How I Feel Now That I Have Crossed Into Motherhood's Unnamed Territory

by Chris Dean
Originally Published: 

I’m standing in front of the mirror, staring at my reflection and trying to reconcile the face in my mind with the one in the glass. It’s almost funny how my brain still tells me I’m a young woman in her prime but, more and more lately, the mirror reflects back the face of my mother.

Not for the first time, I wonder how she managed to survive my brother and me without ending up in a padded room.

Not for the first time, I wonder how she survived the transition from stay-at-home mom to empty nester without locking herself in the bathroom and crying every day, the activity that’s brought me to my spot in front of the looking glass.

I don’t know how else to say this, but I’m lost. I’m a woman who currently resides in a state of limbo; no longer a child’s mommy, not yet the owner of an empty nest. I am the woman with the birdies who haven’t completely flown and the mom who’s no longer needed to help manage their lives.

Secretly I envy those who have already crossed this unnamed territory of midlife. I covet their lighthearted stories of phone calls with offspring and evenings spent alone with their spouse. I long for the days when the only voices (and laundry) I encounter are those belonging to my husband and me.

Right now, the closest life description I could give would be house mother for a fraternity. Although, maid for Animal House might be closer to the reality.

Either way, I’m no longer the one they seek out to kiss the boo-boos, celebrate life’s accomplishments or dispense advice. I am simply the woman in the background who runs the kitchen and makes sure there’s a path through the chaos to the basket of clean clothes.

I know this is the normal order of things, what’s supposed to come next. Even as I secretly acknowledge the hurt that’s come from this feeling of being unneeded, there’s also the pride of seeing the amazing people they’re all becoming. That’s the feeling that sustains me.

But right now, hidden behind the closed bathroom door, there’s just this in-between lost-ness as I wait for my next phase to begin and wonder, “What’s next?”

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