Anyone who’s ever been a mother or has done mothering knows that the concept of “motherhood” is not finite. The day that child is placed in your arms heralds in a period of care, worry, and needless to say, love—a lifetime of it, in fact. As much as we bob and weave away from the battering our maternal protectiveness gets, whether we like it or not, the passage of time necessitates the altering of the trappings of motherhood. It implores that we cut and reshape our pattern to keep up with the changes, and although we don’t always like the new “look,” we often have no choice but to realign our minds and bodies to fit that which nature has created. As we age, so too do our children, and there comes a point in time when it is abundantly clear that they are redesigning our motherhood.
The real line of demarcation, and the ultimate time for “unmothering” often occurs when college comes calling. It is then, that we mothers sense the need to take down the shingle as we knew it, but there are no retirement parties with cake and heartfelt speeches from the gang and the obligatory handing out of shiny gold watches. There is no real date on the calendar that is circled in heavy red marker that symbolizes the actual start of the backing away and revamping of our own lives. It is more of a gradual slope, and the sound of your children rushing by as they pass into another realm sounds a lot like the slide whistle you could get at the penny toy store around the corner.
Even before the last of the Shultz boys heads off to college, writer Melissa T. Shultz is faced with the realization that she will soon be giving up a role that was “intrinsic” to her identity for so many years. In her book, From Mom to Me Again, she chronicles her life as a woman/mother on the precipice: “You’re in this unfamiliar place—a kind of redo of life before you had kids, but with an older body and a lot more responsibility—and you’re not sure if you’re leaping away from your past or toward your new future.” Shelf upon shelf in the bookstores are lined with self-help guides on parenting…for new parents, but there are not nearly as many for “seasoned” parents. This book is for the latter—those parents for whom their children’s journey into adulthood comes as a defining moment, for everyone involved.
This solid, and eloquently written book is a one-stop shop for any parent who is also on the precipice. While sharing honest feelings and details of her own life from before, during, and after her kids leave home, the author collects wise commentary from others who have been there before. In a case of misery loves company, it does soften the blow ( a little) to know that Jane Pauley and TV writer Josann McGibbon also feel the turmoil of having their children move on, and having their role as mothers recast. Here too, we can commiserate with columnist Charles Blow: “Letting go is hard for me to do, I must let go, but my heart feels hollow. I can’t imagine me without them.”
The author doesn’t allow you to wallow too long, though, as her memoir then becomes more of a how-to book, and the subtitle: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year And Reinvented The Rest Of My Life takes effect. Shultz here relies on advice from psychologists, career coaches, and experts in the field of reinvention such as Carol Fishman Cohen. Topics such as marriage, jobs (old and new), and most importantly support systems and friendship are delved into and outlined. We can’t always do this “thing” on our own, and there’s no shame in that. Discussions about all the feelings that empty nesting can bring up: guilt, insecurity, and self-worth are all handled in a very positive and empowering way.
Readers who are in a quandary about how to start on the path to reinvention will welcome counseling on how to go about creating “an updated you.” Anyone who may have a problem in reaching out to others will find a friend in this book, and hopefully it will encourage them to go out and find a living, breathing comrade. “Think about who you are and how you want to grow personally and professionally, and all the kinds of friends you want to take with you on your journey.” Worried about starting a new career? It’s in here: “What woman do you admire most?…From here on out, think of her as your role model. While you’re at it, toss in some of that energy and enthusiasm you reserved for your child over these many years and sprinkle it like fairy dust all over yourself.”
No one is denying the fact that our children leaving the nest creates a huge void in our lives. From Mom to Me Again validates all the emotions and frustrations that are tied up with that point in time, and helps us to deal with them in a constructive, creative way. It optimistically hammers home the point that this is not only an immense opportunity for our children to learn and grow, but for us to do the same…to really examine our lives, wants, and needs. We all know that motherhood never ends, but transition can be enlightening and rewarding. It’s all up to us.
We are giving away a book to one lucky, randomly chosen winner! To enter, simply leave a comment below about why you might want to read this book on or before midnight, July 31, 2016.