Young moms are so fortunate today to have many ways to connect with other like-minded moms. There are many good resources encouraging moms not just in the day to day details of motherhood, but in growing in Christ and expressing their own theological ponderings. When I was a young mom, I was blessed to have opportunities for fellowship and prayer, but any really deep theological reflection was rather a solitary pursuit. I am so thankful for the voices out there which remind us of the important calling of motherhood. I made my children my priority when they were at home, and I don't regret it one bit.
But what happens when motherhood changes? Because it does change. Our children leave, sometimes to very far places. I have a friend whose son is in Asia serving as a missionary. That's far. When I feel like I miss my kids, I try to remember how little she gets to see her son and her gradchildren. And aside from the physical distance, there comes a time when we simply do not know everything going on in our kids' lives. My children have friends whom I don't know. They have things in their lives of which I am simply not a part, and that's the way it's meant to be. I'm still their mother, but motherhood now is less about teaching and more about sitting back and letting them go, knowing when to speak and when not to.
The transition from having kids at home to having them gone is difficult, whether a woman works outside the home or not. The focus of her life changes a great deal. Suddenly, there is no one coming home at 3:00, no one to wait up for to meet his curfew. It's easy to feel like one is less than a mother because her kids are gone. And don't even get me started on the temptation to read "gospel-centred mothering" posts, which make us older mothers feel like we didn't really know what we were doing. It's tempting to compare ourselves to younger mothers who sound like they have it all together, whereas, in our day, with our landlines and coffee clatches, we were fairly ignorant.
I have been in that position, where I have read the posts of younger moms and found myself feeling like a failure. The solution was easy enough: stop reading them and focus on other things. I have started to give myself over more to my studies. I finally have enough silent hours in the day to pursue seminary education. I can work all day without interruption if I want (something I plan to do once this post is finished). I can hang out in the library without feeling like I need to rush home for someone. It's a wonderful time. The best week I've had recently was when I was in school from 9:00-4:00 for five days in a row. It was great. And I was able to do that without worrying about what was going on at home.
I have also found joy in encouraging young moms. In addition to teaching the Bible, I just like to hang out with them and lend a hand with their kids when they need it. Recently, I had a blast with three young kids while their parents did some work in their home. We went on the swings and the slide. We ran through the baseball park, pretended we were lions in the batting cage, and went on an imaginary quest through the park. I was wearing my Fitbit that day, and I burned 1100 calories during that visit. I'm not doing a lot of conscious "mentoring," or anything ultra spiritual. I'm just being there.
The important thing is to find something and give ourselves to it. Perhaps that is grandchildren, and that's wonderful. I hope that happens for me, but there is also a real possibility that grandchildren may live far away. People are having children later, and what's a woman going to do? Stand around and wait? Just as there is more to womanhood than children, there is more to older womanhood than grandchildren. We have opportunities to reach out in so many ways, whether it's mentoring a young mom, or how about a woman with no children? Or a single woman? I often think those women are an untapped area of ministry. Whatever it is, we just need to ask God to give us something to do. He will do it. And when we are stewards of what he gives us, we not only have full days, but we grow as well.