On not being needed

by haywardhelen


It doesn’t happen for very long. Nor very often. But, unlike a couple of years ago, once in a while there is no-one who really needs me. I still have two teenagers who like me to be at home when they are. But they don’t need me to be there in the way they once did. They know my mobile number – and where the band aids are kept.


Ever so slowly I’ve been weaning my children off me – pushing them off into the deep end of life. I always knew this would be difficult. And it has been. However what I failed to anticipate was how I would feel to not be needed after seventeen years of being indispensable as a mother. It has cut both ways. I am in the process of weaning myself off being needed, just as much as I’m weaning them off needing me.


Of course during the past seventeen years I’ve moaned about not having time to myself. I’ve minded being less ambitious than I might otherwise have been. And I’ve often resented that it was nearly always me, and not my husband, who was on call to our children.


But there has also been an upside to feeling needed. It has centered me to be there for my children, to put my concerns aside in order to focus on them. Experiencing life from their point of view has meant that for a long time – often until they were in bed at night – I was liberated from the demands of my ego. It wasn’t my life, it was our life – and a deep part of myself liked it that way.


But lately I’ve had glimpses of bright light at the end of the tunnel. Very occasionally I’ll arrive home in the evening, and apart from the dog exploding with pleasure and relief, just an empty house greets me.


My mother warned me about this. ‘It will all be over before you know it’, she cautioned, ‘by which time you’ll wonder what it was all about’. Not exactly an inspirational thought on her part, but heartfelt.


There’s a way in which the better you do your job as a mother, the less there is to show for it once you’ve done. Of course the gratitude is real – as much from me to my children as from them to me. But somehow this doesn’t quieten the ‘Now What? question that forms in my mind when there is no one else at home to cook for.


I’m not at the end of the tunnel yet. There are still a few more years of being pretty much indispensable to come. But I’m close enough to realise that what comes next won’t be more of the same. Not having kids at home will mean a different sort of life. A new dawn. And, just as my mother suggested, it’s an exciting and scary prospect.