Can you describe parenting in one word?

It’s been a strange week. The reality of three children leaving home at the same time is dawning. It’s not all bad I can assure you. I’m already beginning to take more than a little delight in the quietness, lack of laundry, the joy of no ‘stuff’ strewn about the hall and the amount of time available for ‘Me’.

With just one young lady left at home, life is indeed ‘different’. While she who remains, is doing her best on a daily basis to keep up the volume of ‘stuff’ about the place, she is only one person, so will never quite reach her combined siblings low standards. While I’m slowly adjusting to the tidier, quieter house, I’m having great difficulty with meals. Each day I make dinner it is as if I’ve forgotten I’m cooking for three not six. As dinner time approaches I look at the overflowing saucepan of pasta, potatoes or rice, in despair. How can I get it wrong so often? Maybe that’s what mothers do? Prepare every day for the return of their missing children? If mine do return unexpectedly, I hope they’ll arrive around six o clock in the evening.

As the days have passed I’ve found myself forgetting, on occasions, that they are gone. I wait for them to get up, or to return home from work. I stop myself as I’m about to shout for one of them and sometimes when I return clean laundry to their room, I take a photo credit: cobalt123 via photopin ccmoment to sit on their bed and miss them.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called, ‘When the last door closes.’ It was about the night I went to bed and noticed my youngest child had closed her door for the first time ever, denying me a final look at her sleeping, before I went to bed. I remember that night clearly and now, over a year later I still dislike going to bed seeing all bedroom doors closed. Yet it was not a closed door that inspired this post, but an open one. For last night as I climbed the stairs, I saw the door of one of my missing daughters bedrooms, wide open. The room inside tidy and dark and very definitely empty. I couldn’t close that door quick enough.

The memory of that empty room stayed with me all day. I’m not overly lonely, but I do feel like a redundant parent of grown up children. As I prepared dinner (another huge one) I heard myself singing, ‘Slipping through my fingers’ by ABBA.

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake I let precious time go by
Then when she’s gone, there’s that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can’t deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well, some of that we did, but most we didn’t
And why, I just don’t know

The words cut through me and even though I’ve had a lifetime of great fun with my gang, it’s impossible not to feel regrets…for the little things I never did with them, the places I never took them and the times I didn’t appreciate small, magic moments.Lessons children teach us

Hearing that song always reminds me of one such magic moment. The musical, Mamma Mia, was out in cinemas and one afternoon I brought my four and the two ladies I minded to see it. We were all enjoying it when the time came for, ‘that song’ to come on. For a moment, sitting there, surrounded by my gang of little ones I felt so proud and privileged to have been their mum, and minder. As I watched Meryl Streep put nail varnish on her soon to be married daughter, I became her. I could imagine clearly the day those ‘little ones’ sitting beside me were no longer in my everyday life. They were’slipping through my fingers’ and being the big eejit I am I couldn’t stop my tears. My gang had eagerly anticipated this song, knowing it meant so much to me and nodded their heads, whispering and nudging each other, “Yep, she’s crying.” As they sniggered, I felt a small hand from the little one sitting beside me slip into mine. As the song continued, we sat there hand in hand and I wished that song would never end.

But it did, and time since has slipped by on a daily basis, bringing days, months and even years, when the one word I’d have chosen to describe my life as a mother, would have been from a list including the words, exhausting, challenging, lonely, frustrating, boring or trying. Now I know I too am aging. For I have joined those annoying older parents who say, “enjoy them while they are young.” I’ll never be quite so stupid as to say it aloud, as I haven’t completely forgotten how hard it all was, but tonight as I pass closed doors and empty rooms I will for a moment put on my rose tinted glasses and search for one word to describe the past twenty five years of mothering. It wont take long for it jumps out at me. It’s been FUN. Time has done it’s best to erase the bad memories and despite the changing world of mothering I’m living in, I have no doubt the fun in this house is far from over.

photo credit: via photopin (license)
Lessons children teach us
photo credit: cobalt123 via photopin cc

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39 thoughts on “Can you describe parenting in one word?

    1. Thanks Mona. It’s great to be able to look back, not have too many regrets and look forward to whatever ‘fun’ the future brings.
      It’s also great to go to bed and know a crying child is not going to wake me up. 🙂

    1. Parenting is tough, but it’s great to survive it and be able to look back with those rose tinted glasses.
      Cheers to a great future for both of us and our ‘little ones’

  1. What a beautiful post to address that empty/emptying nest. I thought I was prepared when it happened. Of course, I was not. Thanks for sharing such lovely thoughts on a very sentimental life experience. 💝

    1. Thanks. I think it’s something we think for a long time will never come but when it does it takes us by surprise. It does have it’s good points too.

