Matrescence 2.0

December 2002

I loved reading The Birth of a Mother in the New York Times, and not just because that photograph reminded me of one of my favorite photos of Grace when she was a baby (see above, December 2002).  I read the article, which asserts that matrescence (the process of becoming a mother – a word that I had never known and which struck me because it acknowledges that that is, indeed, a process) is important and under-examined.  I share this view.

What I’m living right now is not so much my own first matrescence – that took place a long time ago, and being a mother is firmly at the center of who I am.  It’s more the transition of my motherhood into a new phase, but it feels as material and as jarring in its own way.  I’m struck by how I read about maternal ambivalence and postpartum depression (which was very much a part of my own matrescence) and those feel long, long ago.  I’m entirely, absolutely, head-over-heels in love with my own children now, and don’t feel much – any – apprehension about those being the central relationships of my life (along with their father). Those early, complicated days, which I can recall vividly, but with effort, have faded into the background entirely.

The future, however, is full of uncertainty.  This moment may be defined by my own full-fledged embrace of motherhood, but I can’t escape the shadow of what’s coming. My reality is taking on a new shape. Grace is going to boarding school and our family life is about to change in a major way.  There is no question this is the end of something.  I realize this is the most first world of first world problems (and when I read books like The Bright Hour, I’m reminded to Get A Grip).

As soon as I got my feet under me as a mother, it feels like, this season is about to end. I know, I know, this is just another reminder that life’s only constant is change.  My children, at 12 and 14, are such entertaining people.  I love them, but I also truly like them. They’re my favorite human beings to be around, and they easily make me laugh, think, and, sometimes, yell and also cry.

Life’s ordinary rhythms have taken on an almost unbearable beauty.  The routine of morning wakeups, breakfast, and driving to school (3/4 of a mile so it doesn’t take long!) makes me cry every single day and I have to actively try not to count how few mornings like this we have left.  I am trying to be here now, I really am, but wow, it’s hard.

I realize that it is impossible that this transition is as much of an earthquake as Grace’s arrival, but it feels almost commensurately big. I think of Jon Kabat-Zinn, of his line that “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf,” I take a deep breath, I try not to look into Grace’s room where the folded piles of laundry I put there remind me that she still lives here, for at least a little bit more.  I try to appreciate the gorgeousness around me. No matter what happens, I will always be their mother. She isn’t going that far. I believe in the depths and fibers of my soul that this is the right next step for her.  I always said I wanted to raise a brave and a smart daughter, and here I am, watching her take flight. She is brave and smart. Everything is as it should be. I just didn’t know how much it would hurt.

April 2017

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  1. Posted May 16, 2017 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Oh, my heart breaks for you at reading this news. I know how hard the summers are with overnight camp, I can’t imagine letting go for the school year yet too. And then at the same time, I find myself reading about colleges and knowing that time isn’t that far off either. But you are getting there faster. I don’t blame you for your tears over the mundane. I’d be right there too.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you. She isn’t going to camp this summer, so we’ll have the whole summer, but I am really struggling! xox

  2. Posted May 16, 2017 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Oh wow, I didn’t realize she was going away to school next year. All this time, reading your words, I thought you were preemptively mourning her going away to college in a few years. Oh, I can only try to imagine how tough this is for you. I have always been one to delight in the daily routines, and I’ve found myself getting a little wistful about the ones that fall by the wayside as my children grow. I really really appreciate your words and your reminder to really BE IN and FEEL each moment because nothing lasts forever.

    admin Reply:

    I appreciate your saying this. I’m definitely struggling, but the only way I know how to live in this moment is to just try to be in it. xo

  3. Jane Kennedy
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Love this column, Lindsey. You’re definitely “brave and smart”. No wonder your daughter is, too. Enjoy every day.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much, Jane. I’m trying. xox

  4. Nadine
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I am still in Matrescence 1.0, so I can’t credibly say that I understand this particular challenge, but just imagining it makes my heart hurt and makes me want to send a big hug. I so admire you for not looking away, staring right at the hard things and soak them up, for not closing yourself off. I aspire to do that with my own children. Thank you for the inspiration. Much love to you!
    Also, thanks for opening my eyes to the beauty of peonies! I just discovered we have them in the front yard of our new-ish home, and cut some for the kitchen table. (Then my husband made me take them outside because they are loaded with ants…)

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. Sometimes I wish I could look away, I’ll be honest, but I can’t seem to figure out how to do that. I’m so glad you have peonies in your yard! That’s the best (the ants, maybe, not so much). xox

  5. Posted May 16, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Which boarding school? Will it be far away?

  6. Posted May 17, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    So beautiful and honest, like all your words. Love to you, Lindsey. xo

  7. Posted May 17, 2017 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I have never heard that word either! I’m having a weird experience myself with stages of motherhood. I have my big two and little two so I have my feet in two stages at once and it can be confusing to switch from one to the other.

  8. Melissa
    Posted May 18, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Tears streaming as I read this (especially since our children are also 12 and 14 and potentially experiencing major transitions this year). We are still in a liminal space as a family, having not yet crossed the thresholds, and I am feeling it all deeply. Appreciate your generous and honest sharing. Thank you. xo

  9. Posted May 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I went through this with my youngest when he moved away to a ski academy in 8th grade. My daughter is in college, and I will agree that it’s such a surreal feeling to have your children living away from you. I wish I had some words of wisdom, but I really don’t. I still miss her every day, and while my son eventually moved home, he leaves for college in one year. Such is life.