By Sometimes Mom
I have always been a bit of an old soul but becoming an empty nester several times over before age 30 is a little mathematically confusing. The truth is, I’m a foster mom whose children have reunified with their biological families. For the time being, we are empty nesters.
In a traditional “bird leaving the nest” situation, the child has grown up and gone off to college or landed a job and moved away from home. This transition is a slow and gradual process. By the time they leave, they don’t need their parents as much. And that’s the point of parenting, right? From the day they are born, they become a little less dependent each day. But children, even grown up ones, will always need their parents, they just begin needing them in different ways. Going from highchairs at the table and sippy cups drying on the rack, to an empty house overnight, however, without even the buffer of teenage rebellion, is a stark contrast.
To quote Kate Kennedy, host of the “Be There in Five” podcast,
“There’s a point where parents transition from managers to consultants”.
What a beautiful way to think about parenting and it is certainly true of my relationship with my own parents. When foster children leave our home, we are stripped of our management title, but sometimes, we are kept on as consultants. Other times, we are cut off completely.
Parent is both a noun and a verb, but when you’re no longer parenting, can you still be considered a parent? Besides the grief that comes with losing a child, there is an instant shift to a different phase of life. I don’t know if I fit in with the neighborhood moms anymore, but I’m certainly nowhere near my golden years. While I would love to get a condo in Florida and start taking cruises, I still have this pesky full-time job for the next 40 years or so. And, where does that leave me? Do I revert to my former self, the version that existed before kids? Would I even remember how to be that person, 8 children later?
So, I will proceed, as I have in the past, somewhere in the middle. In limbo between mourning the loss of my foster children and exploring some of the freedom that comes with having no care giving responsibilities. For now, I am taking a much-needed break to heal and grieve, a break from social workers and visits, appointments and trauma. Keeping my hard-earned parenting skills in my back pocket, should I need to break them out at a moment’s notice.
It’s strange, being a childless parent. There is no real term for it that I’m aware of. Parenting is not meant to be a role that you slip in an out of, but “Mom” is still a title I wear proudly, even when I feel I have nothing to show for it.