This week, my schedule is jam packed with running my kids to all their different social outings and picking up extra kids along the way so each of mine can be entertained wherever we end up. I’m signing up for fall football and packing suitcases for summer camp. I’m doing all the things for all the kids so they can go other places.
Somewhere along the way, these children of mine stopped thinking they need me. In reality, they need me for every single thing. They’re elementary and middle school kids with active social lives, demanding sports schedules and the inability to drive — making me a "Mama in the Middle."
Can you relate?
We’ve shed the naivety and wide-eyed wonder of new motherhood. Our babies aren’t babies anymore. They’re rambunctious kiddos who can put their laundry away and unload the dishwasher, but they also have sarcasm for days. They’re happy to earn money for chores but have stopped wanting to kiss us goodbye in public places.
On the other hand, we’re not quite to the empty nest phase of life either. Our kids are still with us most of the time, unable to drive to their multitude of activities or manage life on their own. This is the phase of life where a lot of us — with a few years between kiddos — are juggling everything all at once.
We're toting diaper bags to soccer tournaments while simultaneously wrangling our toddlers and cheering on our middle-schoolers. We’re preparing for high school and preschool at the exact same time. We’re the parents who abandon our kindergartners at birthday parties, even when we don’t really know the parents because we’ve been there, done that and have errands to run while we’re down a kid.
We are not the moms doted on in grocery stores or at church with our good-smelling newborns and pudgy-thighed babies. We’re the parents getting side eyes when our 8-year-olds constantly announce how bored they are and our middle-schoolers flash attitude every time we tell them no.
We are not the moms with open schedules and free Fridays because our kids can’t drive themselves to events. We’re the parents giving up our once-wonderful weekend nights so we can pick up on time from the Twilight Skate. We’re playing taxi-driver to 100 different events all week long. We’re the moms sitting at stoplights, adding up the minutes we spend in the car, wondering if this is all life is now — the car.
It often feels like we’ve been forgotten or turned entirely invisible. Unless we’re doing something for somebody else, our kids tend to think they don’t need us or even want us around. We’ve stopped getting spontaneous hugs, cuddles and snot-nosed kisses. We’re just happy when someone remembers to say thank you.
This season is tough! And exhausting. Our energy is spent on everyone else. But it’s also wonderful. We’re watching these babies grow up into incredible people. With minds that think for themselves and hands that are learning to take care of their own needs. Yes, we spend a lot of time in the car, but in a few years those future self-sufficient drivers will be off on their own. These endless minutes are precious. We treasure the time we still get to spend time with them, even if that means four hours on the road every single day.
We’re Mamas in the Middle, and while this might be one of the hardest, busiest stages of parenting we have to endure, it’s also one of the most beautiful.
Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.