Several months ago, I met a woman at a potluck who, after we’d been talking for a while, confessed that she’d been reading my blog since “the Mexico days.” (I started blogging back in 2011, a couple years into my family’s four-year move to Chiapas, then Quintana Roo.)
She, like myself, was now navigating her mid-40s and the mothering of nearly-grown kids. As we reminisced about those idealistic years when, despite the endless chaos of raising littles, we were each still trying our very hardest to create as wholesome a family life as possible, a theme quickly emerged:
Those days were hard and often lonely, but parenting older kids is a special kind of isolating, in part because those of us who wrote openly and honestly about our early parenting challenges don’t feel good about sharing the very real, and often very heart wrenching struggles of our teen and young adult kids.
I am definitely in this category.
Protecting their privacy through the mindf*ck of adolescence becomes more important than sharing our/their stories, so most writers in this genre tend to start talking in generalizations about the trials and tribulations of later-stage motherhood, myself included.
This feels right to me, and yet so very wrong at the same time because it means that with life experience and wisdom comes more invisibilization and isolation. It means that those doing some of the heaviest lifting and most intense emotional labor out there are doing it without mentorship, without community, without signposts or lighthouses.
When your teen is having a mental health crisis (which can be a truly terrifying time), you can for sure google your way to articles about interventions and treatment plans, but where are the storytellers?
When your divorce gets messy and, like it or not, your kids’ lives are turned upside down (right alongside yours, yet in different ways than yours), sure, you can turn to your lawyer and your therapist (assuming you can afford either of these forms of support), but where are the storytellers?
When your kids start leaving home and your identity and lifestyle shifts so radically that you barely recognize yourself anymore, where are the storytellers?
I don’t have answers to this particular (and particularly heart wrenching) byproduct of villagelessness, but I do have loads of empathy, and I will say this:
It’s worth your time and energy; it’s worth the extra effort and the awkwardness to find your people, to establish support networks, and to grow bonds among mothers in a similar life phase to you (or in a phase ahead of you) when your kids are young.
Because once your kids are older and life gets messy in new ways, public storytellers become harder to find. The most supportive conversations tend to happen 1:1 and among small handfuls of safe-feeling friends.
Wishing you emotionally safe sisterhood that holds you through all the seasons,