Been there, done that. The Yummy Mummy glory days of tight skin, taught abs and a head full of (naturally brown) hair. Filling my days with dirty diapers, bleeding breasts and homemade baby food. Keeping up with GTL (gym-tan-laundry), PTO, and LOL with friends. Spending endless hours (and gobs of money) on gymnastics, ballet, golf, tennis, swimming, and voice lessons… Hoping something would “stick” and elevate my offspring to a Super Status in their frantically competitive world… Or at least, help them blend in with their painfully perfect peers… Growing through pre-calc and prom, and gradually graduating from the big HS… leaving me and my husband (#2), a very empty nest. Five o’clock just never came soon enough…glug, glug.
Yep. I did it all, and I did it the best I could. Trust me when I say there were enormous flashing red lights along the way telling me to do it differently, but, hey, you can only do what you know how to do. Right? Without going into detail (which would require my children to kill me), suffice it to say that, although everything probably looked pretty good on the outside, the wheels were definitely coming off the bus. But that’s ok because we’re (pretty much) on the other side of all that now.
In total, there were five of them. Two from my own loins, and three grafted on via marriage #2. The pissah was that his kids were 7-13 when we met, and we had those kids a l-o-t. I felt like I earned the right to call them “mine.” A real-life Brady Bunch. Their (actual) mother must have done a good job, because all three were polite and did exactly what they were told (being what I later called “pathologically obedient”). I, on the other hand, was a little lax with discipline, and was concerned my girls might not like me if I brought the hammer down. So I didn’t. Instead, I reasoned with them and explained (ad nauseam) why they should or shouldn’t do something. Somehow, they’re turning out be decent human beings, but OMG, it’s taken so much effing effort! Hindsight is 20/20.
(Side note – one of my happiest Mommy moments was when my then 7 year old daughter said to her friend, “I have the coolest mom ever.” I believe they were swilling Coke and eating Gogurts, Cheezits and M&Ms at the time, but it gave me a sick sense of pride that I’ve rarely experienced since).
Fast forward through the teenage years (praise God), and now they’re all “adults.” The youngest is (hopefully) in her last year of college, with no plans to return to her hometown. Ever. The oldest just had her second baby, joining the ranks of other blissful SAHMs. Husband and I are officially Empty Nesters, so everything should be pretty smooth sailing from here on out… (Bahhhahaa!)
Seven years ago, Husband and I bought, and moved into, the money pit I grew up in. There were a bunch of reasons this was a good plan, none of which involved my then 83 year old mother who already lived next door. Widowed for five years, she had total independence of thought and action and could do “whatever she damn well pleased.”
In the beginning, I’d bring dinner every once in a while, but mostly, we were just neighbors. Grocery stores, garden clubs and get-togethers were still on her agenda. In fact, Mom’s enviable, active lifestyle only highlighted how booooring mine had become. I realized I’d better pick up the pace or I’d be old before she was.
So, what’s the first thing a newly minted, empty nest mom does after being at home with five kids foreeeeever? She gets her real estate license of course (along with every other empty-nesting-mother in town). With blind faith and hard work, I was loving my new gig, making a little cash, and had BIG plans for the future! Little did I realize that as I was carving out my new, oh-so-fab life, my mother was quietly aging.
Let me just say, I am one of the lucky ones… my mother is ridiculously sunny, optimistic to a fault, super social, and probably the happiest person on the planet. She’s that woman who welcomes telemarketing calls as opportunities to meet new people… (“just a minute…. let me get my coffee…”). She still has all her marbles, and knows how to play with them. BUT – my mother is, well… my mother. She installed the buttons and knows how to push ‘em. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend with Mom, and the number of times those buttons get pushed.
Despite her sunny disposition, Mom is getting old. Now 91(.5), she needs a fair amount of help. I’m her “walker,” her Meals on Wheels, her UBER, her cleaning lady, and her med-manager. My bang-up real estate career is indefinitely on pause while my days are filled with doctor visits, lab “procedures,” follow-up appointments, and CVS. I must have been out of the room when it happened, but I am now the defacto caretaker of my mother.
I’m not really bitching about this (here…), because a mother lode of good has come from our evolving arrangement. But if you think toddlers, tweens and teens are tough, spend a week hands-on caring for an aging parent. You’ll quickly see that the former are – literally – child’s play.
The upside to taking care of Mom? Fifty eight years later, I finally “know” her. Everything about her. And I learn more every day – sometimes happily, and sometimes kicking and screaming while trying to get out the door. I’m receiving one on one, personalized instruction on advanced aging, and learning that it’s harder than it looks. Instead of yearning for younger days when I had a six pack (in my hands at least…), I’ve given myself until 60 to “throw in the towel.” No more hair dye, weight watching, or estrogen pills. I’m poised to take a page from Mom’s manual and let it all go.
Truth be told, (quite bluntly), becoming Mom’s caretaker has been a curveball, and the length of her life affects virtually every decision Husband and I make for ourselves moving forward. No need to talk about retirement or “downsizing” while Mom still lives next door. And if we stay in the Money Pit for more than a year, maybe we should replace the roof and repair the walkway after all… And if we need the cash to make the repairs, maybe we should put that vacation on hold…. The what-ifs are endless, and with Mom’s sunny outlook on life, she could easily live to be 100.
Life is short, and so far, in my life I’ve been: 1. the daughter of a mother, 2. the mother of a daughter (or 4), and now, 3. the daughter mothering her mother. (Or something like that). Combined with the fact that mother/daughter relationships are, by nature, “complicated,” it can get pretty messy. But Mom and I are solid. Like everything else in life, this too shall pass, and before I know it, Husband and I will be making decisions all over the place, and wishing we were once again sitting outside in our garden with Mom.
Emily is a post-menopausal, Baby Booming, empty nester who’s not sad at all that her 2-5 kids have flown the coop. She’s currently living life-on-hold, while her 91 year old mother (Right.Next.Door.) decides her next act. Emily’s days are filled with retail therapy, peddling real estate, and watching her friends on Bravo TV. She’s committed to throwing in the towel at 60, at which time she will joyfully end hair dying, weight watching and, working out. Find her (and Mom) at 50 Shades of Aging and on Facebook.