  2. A beautiful, heartfelt and well written post. I have turned one room into a guestroom but that took awhile. The second one…I’m holding onto it like a shrine of some sort. He probably wonders why……then again, he probably knows. 🙂

  3. You have written this so beautifully. I forced my tears back because I am sitting with my toddler and young (2nd husband). There’s none of that for him yet but because I’m older, I dread that already. My 20-year old son has been forced (by me) for now to live with us so I can make sure he’s doing some studying and won’t be throwing his life away… My daughter didn’t grow up with me so her move to California didn’t really make a difference to me. But I do feel sad thinking of the inevitable far future. I am the breadwinner so I don’t get to spend much time with me 4-year old daughter. I really should. Thank you for posting this.

  4. My word is ‘elastic,’ as my late mother was so emphatic that love is elastic and so are parent/child bonds.
    (Remember times putting knicker elestic in with a safety pin? Well, I feel the parenting thing is a bit like that process – metaphoricalltly speaking!).

  5. this is beautiful, tric. i love the abba lyrics, they are perfect for this. the word that you chose is wonderful: ‘fun’. what better way to look back on it all. my word would be ‘rigamarole.’ lots of adventures, misadventures, doing the best we can, up and down and love and somehow we all made it.

    1. That’s perfect. It definitely describes not only a lifetime of parenting, but the day in a life of a parent. It reminds me of an Irish expression, ‘Rírá is ruaille buaille’ (reeraw is ruila buila) which is similar to ‘madness and mayhem’.

  6. I know that despite the compensations in reduced noise and washing, having the kids leave home is inescapably sad. I’m not looking forward to it when the time comes in my case either. On the other hand, just think of all those big Christmas gatherings you will be able to look forward to. With all your children plus your future grandchildren descending on your household for a week, you might easily have fourteen or more people under your roof all at the same time.

    1. Yes I have a friend who’s mother laments ‘they left single and came back in half dozens’.
      How bad, and yes it definitely takes getting used to but it’s not all bad. Time to find ‘me’ again.

    1. Yes I’m reminded of ‘For everything there is a season’ and after many years of ‘little ones’ I’m hoping to enjoy this new season, once I get used to it. I’m sure you will too.

    1. It’s easier to feel this way when I’m not exhausted and doing the same thing every day. I do think most of us spend a little time wishing we were through it when life is rough, but I also think most of us do appreciate it wont last forever.
      A few difficult hours will cure that lump in your throat and you’ll be ready to shoot them. 🙂

  7. Tric,
    I think my one word is rewarding. It can be a pain in the butt but through all the pain and sometimes heartache being a parent is always rewarding. I loved your blog today not only because it hit close to home when my baby finally left home for good but what I felt when each of my children left the nest for their own homes and lives. They come home but never to stay. You have stated exactly what it feels like to have an empty-nest. Thanks after I wiped my tears and washed my face I had to think of my word and rewarding is it. Hope you have a wonderful week my friend. ❤ Kat

      1. Your children may have grown up, moved out got married and have children of their own but they will always be your babies so yes it will always be ongoing until they put you in the ground so you will always be their parent and no matter what they think they’ll always be your children. REWARDING UNTIL THE DAY YOU DIE!!!!!! then even after that.

    1. Thank you. Like everything it eventually creeps up on you and the endless years you thought were ahead are behind you. However there are many days when you wish them away too. 🙂

  8. In a week when I am finding my oldest turning 6 so hard this post brought me to tears and reminded me to always remember the highlights each day because time goes so quickly. Privilege is my word….parenting is a privilege.

    1. I love your word choice. It’s perfect. I think, even in the darker days of parenting, I was always aware that it was a privilege to parent a child.
      Ah 6! That’s a lovely age. No longer a screamer, but very much a child.

  9. A very touching post. I know all about the doors too. Sadly my youngest, aged 12, keeps her door shut now too.
    Since Leah died I can’t bear to see her bedroom door shut and I always insist that it is left wide open.

    1. It’s what they do I suppose. I mix my children’s rooms sometimes open sometimes closed, pretending to myself they did it.
      I cannot imagine a permanently empty room such as you have with Leah. Do you find it a peaceful room to go into?

  10. Yeah although it is sad, it is also quite peaceful. We waked Leah in her bedroom with her music playing softly in the background, her pink fairy lights twinkling and her personal possessions visible – visitors commented on the aura of tranquility that they sensed as soon as they entered her room. We had family visitors recently and they slept in Leah’s room and commented on the peacefulness.
    Thanks for asking. ❤️

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