Entering the otherhood

Recently, I was searching for something to watch on Netflix and came across The Otherhood about three mothers who met in the school playground many years ago who get together to try to reconnect with their adult sons

It’s a nice feel good, happy/sad movie (well I enjoyed it). It struck me as I watched that I am moving into the “otherhood” of parenting with my eldest son. Another way to describe that is moving from participant parenting – where I am very involved in all aspects of his life – to observer parenting – where the opinions and thoughts of others are far more important to him than mine.

++ This one too: My top 3 parenting regrets and how to fix them ++

You don’t need me now

While watching The Otherhood and through my happy/sad tears there were two lines in the movie that really stuck with me: “You needed me then [when you were little], but you don’t need me now” and “You know who you are without me, I need to find who I am without you.

These two lines really sum up where I am at the moment in my adventure of life with my son. My son has been moving me to the sidelines, ever so gently, for a long time now. When he was little he turned to me, he would walk past his dad and come to me for everything. It’s been a long time since he needed me like that.

Not a lot in common anymore

My husband, on the other hand, is in the fortunate position of having something in common with my son. Their shared love of cricket is something they bond over and spend time doing together. Even if it’s just bowling to each other in the nets, my husband has a regular opportunity to still participate in my son’s life, even if it is just a little bit. 

“You know who you are without me, I need to find who I am without you.

I don’t have that regular shared experience with my son anymore. He’s right up against his final term of schooling, so our conversations are mainly around “what’s next”. It’s an equal-parts exciting and scary conversation, for both him and me. This includes a lot of thoughts for me around “what if”. What if he moves out, moves away, no longer needs his mum and more?

the otherhood - when your child grows up

Time for the next stage

I conceptually understand that this is exactly what is supposed to happen, we only have our children for a short time. However, now that we are up against it, I am not at all ready for this next stage. All he has known to date is the safe cocoon of school with a small part-time job and a little bit of extra work here and there in the holidays. To be facing the end of everything he has known is daunting for him, and terrifying for me.

I’m moving from participant parenting – where I am very involved in all aspects of his life – to observer parenting – where the opinions and thoughts of others are far more important to him than mine.

Now that my son is less than two months away from him finishing school, the drudgery of his early years feels like a lifetime ago. Yet at the same time it feels like I blinked and here we are, staring down the barrel of his graduation. Honestly, if I could click my heels three times to take me back to those little kid years, I think I would.

++ Always changing: How to adapt your parenting to support tweens and teens ++

The love is still there

Don’t get me wrong I know my son still loves me. There are even still times when he still comes to me, but it happens less and less. I am definitely not a huge part of his everyday life anymore.

If I don’t start finding who I am without my kids, when I fall off that parenting cliff in a few years the climb will feel much harder.

As I move into this next stage of motherhood, the “otherhood”, he is going to spread his wings and find who he is in the world. A world that won’t include me the way it has until now. There will be no more messages from school telling me he hasn’t arrived for the day, there will be no more parent/teacher meetings to keep me up to date with his progress, there will be no more phone calls organising “play dates or sleepovers”, though if I am truthful that stopped a long time ago.

The otherhood - my son is growing up and away

Not only have I been relegated to the sidelines of his life, I am grieving my sense of self. Who am I if I am no longer needed by him. As he finds who he is without me, a very exciting time in his life.  It is also a time where I need to find who I am without him. Fortunately I still have two at school, so I am not completely cut adrift. It strikes me though, that if I don’t start finding who I am without my kids, when I fall off that parenting cliff in a few years the climb will feel much harder.

How far away are you from the otherhood?

Feaure  by Lucas Sankey; 2 by Matheus Ferrero; 3 by Marvin Meyer 

Cathy O'Brien

Cathy is a writer over at lifethroughthehaze.com. When she isn’t writing about mental health issues, she is trying to find a way to write about her roller coaster life in such a way that her three teenagers – her son and twin girls – aren’t mortally wounded. She doesn’t wish to fund their therapy.  Cathy is passionate about anti-bullying, mental health issues and how to get through this game of life without rocking in the corner. In her spare time you will find her enjoying a cup of tea, a jam drop and crocheting.

2 Comments
  1. Cathy,
    Just want to encourage you, I’m about to launch my 5th adult child into the world. Adult children brings a whole nother specialness to your life and they do still need you, just in a different way.
    Finding yourself, who you are, well that’s exciting too, turns out you may actually really like keeping company with that person 😉

  2. I’m a few years away from otherhoodness, but I still keenly feel the move from ‘participant parent’ to ‘observer parent’. So insightful, Cath.

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