As a mom, you anticipate and think of the many milestones ahead in the lives of your children. We rush absolutely everything as if it is some sort of race in our accomplishment as a parent; a checklist of sorts for each “first”. It starts by reading “What to Expect…” when you’re pregnant, followed by infant and toddler expecting checklists. Looking back, I would give absolutely anything to delay those firsts and not be in such a rush to get to the next phase in the lives of my boys, and at times minimize each accomplishment as it was simply at or later than the “expecting” checklist.
The years they spend moving from one phase to the next seems like a blur and I cannot remember why I was in such a rush. Just when I became comfortable with whatever new skills they learned I was anxious for the next one. “Oh look! He’s crawling! I wonder when he will walk?” “I cannot WAIT until he starts Kindergarten!” “Thank goodness he’s driving now and I won’t need to be mom chauffeur for all of his activities” And on, and on, and on.
The books warn you as parents of the many changes your kids will go through and the many ways you can assist them through the learnings of life. You read articles and hear colleagues and friends talk about the separation anxiety you feel as kids go off to college and start navigating their way through early independence. The loads of laundry when they come home on weekends or feeling entitled to the car and zero curfew needs on holiday weekends at home as they argue they are “adults” who know what to do without mom.
I have now found myself in new territory without a single article containing words of wisdom and with friends and family giving me blank stares as I try to describe my anxiety as I am trying to understand this phase… What to Expect When Mom Moves Away.
Having moved over 1,500 miles from “home” this spring, this weekend I returned as a tourist in my former hometown with my young adult sons acting as tour guides and hosts. While I was beyond excited to see them it felt like an alternate universe from the moment I arrived at the airport and had to rent a car at “home” and felt like a visitor in a place that I had navigated as a native for over 30 years. The boys had asked if I would be staying somewhere where they could join me for a few nights as a little break from their own day to day and roommates and I was happy to do so. The request was also made for “mom cooking” so of course I went into full mom mode when picking out the perfect VRBO location for sleeping, cooking and acting as a central base for what I considered a staycation for all three of us even though I traveled to get here.
Emotionally, the changing of dynamics when visiting adult children in what was previously your hometown, but where you no longer have a home is really quite unsettling. I was thrilled to see my sons live and in-person and not “Flat Boys” via Skype. Hugs and laughs are infinitely better in person. I was not prepared for the shift in dynamics in how it feels… as I’m flying back to my new home-base now, I still cannot put my finger on exactly why the long weekend felt so different than just being home. Yes, I realize we were in a strangers home and not surrounded by our stuff, but it seemed like we tried to force so much into the weekend.
The first night I arrived late so just stayed in a hotel near the airport knowing I had some work calls and business to attend to in the morning. After completing the necessary corporate calls and emails, I checked out of the hotel and went to my youngest sons apartment to spend time with him and catch up on some more work emails. He had moved into his apartment about a month before my East coast move so I had been there a few times helping him get settled and of course bequeathing upon him several household items I’d deemed unworthy of making my move. It felt natural to be there and I felt immediately at home as we both went right to our pre-move routine with myself on a laptop and he playing Fortnight with a little banter back and forth as we found breaks in action on the screens in front of us.
Once I was done working and my son was done conquering his Fortnight opponents, we inherited his girlfriend and went to a favorite burger joint before a little local shopping. It was a great night, but I missed having my oldest son join us. He was following mom’s advice and not taking time off of work the entire time I was home…
The next morning found both boys and me meeting my dad for breakfast at our normal hangout. It was as though the last 3 months had never passed and it was a normal weekend morning at the café talking about our jobs, the weather and the new tricks dad was using to keep squirrels out of his bird feeder. He’s gone high-tech now with motion controlled sprinklers aiming right at the tree truck as the squirrels approach the feeder. I told him I was expecting his YouTube video link within days so I can help him go viral. As we are leaving the restaurant, this is when the perceptible shift occurred. Normally, the boys and I would part ways with dad and go home. We are standing in the parking lot as usual and asking each other what we had planned for the rest of the day – like we always did. The boys and I just looked at each other and said out loud at the same time we realized it “we have no idea”. I didn’t need to go home and mow. I didn’t need to do laundry. I didn’t need to go to the grocery store. The three of us just stood there looking at each other. Blankly. “Well, Devin needs to be at work at 2:00 so we have a few hours to do whatever the boys like.” It was at this moment I felt lost, off-kilter and absolutely unprepared for how it would feel to be home without an actual home to go to. I couldn’t do my normal morning routine of making coffee while they still slept. Playing with our dog while a load of laundry was going and planning the day in my head. I was home without being “home” and I had never felt more homesick in my life.