I had my girls when I was young. Being a teenage, single mother was tough. I wasn't in the best place financially or mentally. I hadn't planned on being alone with two children, but there I was. I counted the years until I could have my life back. It didn't belong to me. It was theirs. Every decision was filtered through that knowledge.
Finally, the younger daughter was a teenager. The older one was out of the house. She wasn't far away, but she was out. I began to think about what I would do with myself. During the countdown to their 18th birthdays, I never had any other goal or thought attached to it. It was like a mantra. "Only 5 more years until they'll be off on their own. Only 3 more years..." It was too vague and far away to contemplate. I would be "free", and that was the goal. Free to do what...I had no idea.
I take time for myself now.
I fall asleep when I'm tired. I don't have to wait up for anyone.
When I make dinner, I cook exactly what I want. I don't have to contend with picky eaters who hate everything that I love.
On my days off, I can read all day. Think about that for a minute. I can read ALL day without someone yelling, "I'm hungry! Why is there never anything to eat? (Even with a full fridge.) I need a ride. Can I borrow $20? (which is actually code for *you'll never see this money again.*)
I see them every day. The younger one is around every. single. day. She still borrows money. If my door is locked, she bangs on it to be let in. They are still very much "here" but I have the option to be selfish. It's liberating. My life is becoming my own again.
When children are eighteen and fly out of the nest, I always felt bad for those parents who were lost and confused when they had no one to take care of anymore. I knew I would revel in it. I'd be alone for the first time in 20 years. I would wrap my aloneness around myself like a fuzzy blanket and snuggle with it.
I get it now, though. It's like parents are leaving the nest for the first time, too. When I leave the house, I don't have to tell anyone where I'm going, or when I'll be back. Nobody calls me to demand I come back home to cook dinner for them. There's this big world out there, and I need to find my place in it. I'm still a mother, but they don't need me as much. It doesn't define me.
This might sound weird to some people, but I never had those early years to "find myself." (Boy, this sounds like a mid-life crisis. I won't be buying a Ferrari or dating a 20 year old!)
I can think about what I want to do with the rest of my life. Explore who I am. My whole future is ahead of me, and I'm still young enough to enjoy it!