probably more. Hundreds of hours of volunteering at their schools so the teachers wouldn’t hold our financial situation or persistent lack of a positive male influence against my kids.
And now it’s all pretty much over. All of the decisions based on We Five, decisions I thought I was making based on my own preferences but I’m just now realizing that I haven’t the slightest idea what I prefer. Small town or big city? It depends on what the kids want and what I can afford for them. Economical car or gas guzzling SUV? The boys are so tall, so better go with the SUV. Single or dating? Good luck to any man who enters the realm of We Five.
Therefore, I’m moving to Europe. Not to date. Not to become someone else. But to wander around and uncoil the parts of my insides that have been coiled around those boys for my entire adult life.
I'm not the only mother who has experienced this entanglement. "It's common for mothers to become addicted and over-identified with being busy," says clinical psychotherapist Amy Deacon, MSW, RSW. "In many ways, we feel lost without the constant need to be needed and are terrified of the day our babes no longer depend on us. But in reality, this is such an accomplishment. We have achieved exactly what we were meant to do. But now, we need to learn - and be examples for our children - how to not be afraid of change, but rather, embrace the silence with patience and curiosity."
So I'm off to see things and figure out what I like as me and me only. Will I enjoy living in a little village outside of Rome? I plan to embrace a little silence, stretch out my shoulders and learn how to like my own quiet nothingness. If all goes well, I might even get a life-affirming compliment from one handsome Italian man, preferably while driving a Vespa and wearing a mid-calf skirt and ballet flats.
Next I’m off to Avignon for a month, the “gateway to Provence.” My French is already halfway acceptable and croissants exist, so my hopes are high for a temporary life in France. The city boasts a population of just under 100,000 people; perhaps I’ll develop a taste of city-ish existence. A studio, a bicycle with a basket, perhaps one or two charming strangers who will become my sidekicks if I’m lucky. I could learn to bake a proper baguette and develop an appreciation for wine beyond my canned rose?.
Maybe I will find the part of me I’m not yet ready to meet somewhere else. In Croatia, on a beach in Spain, in Ireland, on an island in Greece where I can sing the entire soundtrack to Mamma Mia! Who knows?
All I know at the moment is this; my journey has been coming for a long time. Ever since I gave birth to my first golden boy and looked at him and thought, what will I be when you go? How willI survive? Who will I be? I have never been a grown-up without my boys. Without these people who have always been mine right down to their knuckles.
But it’s time to let them be grown-ups without me.
Related video: Millennials actually listen to their parents on one crucial topic (provided by GoBankingRates)
- Dog protects furniture from his own reflectionAn adorable moment was captured in Redding, California, USA. Zero, an English bulldog puppy, was filmed barking at his own reflection. Why? To protect the home's furniture from a supposed thief...BuzzVideos
- I tried a 1950s-inspired beauty routineWhat was it like to do makeup in the 1950s? Mi-Anne takes a look at some vintage tutorials and tries them out.Refinery29
- A body positivity advocate on self-Love and acceptanceJessamyn Stanley on Self-Love and AcceptanceHealth
Millennials Actually Listen to Their Parents on One Crucial TopicGOBankingRates0:56
Dog protects furniture from his own reflectionBuzzVideos0:45
I tried a 1950s-inspired beauty routineRefinery299:19
A body positivity advocate on self-Love and acceptanceHealth2:22
Does Meghan Markle want an American nanny for the royal baby?Buzz600:48
Empowering photos series depicts girls as athletes and princessesTODAY1:40
Balenciaga is mocked over pricey dress that looks like a couch cushionBuzz601:11
9 of the Queen’s strangest powers and privilegesTown and Country3:02
Mother gets slammed on social media for Build-A-Bear birthday party gone wrongFOX News1:09
Duchess Kate wants a 'healthy balance' between mom life & royal dutiesUS Weekly1:40
Inside Sephora's makeup class specifically for the transgender communityINSIDER1:00
Let’s unpack those Prince William cheating rumorsInstyle1:51
How to recycle 9 things you can’t just toss in the recycling binReal Simple1:55
Scrabble's rise to fameThe New Yorker2:43
Rottweiler puppy makes great stridesUSA TODAY1:04
Tiny houses might be good for the planetBuzz601:25