My Own Little Mid-Life Crisis

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and she said to me, “You know, you hear a lot about being a mom in those toddler years when you have kids.  People give you plenty of advice about how to get through having little kids around but no one ever talks about what to do when your kids are leaving home.”

And I completely agree.  I have one more year with our family being all together–where we’re all around the dinner table laughing and quoting movies and I have to tell someone to eat their peppers and someone else to use their napkin and someone else to chew with their mouth closed.  I remember thinking that the years where they were in high chairs and I was constantly cutting up their meat or cleaning up spilled milk would last for eternity but in reality I’ve got more years of life without children than with children.

Do I sound nostalgic?  Maybe even a bit overly sentimental?

I appreciate all the emails and questions and concerns about where I have been lately and I guess the easiest explanation is that I’m going through an enormous midlife crisis.  Not really a crisis where I’m looking for a sports car and a trophy spouse–wouldn’t that just shake things up?–just a point where I’ve been sitting and thinking and wondering what in the world I’m going to do with my life for the next 20 years.

Maybe I’ll back up . . . Andrew and I are of a similar temperament where we are driven, focused, goal-oriented, organized, get-things-done-right-now kind of people.  We married at 22, had kids within 2 years, got through law school, paid off the loans, got into a house, pumped out a few more kids and never took our eyes off the goal because that was what responsible people did and it served us well, more or less.  I’m glad we got through school without lingering and I’m glad we had our children young.

But now I’ve been a mom for over 17 years and I’m facing the hard fact that my intensive mothering days are drawing to a close.  I have one more year of Grace at home and in seven years all the kids will have left.  Even now I drop the kids off at school at eight o’clock then have six more hours of staring at my already clean and organized house wondering, “Okay . . . now what??

I spent so much time looking ahead and thinking about getting things done and done quickly that I’ve suddenly been pulled to a stop and feel a bit lost.  All those years when I looked ahead and thought, “Wow, won’t it be nice when the kids are older and Andrew and I have lots of time together? Won’t that be nice? Won’t I be sooooo happy?” Well here I am, my kids in school most of the day and my husband is charging ahead with still another 20 years of productivity and career goals ahead of him and I need to decide how I’m going to fill my time.

I suppose I could go back to school and that has a certain appeal but seriously–I’ve been to enough school to know that sitting in a classroom and watching a teacher is both expensive and dependent on how good the teacher is. And do I really need another degree so I can prove to everyone else that I’m smart? I could get the same information from our library and the internet if more education is what I really wanted. So what do I want? I haven’t a clue.

I could get a job–that’s what other women do–but it seems so pointless. It certainly isn’t as important as my job as a wife and mother.  There is no job I could find that I would love as much as the job I’ve had and if I’ve learned anything after 14 months of unemployment I’ve learned how little stuff I need to be content so the money isn’t a temptation.

I could focus on hobbies: painting, writing, blogging, knitting, whatever.  Okay, sure. But again, I don’t need success in a hobby to prove to myself that I’m good at something or that my life has meaning though at least having a job or a hobby would be productive.  I want to be a producer, not merely a consumer.

I could do volunteer work and that has an appeal but it would depend on what kind of volunteering it was.  Hanging out at the kids’ school seems pretty pointless–there are already many capable, paid professionals in charge and plenty of extraneous parents hanging around as it is.  If I volunteered somewhere it would have to be something that really helped those who were in need.  The Peace Corps?

So here I sit, wondering what to do and laughing at myself for all those years of hurrying and looking ahead in naivete, thinking that life would just be perfect once I had time to myself.  I have all the time to myself that I could want and now I want something else: goals.  Where are all the books and manuals on how to get through your 40’s and 50’s?  I’ve seen millions of books with advice on how to get you through those take-off years of work and school and early parenting but everyone is strangely silent on what to do once you’ve reached cruising altitude.  I just can’t sit back for the next 20 years on auto-pilot. 

corn maze

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