Do The Math On Motherhood
In today's blog, Amy Burgess discusses the years beyond motherhood, encouraging mothers to discover who they are and how they can find their purpose in every season of their lives.
Do you see what I see there? You have HALF your life ahead of you when your children leave home!
I can’t begin to tell you how shocking this revelation was to me. There’s no use trying to explain my misconception. It’s basic math and yet I couldn’t see it.
When I was in the midst of daily Mom’ing, all I could see was the present. I’d like to say that I was so intentional and “in the moment” in a Zen kind of way, but that would be a lie.
The truth was that the basic reality of everyday life demanded so much attention, there was no space left for getting perspective.
Children grow up and change at such an astonishing pace, it’s all you can do to keep up. You’re constantly pivoting and adjusting and recalibrating just to keep from falling behind!
When I had little ones at home, I was fortunate to have an amazing mentor-friend who was further along in the mothering journey than I was. As her son neared the end of high school, she told me something profound.
“We get this idea that our kids are with us for 18 years, then they’re gone. But it’s not really like that,” she said. “They’re leaving us in inches from the day they’re born.”
In the beginning, our babies are completely dependent on us for basic survival. Before we know it, they’re feeding themselves. Then they’re getting dressed on their own. Then they’re making their own lunches, typing their own research papers, getting a driver’s license, finding a part-time job, hanging out with friends whenever they have a free evening.
By the time these kids actually leave home, they haven’t “been home” much for quite a while. And that’s exactly as it should be! Raising kids who are prepared to leave home is the whole idea, right?
And yet somehow it sneaks up on us. We never realize that the last book we read aloud to our kids was the last book we would ever read aloud to them.
We can only see the milestones we passed in the rearview mirror. They never seem to show themselves on the horizon as we approach them.
I always hated it when older moms would warn me that I would miss these days when they were gone. “Cherish these precious days! They go by so quickly!”
Those comments always seemed to come at the worst possible moment, when I was 100-percent wishing away the day I was in. So then, on top of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I also felt guilty for thinking, “I’d pay you $100 to make this day go by quickly.”
So that’s definitely not my point. I’m not here to guilt you about anything.
My point is more about the big picture, about how much time exists beyond those active-motherhood years. Once you see it-half a life stretched out beyond motherhood-I hope it adds some perspective for where you’re at, and where you’re headed.
When I chose to be a stay-at-home mom for a period, I thought I was choosing a path through the woods Robert Frost style. Two paths diverged-career or home-and I had to make a forever choice. I would never be given the choice again.
But it’s not like that. There are all sorts of crisscrossing paths in those woods! You can start on one path and cut through the woods toward another. Life is rarely as “either/or” as we try to make it.
No, none of us can guarantee how long we get to walk on this journey. But while we’re walking, the only rule is that we have to move forward. We can’t go back and re-read the portion of the path we’ve already walked, but there as long as we are still in the forest, we can keep moving forward, choosing new paths.
I have one friend who is pursuing an acting career now that her boys have left home. Her days are filled with auditions and film sets. She is having a fantastic adventure, and she never would have imagined it 10 years ago.
I have another friend who is going back to school to be a nurse because she wants to work with hospice patients. She has one son, and they will graduate and head off toward new careers around the same time.
Two other friends I know decided to launch a floral design business together. They’re navigating a whole new world of creating business plans, booking events, and promoting their business on social media. And they’re having a ball.
Another empty-nester friend has created a 5-year plan with her husband to eliminate debt, save money, then buy a camper van and hit the road as digital nomads. Will they really do it when they reach that fork in the road in 2026? Who knows? Who cares? Either way, just because they made the plan, they’ll be debt-free and sitting on a pile of cash that will give them the freedom to choose whatever path they want at that point.
I think if I could go back and tell my 30-year-old self something, it would be this: Relax. There’s time.
You’re not falling behind anything.
You’re not losing ground.
Read, explore new ideas, try new things as you have time and space for them. Pay attention and see what develops. Give yourself the grace to be where you are. There’s time.
What about you? What would you plan for if you knew there would be time to do it? How would it change your present?
Amy Burgess likes to think she's "done it all" when it comes to work and motherhood, just not all at once! She's been a stay-at-home mom, a part-time freelance writer, a full-time employee, and now a full-time marketing consultant and small business owner. Amy started the Beyond Motherhood project to create a space for moms who want to explore who they are "beyond motherhood," and help them discover how they can live with purpose in every season of their lives. Amy and her husband, Josh, have been married 25 years and have two adult children.