Poems & Essays

28 Sep

No One Prepared Me For This

General/Column 10 Responses

No one prepared me for this.

Sure, I read the parenting books that told me my job as a parent was to help my children grow up to be independent adults, and to send them happily off to make their way in the world.

It all sounded easy on paper, and in the early throngs of motherhood when I would have sold my soul for an uninterrupted night of sleep, it even sounded desirable.

But that was then.

Now that my two girls are both on the cusp of branching out into independent lives, it has become quite another story. A new story I am desperately struggling to rewrite into one with a much happier ending, at least for me. A new tale in which they stay happily ensconced in our family home with me as their beloved matriarch; until I no longer need them.

That’s right. Me, need them.

I have spent so many hours, days, months, and years with their lives completely intertwined with my own, it has become impossible for me to comprehend a new reality that does not include them on a yearly, monthly, daily, and hourly basis. They have been the reason for ninety-nine percent of everything I have done for so long, I find myself at a loss to decipher exactly what my purpose is now supposed to be.

This past summer my youngest moved out with her boyfriend for the relatively short period of eight weeks, mostly for the convenience of commuting to her summer job, but also to try on the mantle of independence. She is doing quite well. I, however, am not. Four a.m. seems to be my personal witching hour. In the black of night my racing heart pulls me from the depths of sleep. I wake in a panic; pulse throbbing in my temples, and the worry begins. Is she safe? Was this the right move for her? Will he break her heart? And finally, the kicker: why does she not need me like I need her?

My baby is gone.

My baby is looking to someone else for guidance and support.

My baby is growing up and away from me.

She will return in the fall to continue her studies at university, but then it will be even harder for me to keep at arms length. She has proven herself capable of surviving on her own, so how to stop myself from stepping in and trying to take charge again?

I’m not quite sure how our relationship is going to survive this new reality.

And, just when I have begun to accept this foreshadowing of things to come, my oldest tells me she has been looking for an apartment.

My heart, still reeling from my youngest daughter’s departure, now stutters in panic at the thought of losing another.

I am torn. Proud that my girl is self sufficient enough, both financially and emotionally, to consider this move but devastated that she is now financially and emotionally independent enough to consider this move.

Where is the instruction manual that would have prepared me for this? Telling me my job is to prepare my children to move forward into their own independent lives is useless. That part I understand. What I need to know now, is how to accept that they have reached that point.

Why is it that the majority of parenting books are focused on mothering children from birth to the toddler years? As far as I’m concerned that was the easy part, and a job at which I excelled. I was a great mother; creative, compassionate, caring and above all, involved.

My heart wants to continue to be all those things. It does not know how to stop. Some parts will still be acceptable to my children; that last bit? Not so much.

So now what? Shouldn’t there be some rulebook for us menopausal mothers? Some wonderful tome filled with sage advice to assist us in this transition?

Maybe I’ll have to write that book myself, and then when that middle-of-the-night witching hour arrives, I won’t be worrying, I’ll be writing.


Leslie Wibberley is physiotherapist by profession, a slightly maddened mother to two outstanding young women and one slightly insane cocker spaniel, and wife to a loving and extremely tolerant husband. Writing has always been her passion but one she has only recently re-committed her life to. With one middle grade novel complete, one young adult novel in the throngs of revision, and numerous short stories and personal essays lying in repose in her beloved MacBook Air, she is now proud to call herself a writer. Her article RAISING A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE recently won 6th place in Writer’s Digest annual contest.

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  1. Dana

    September 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Oh this have me chills. I’m always a little scared to read essays like these because I know in a flash it will be me saying goodbye to my kids as they go off into the world. But this was so honest and beautiful, and hopeful. I love the last line.

    • Leslie Wibberley

      September 28, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Thank you for your kind words. We mothers have such a challenging role when raising our children. Nurture them, love them, become addicted to them, and then let them go.

  2. catherine harnett

    September 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for your honest expression of the loss we feel as our children go off into the world. That whole concept of ’empty nesters’ is a cliche and doesn’t describe me and many other single mothers. I lived with my adopted daughter for 18 years and we became/are incredibly close (not as friends, but mother and daughter). She went off to college last year, and one night beforehand I literally threw myself on the bed and WEPT like I’d never done before. It wasn’t that she was leaving; it was the universe taking her from me. The only other person in MY universe. She left and hated her college, and she is back home taking community college classes so she can transfer to OREGON in January. While It is one of the farthest places in America from Virginia, she has made her mind up that the Pacific Northwest is where she is meant to be. So she is leaving for a longer flight, and I can’t casually drop in to say hello. I am sure that I am not alone; when she came home it was love–dovey for two weeks, and then it was ‘OMG, I have to eat dinner with just you? Where is the library? My room is too big, I have no independence,’etc. She had grown up in her year away and is desperately trying not to fall back into what she left. My experience tells me that the child you let go of is not the child who comes home. And you are not the same mother.

    • Leslie Wibberley

      April 22, 2016 at 12:17 am

      Thank you for you words. It’s nice to know we are not alone. 🙂

  3. Candidkay

    October 2, 2015 at 1:24 am

    In about 12 hours, I will publish a post that echoes similar themes, but I am not yet where you are. My oldest has ventured into high school and teen years–and I worry about his increased freedom. I read your words and hope my transition is easier in a few when I’m where you are. Thanks for your honesty. You gave me something to chew on (mentally).

    • Leslie Wibberley

      April 22, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Thank you Candidkay. I’m still working through this whole potentially empty nest thing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  4. Susan Goldstein

    October 25, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this and OH! how closely I can relate. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Anuja Ghimire

    January 18, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    “My heart wants to continue to be all those things. It does not know how to stop.”

    I loved this so much. I have years before my little ones leave my nest, but I do not think I will ever be ready for it. This is why reading other mothers’ writing. We have no manual. But, we have each other.

    • Leslie Wibberley

      April 22, 2016 at 12:20 am

      Thank you for that, Anuja. I love it. We have each other. And what a wonderfully supportive group we have found her at Mothers Always Write. 🙂


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