When my youngest daughter, Lily, went to kindergarten for the first time, I cried like a baby. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of things to do to keep myself occupied for six hours, or that I’d miss her uncontrollably… I knew I would be just fine. I cried because it was the end of an era. Watching the last of my five kids go to kindergarten meant the end of the baby phase, toddler phase, and even the little kid phase. I knew I still had many more years of parenthood in front of me, but this major milestone signaled to my brain that my job as a caregiving mom was slowly going away. And that thought made me miserable.
I had to start asking myself really hard questions…If I’m not a mom, then who am I? Does the joy I feel have everything to do with whether or not I am busy taking care of kids and making their lives better? The fact of the matter is that my kids had taken so much of my time and energy for the previous 16 years, I had a hard time figuring out what I was without all of that. Even though I still had a 6-, 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-year-old and my job as a mom was definitely not over, I felt a real need to get a jump start on understanding these things about myself. The more I thought and worked at this, I realized that there was a lot to me that I hadn’t really even explored over the last many years.
Fast-forward to about 3½ years later, my kids are now that much older, more capable, and need me that much less. One way that I’ve really seen this is with Kaitlyn and her type 1 diabetes management. When she was diagnosed at 3 years old, I did absolutely everything for her. There was not an hour of the day or night that I didn’t have blood sugar numbers and carb counts swirling around in my head. I felt like I had a newborn again, caring for her pretty much around the clock. It was exhausting! Now my girl is 14 years old and does so much more on her own. She’s pretty much self-sufficient when it comes to diabetes management, except for some occasional reminders and encouragement.
Seeing my kids become independent and self-sufficient makes me really happy, but at the same time, I miss those days when they needed me — really needed me — for everything. And although I’ve worked at understanding all of the other parts of myself that don’t include mothering, it’s a bittersweet feeling to watch my kids grow up into such great human beings.
So, because this had been on my mind, when Kaitlyn’s CGM alarm went off at 2 a.m. a couple nights ago due to a low blood sugar reading, I had a very different reaction than usual. Instead of grumbling and feeling frustrated that she was sleeping through her alarm and I had to get up in the middle of the night, I paused, and I relished the moment of looking at her beautiful sleeping face and knowing that for just that moment, she still needed me.
Whatever phase of mothering you’re in, I hope you can remember the happy and busy times of the past, look forward to all the new things that lie in store for you in the future, and really enjoy what is in front of you in this moment — for it truly is a present.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.