A sales person in a car dealership once told me–and this was ten years ago– “You are too old for a van.” I liked her right away. She understood me.
No more hauling kids to scouts, sports and school in my forest green Chrysler Town and Country. Time for a trade-in. I fancied myself a creamy Lexis or perhaps a Subaru SUV with 4-wheel drive. I needed youthful, sporty, hip. I was done with MOM jeans, time for yoga pants. I settled on a red Saab Aero wagon with a turbo.
It is one of the shifts I made when daily mom duty was dwindling–for me it lasted eight years, from 2004-2012. Our three kids are all four years apart in school, so one-by-one they graduated and headed for college.
Free of the school district’s calendar to dictate family trips and the routine of dinner, homework, bedtime–I was free to go to yoga, spend Saturdays as I liked, away from the play field. I went back to work part time as a researcher for a head hunting firm. I gradually got used to having more “me” time and less “be mom” time.
I read an essay called Mothballs by Gabriella Brand. She writes from the perspective of a mature mother– like me. She asks the question “How does one mother adult children?” That got me thinking, what are we now?? An open wallet for extended family vacations? Attendance Matron for family events? Archiver of Possessions? Host of the Holidays?
I am trying to find out.
After the kids moved on to their own lives in new places I still worried about their welfare. Even though technically adults, they still needed my guidance and advice didn’t they? It leaves me both free to do what I choose and afraid of those choices. This is where I get to duck out under the heavy mantle of motherhood. And remember how to be just me.
“Mom, you are the matriarch* now.” Wow, I thought. Is that what I am? That’s the first I heard of it.
Matriarch sounded scary, regal, distant, not something I was ready for. Couldn’t someone else be the quirky old lady in the family? One who is tolerated for their eccentric tastes, catered to, doted on, demanding of visits and calls? They are doily admirers and knick-knackers, wear too much cologne and the color purple! Surely, I didn’t want any part of that.
But the truth is, I am entering the last third of life, the part I have described in these pages–the part where I am no longer young. I have been Mother of the Bride, seen all three children through college graduation, had a major health scare, celebrated 35 years of marriage, delivered two eulogies–one for Dad and then three years later, one for Mom. I have met my first grandchild. Just as endings have come, a new beginning too. I feel as though time is running out to grow that independent side of myself that only I can do. But the pull of motherhood is just as strong as it has always been. I want to be vital for my children.
But what is that?
*A social structure that recognizes women are in charge, even have authority over men and children. A family, community or society based on leadership by women. Sociologists say that this form of government never has existed. But nonetheless you are now in charge of the family. You are the moral authority for your kin.