It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.
During those early, dearest days.
I did not dream that you had
A large life which included me,
For I had a life
Which was only you.
-Maya Angelou, Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me
A little over two years ago, my ex-husband and I drove our daughter to begin her freshmen year of college. I had eagerly awaited this day when my freedom would begin. I scoffed when the college provided a session on “Letting Go” for the parents of
freshman. After driving back to Brooklyn from Ohio, I dropped off my ex-husband and then took the Zipcar we‘d rented to the parking lot. The deed was done.
I expected to feel relief and a sense of lightness. What I experienced was nothing like that. Minutes after stepping out of the car and beginning the short walk home from the parking lot, without warning, I fell apart and broke down in tears. I felt like I had been fired/forcibly retired from the job that had defined me for years: “mother.” In an instant, I lost my identity.
My daughter is an intelligent, responsible, creative young woman, so there was nothing left for me to do; my job was done. For an intensely painful moment, feeling that I had fulfilled my purpose, I felt completely useless.
Now that my daughter is entering her junior year of college, I know that my place in my daughter‘s life continues. She calls for advice and, best of all, sometimes just to share some happy moment. What I realize, however, was how consumed I had been in the role of being her mother. It has taken almost two years for me to take my life‘s laser focus off my daughter and back onto the larger life that had been waiting for me.
What larger life is waiting for you?