We’re all used to the phrase “child development,” and some of us (hand raised here!) may have had an entire shelf of books covering various aspects of children’s growth from the omnipresent “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” to more recent tomes such as “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Over-parenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success”. Many of us have been parenting now for more than 20 years, and the odd thing about all this literature is the almost exclusive focus that is placed on the role of the parents, particularly mothers, as the steady ones, the source of stability, love, and inspiration for their offspring. It appears that we are to take a mental photo of ourselves when we become parents, and rarely stray from that person who first celebrated parenthood.
So take a minute to look back at yourself all those years ago, and what dreams you had, your visions for who you wanted to be. What have you put on the shelf while you put your energies towards raising kids, working, keeping a primary relationship going, spending time with extended family and maybe making time for a little creativity here and some personal friendships there?
Now may be the right time to give yourself the gift of exploring and defining what makes you feel that you contribute to the world in more complex and lasting ways than simply identifying as a parent- what makes life meaningful for you. In this article by Madeline Levine, she suggests taking on this work when your children are still in high school, as it’s not necessarily true that the feelings associated with empty nests resolve themselves over time:
“Imagining our future selves tends to get neglected as we focus on our children’s future. But opportunity favors the prepared. Many women find these years some of the best of their lives. The get married, get divorced, try new careers, travel, expand their horizons, tighten friendships and maintain warm, close relationships with their children (and in turn their grandchildren). The fact is that women are less depressed, less anxious and less suicidal in their 50s and 60s than at any other time. There is clearly something salutary about navigating through motherhood and back into a more independent life. We don’t really lose ourselves. In fact, we can become better, certainly wiser, versions of the women we’ve been.”
What are you willing to take on to create that next version of yourself? I’m committing to taking my teaching skills and applying them to workshop development and group facilitation. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.
If you are ready to take on this next leg of your life’s journey, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 206-406-0063 and we’ll explore your dreams together!