I had just gotten up and admittedly wasn’t quite fully awake when my husband soberly informed me that our eighteen-year-old daughter’s car had been vandalized during the night. I stood there in the chilly kitchen trying to take in the specific details of the minor crime…worst was the insulting graffiti written on her windows. A myriad of conflicting thoughts and emotions ran like a freight train through my brain, some of which I am ashamed to confess were of the reprisal sort.
As a mother of three young adult daughters and a teenage son, I take my parenting task to heart, always have done. The better portion of the last twenty plus years has been spent investing in the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of my offspring. So standing in my kitchen on that blustery winter morning, I was in part upset with the situation and in part frustrated with my own reaction – the temptation to disengage was overwhelming. In talking with other mid-life moms whose own sons and daughters are at that “jumping off” stage…I find a common thread. It’s called premature disengagement.
To successfully “disengage” a mother eyes the problem, large or small, and within seconds has made a choice. Will she or won’t she? Engage her heart, mind, and soul into the issue at hand. At this point of life, this mid-life juncture, women see vistas opening up before them. And we wonder, during those fleeting decision-making seconds, whether we are going to re-invest ourselves (yet again) into our family’s problems or no. It’s so much simpler to deflect, diffuse, or deny a problem exists.
Former Toledo resident and director of Changing Lives International, Dr. Paul Tripp, comments on familiar life (35-55) themes that are characteristic of this mid-life struggle in his book, “Lost in the Middle.” Writes Tripp, mid-life (ers) often feel a growing dissatisfaction with their lives; they become disoriented as long term responsibilities shift, change, or are removed. There is frequent discouragement as cynicism takes the place of once youthful expectancy; dread of physical aging can be coupled with disappointment over unfulfilled or dashed dreams. Finally, the lure of finding the missing “whatever” to tip life back into what was once deemed meaningful also asserts itself.
So what’s a mid-life mom to do when faced with life transition overload and the desire to retreat looms large? (And according to Dr. Tripp, this mid-life journey is universally similar in its manifestations.)
- View life with a seasonal perspective, this day’s opportunity to impact a child’s life will never again present itself in quite the same way, so make the most of every chance to offer guidance.
- Resist the “only if I have something tangible to show for my efforts” is it worth my time mentality; remember that investing in people always pays the highest dividends.
- Stop the wearisome “not this again” mindset before it takes hold and approach familial issues with the same acumen and fresh energy extended to business or professional endeavors.
- Bank on past successes as the foundation to endure present challenges; don’t waste life today by borrowing on tomorrow’s uncertainties.
- Remember that oft-bestowed motherly advice, a job isn’t done until it’s done, so stay at the parenting task until it’s completed.
Article by Michele Howe