Struggling to find my purpose after being a stay-at-home mom

cup of coffee on wooden table

By Laura Carraro

In the morning, every morning, I sink into my down filled sofa with a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up. I only mean to stay there for half an hour, but the time goes by. This is the same deep cotton couch on which I used to read stories to my children and where my older son’s first girlfriend sat when he brought her home to meet us. I try to organize my day, but what is it that I have to do? I make a second cup of coffee. 

Once, this time of day would have been busy with sandwich making and walking the dogs, helping to fill up backpacks. I would have been yelling at somebody because they had misplaced their library book, again. 

Today, as the sun begins to rise, I am motionless, watching a puddle of light appear on the living room rug. The cat finds this spot and rolls in it. I can hear her purr from the pool of sunshine.  

Eventually, parents with their giggling young children arrive at the bus stop just outside my window. I have started to dislike the pssssht of air being pushed from the hydraulic brakes of the bus. It had been part of my timetable for years, along with our town’s noon whistle and the sound of the screen door snapping closed at three o’clock. Now the school bus makes me feel old and left behind.   

I get up for a third cup of coffee. Decaf this time. I grab my laptop and glasses and check to see if anyone has sent me an email. No. I do a Google search: How to Get a Life, The Next Chapter, and The Empty Nest. There is plenty to read. I am not alone. Try gardening, one site suggests. My throat burns as I remember growing tomatoes and zucchini with my second born, holding him up to reach the tips of itchy vines. I consider going to the gym, but I would first have to join one. Maybe I’ll call someone for lunch. None of the activities that I can think of are interesting to me. My suburban home, the community, and the activities that have formed my life for all these years are chewed-up gum. I want to be stimulated, so immersed in something, so busy that I can say to someone “where has the week gone?” 

For a stay at home mom, experiencing the empty nest is like getting out of prison after doing hard time. You finally have the freedom you have been dreaming about for years, but you don’t know what to do with it. You have forgotten how to live in the free world. Perhaps if I had worked this would be easier. I tell myself that I should not have thrust myself full throttle into being the woman behind the man. My children would have been all right. What difference did all those homemade brownies make, the book fairs, and the PTA meetings? The kids still leave. They’re supposed to.

I remember, about eighteen years ago, a morning when my baby had been howling with the pain of an ear infection all night. My tireless two-year-old was screaming to go to the park. I wore my flannel pajamas; the ones with rose buds printed on them, the ones that fit with my extra baby weight. I smelled of the spit up and strawberry-flavored liquid Tylenol that spotted my top. We all three were crying, and the only way I could stop was to tell myself “When these kids grow up I am going to buy myself a white suit.” I imagined showing up places alone in my white suit, stain free, pressed and elegant. I would be as chic as Yoko Ono. The thought, at the time, gave me great solace. Now while I sit in my living room I keep wondering where I would go in this white suit. 

Laura Carraro spends her newfound free time writing and illustrating. She and her husband are very happy when their grown children come to visit.  

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