by Jo Keroes
The best thing you can ever do for your kids is prepare them to leave you. If you’ve loved them and the gods smile on you all, they’ll take off for lives of their own, do it at a reasonable age, and return only to visit. It may be hard to believe that your children will ever be out from under your feet, let alone your protective embrace, but trust me on this (I’m a mother, but no longer a Mommy by a long shot): if you’re lucky, they will. And then what?
For a preview of what lies ahead, here comes Carin Rubenstein’s Beyond the Mommy Years: How to Live Happily Ever After After the Kids Leave Home . From a host of interviews and lots of research Rubenstein concludes that the empty nest is a crock, that very few women actually suffer from genuine lasting grief or depression when their kids depart. Instead, though they miss their children they’re more likely to experience relief and a certain exhilaration, not just that the kids are launched, but that their own lives, even parts of their selves, have been returned to them and that the departure of their children signals the advent of a vital new phase in their lives. She reminds us that the time after our children leave isn’t just a new chapter in a woman’s life; it’s a whole new book.
So what does it mean to reinvent one’s self, or at least to readjust our thinking and our lives to the reality that daily mothering is over? Rubenstein offers strategies for “rearranging your motherhood head,” embracing the reality that we will know our children as independent adults for far longer than we know them as children. In a style that’s sometimes just a bit too chatty-breezy she tackles helicopter parenting, marriage and menopause, friendship and work. About the latter, work, I wish she’d paid a bit more attention, but for an optimistic look at what lies ahead and how to adjust to it, Beyond the Mommy Years is a good beginning.