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The hard — but necessary — transitions of motherhood
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Lately, I’ve been feeling like I don’t quite have a place in the mommy world.

When my kids were little, I was one of the young moms. The moms who do playdates and plan fun outings and generally dedicate their day to their little ones. I would make crafts with my oldest during naptime. I was a regular at the McDonald’s drive-thru and park across the street. I was a mom of little ones. That was my identity.

As they grew, I was the mom helping in the classroom. Making elaborate Halloween cupcakes of owls and black cats. Doing jingle bell crafts at the Christmas party. I was the class mom. That was my identity.

But now, my two oldest girls don’t quite need me as intensely as they once did. They don’t need me to plan play dates because they just go play with their friends on their own. Their classrooms don’t need as much help. And while I still have a toddler at home bringing up the rear of our family, I feel like I don’t quite have the energy or interest in hanging out at the park with the new moms who want to talk about their first-born’s poop consistency. (No offense, young moms, with my first baby, I could talk for hours about a blowout.)

Basically, I don’t know what my mom identity is anymore.

Some of my same-aged friends are going through a similar transition. We’re not empty nesters yet — our kids still need us when they burst through the door at 3 p.m! But we’re also not in the early years of motherhood where it’s constant demands from babies.

We’re in this weird in-between land of motherhood where our identity is still mostly mom, but we also feel like maybe it’s time to reclaim some of the “self” we set aside years ago to do the whole stay-at-home mom thing.

For some of my friends, part-time work outside the home has eased the transition. For me, it’s come in finding more baby-sitting time for my toddler while I work on my book at home. The transition wasn’t easy because the core of who I am has been so wrapped up in being a full-time mom for the past 11 years. The guilt was very real at first. Was I shortchanging my youngest? Could I really balance my own interests with my kids?

The answer, of course, was yes. And not only was it yes, it was necessary. I didn’t like being in the no-man’s land of motherhood. I felt kind of useless.

What I’ve realized during my soul-searching during the last year is that the times have changed. I can’t stay forever in that wonderful but chaotic time of young motherhood where the little ones need you for everything from bum changes to boo-boos. They are growing up, and I have to grow, too.

I know my children will always need me. But those needs will (and should) change. My 11-year-old, for example, makes her own breakfast and sometimes dinner for the whole family now. But what she needs is someone to talk to at night, when she’s ready to finally open up. She needs me to listen about boys and mean girls and image issues and whether she should be texting yet.

And my needs have changed, too. I need to allow myself time on my own work, on my own sense of self. And that’s OK.

Motherhood constantly changes, and we find our place by changing with it. I know, that in a blink, I’ll be looking back on these transition days as my children leave our home as adults. But even then, they’ll need me. It may be for laundry and tuition, but still, I’ll be there.

And I’ll have to find myself again in that stage of motherhood. So, whatever stage you’re in, enjoy it. Soak it in. But also, when the time comes, don’t be afraid to let it go.

From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Erin Stewart discusses it all while her three children dive-bomb off the couch behind her. Read more from Erin, plus get info on her upcoming novel, "Scars Like Wings," at www.erinstewartbooks.com.
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