At 37 (Or am I 36? I keep forgetting until I do the math.) I am entering a new phase of motherhood with my children being more independent; I still cook their meals, encourage studies, listen to their conversations and hold them on the couch when they are still enough to allow it. There are other exquisite moments of mothering older children; hopefully they never outgrow needing me to be there for them when they need a good cry; hopefully they never forget that I’m only a phone call away, especially when that moment comes when they finally leave my nest and fly out into the world, growing into their own womanhood in their own right.

     My girls are old enough now to play outside with their friends, the oldest two old enough to walk through the neighborhood to visit friends’ houses. I used to imagine I wouldn’t be prepared for this stage of parenting, but I have not only welcomed it with my own sense of newfound independence, I have started to realize the importance of embracing it thoroughly. Even though I have fond memories I will always carry with me, the ones allowing me to know my children intimately and love them unconditionally, I am prepared to build new ones within this new stage.

     Perhaps if I was still in that wretched people-pleasing phase of motherhood, my children growing older would continue to raise my cortisol like those earlier baby and toddler years, a time when sleep was questionable and I traded dangly earrings for snot and slobber on my clothing. In those days, I cried on a daily basis over doing everything right…or trying too hard to show everyone else that I was doing everything right.

        For the most part, I have let go of preconceived notions about motherhood, figuring out quite some time ago that there is no one right way to go about this. I have done away with contradictory advice, donating to Goodwill my parenting books filled with someone else’s methods, and it is liberating! I have come to the conclusion that, considering my children are each a unique road map swimming within my own gene pool, my intuition and care is enough to get me through this adventure. I know that if I stress out about things too much, trying much too hard to do everything right, the entire adventure is going to suck. I’m not about to let this time pass by as quickly as everyone claims it will, and not enjoy myself along the way.

      One thing my children growing older is granting me is time for myself to discover who I am as a woman apart from being a mom and a wife; I have been a stay-at-home mom for twelve years, and a homeschooling mom for the last two. Next year my children will all be entering parochial school, and I have no qualms admitting my excitement over the opportunity this gives me as a woman to evolve into myself. I’m ready to embrace this as I would getting reacquainted with an old friend. While I will always love, care for, and be there for my girls indefinitely, I’m looking forward to catching up with myself again.