She asked me, “Son, when I grow old
Will you buy me a house of gold?
And when your father turns to stone
Will you take care of me?”
~”House of Gold” by TWENTY ØNE PILØTS
Last week as we drove to Davis, California, to begin our spring break college tour extravaganza with our youngest son, I received a text from my eldest, a freshman in college, stating that he didn’t get into the dorms for his sophomore year and now needed to find a place to live. It was strange, how quickly this text set off all my Mama Bear alarms — my boy needs shelter! Get me to the airport! I must get on a plane and help him find a home.
In the meantime, the younger one struggled beside me as we walked for miles across college campuses, each one selling themselves and telling him how sell himself right back. GPA, SAT, AP, majors, minors. By the end of the week he was distraught, not only is he dreading the application process in the fall but worse, he honestly has no idea what he wants to do with his time and talent. He feels too young, at 17, to know the answer. He’s good at many things, but not one thing does he truly love.
Thus I split my mind and my heart, staying present for the younger one while texting the older one with apartment search advice. No, I won’t be taking the next flight to Portland, he can figure this out on his own. And no, I can’t write my younger son’s essays or chose his major (though I think he’d make a fine pediatrician). These are the moments when they leave my side to become men of their own.
Men of their own — how those words make me tremble. Time, it seems, has flown by and now I find myself running out. I miss the eldest so much, how will I survive missing them both? Yet this is what success in my field looks like — children flying the coop is the end goal in the work of raising children, and in a year and half, this stay-at-home-mom will find herself unemployed.
Yes, the parenting continues, but for me the job description of stay-at-home-mom means tending a household where children grow in love and peace. We will continue to need each other, and as we all age new relationships will form. But no longer will they live with me and even if they do return after college, the job of tending a home no longer requires a SAHM. As my husband said the other day, there’s no meaning in the cleaning. At least not for me.
I find myself in a constant state of sentimentality, remembering the past not as the good old days, but as the beginning of something profound, even if it was blanketed in uncertainty. And these moments now have the same uncertainty. It feels familiar, indeed as my friend put it, they are bookend experiences.
Which is why I often spend time in my library, glancing at where I’ve been and trying to uncover a glimpse of where I’m going next. I sense that a path of wisdom exists at my fingertips, if only I can connect the dots.
I left my software career to raise my sons seventeen years ago. I have been many things since then — writer, movement educator and student — but mostly I’ve been a mom and all other work has either been left behind, or molded to fit around the kids’ schedules as they grew and changed. In the beginning, I really had no idea what I was doing but a few years into the SAHM gig, with the help of Bob Dylan, I penned a very simple mission statement: To create a shelter from the storm where each member of the family can retreat from the crazy world around us. This meant that for me to provide love, nourishment and safety, I needed my own sense of balance and strength, and thus began a new sort of schooling, one in which I could thrive intellectually while tending to the children’s very physical needs.
Like the smarty pants I am, I began to study. Seventeen years later, a brief look at my ever growing library is a jaunt not only down memory lane, but also a chronicle of the curriculum I’ve stumbled upon along the journey.
The moment I gazed into my first son’s eyes, I knew without a doubt that while I knew what sort of mother I didn’t want to be, I had no idea who I wanted to become, other than to keep him fed and alive at the end of the day. #lifegoals? I think not. So I took to the books, praying that I would find the advice I needed most.
The SAHM job started out with surviving not only the loss of career and identity, but also the job itself. Enter M. Scott Peck and T. Berry Brazelton. From there, more parenting books combined with mindfulness, which led me to Jon and Maya Kabat-Zinn. Breastfeeding, nutrition, sleep and play filled my days and my bookshelves as well. Social development led to a Waldorf playgroup, which led me to Anthroposophy, Goethe, Steiner and eventually the evolution of human consciousness. While the boys grew, I became a movement educator, sometimes working full-time, other times on a limited basis, dancing and playing not only with my own children, but others that would I also grow to know and love. With the help of The Artists’s Way, I began to write, first as a way to journal and understand my complicated feelings about the SAHM job, and eventually to entertain myself. My first book, A Mother’s Joy, is strange to read now. I can barely recognize my early motherhood voice, but I appreciate her eagerness to invest in herself and her children.
Evan Harris Walker’s The Physics of Consciousness, would eventually inspire me to write my first novel, eHuman Dawn and launch my blog, eHumanity. From there I discovered transhumanism, cryptocurrencies and of course magic, both fictional and practical. For while the first half of my SAHM days involved reading the entire Harry Potter series out loud, twice, as well as the Lord of The Rings, Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time, I also indulged in the likes of the Merlin Trilogy, Mists of Avalon and The Name of the Wind. These stories, steeped in archetypes and myth, would introduce me to Joseph Campbell, Jung, The Goddesses in Everywoman, and The Women who Run With the Wolves.
Which brings me to this moment, where I find myself poised in between two worlds — the householder and the empty nester — so cozy in my home and so ready to spread my own wings and fly. Now I find Braiding Sweetgrass and anything written by Charles Eisenstein on my bedside stand. The pull home is lessening, as it should, replaced instead with a draw from the world at large. Many said that the world wouldn’t wait for me while I stayed home to raise my sons, but honestly, that just isn’t true.
The world may have different technology now, but the concerns and the work are the same, and I feel more prepared than ever to roll up my sleeves and step into my next role. I learned a lot as a SAHM, not just from the loving and screaming (ah, losing one’s shit is always a great life experience), but also all the wisdom I’ve been exposed to through books, teachers, friends and students. The world in desperate need of workers and I know how to work. Being a SAHM is a 24/7 job, until it isn’t. One day they’re sitting on your lap while you read stories, the next they’re looking for apartments and wondering what career they will make of their own.
I spent the first two years of my SAHM gig wondering how in the world I was going to live with my sons — such wild and unknown creatures. Now, as the job winds down and I face unemployment I wonder, how in the world will I live without them?
As I look out at the world around me and take a deep breath, I realize I’ve been here before. I left the nest to begin my own life when I was their age. Now I leave the nest I built as they fly away, not to follow them, but rather to go where wisdom calls, for there is truly so much more to learn.*
*I’ll probably need another library. Good thing my husband is so handy.
Like what you read? I write novels as well. Pre-order my latest, Origins, a story about the last native king of Ancient Egypt and his quest to reclaim the crown from the Ptolemaic Empire. Learn more at nicolesallakanderson.com.