That's me in the hammock, inhaling a book that I'm hoping you will read too so we can all talk about it. It's titled From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life by Melissa T. Shultz.
Before we get to the book, did you notice who else is in the hammock with me? Nary a soul. There is yet another mother bird in the garage with two babies in the nest she built atop the garage door engine, but as far as my human babies, they've flown elsewhere for the summer.
I've written before about my struggle with this transition here and here. I was unprepared for the sadness that came each time one of the kids left. It never got easier. This fall, I face it again with my youngest departing. Only this time, I've got a guide. The book hasn't been out of my sight since it arrived three weeks ago.
Shultz herself is the mother of two children. She left her career after the birth of her second son, and embraced motherhood with such absorption and intensity that twenty years later, she lost sight of herself. And when they left, she said, "I was demoted from the best, most fulfilling, most challenging round-the-clock job I'd ever had, to a lesser still undefined role in my children's lives."
Shultz turned to writing, and for one year, wrote a blog for The Huffington Post called The Pre-Empt Chronicles. This book is a compilation of those posts, along with interviews, expert advice, and - my favorite - lists of succinct points that make you smile and think. My story is included in this book. The chapter on me is titled "An Inspiring Story of Rediscovery."
Page One's first word is "you" and indeed, Shultz never forgets that her audience is you, mothers and fathers both, who can't quite find your equilibrium in your shifting family dynamic. Shultz's advice is well-organized, sensible, very actionable, and given in a humorous conversational tone that entertains as it teaches.
And why should we listen to her? Oh man, because she does all the heavy lifting, delving deeply into her emotions, examining outside influences, and discovering universal truths that apply to all of us in periods of transition. In some ways, she does the hard work so you don't have to.
She is heartbreakingly honest, revealing her own mothering obsessions, like packing lunches for her children long after they could have done so themselves. She is a good Jewish mom who expresses love with food, and I got so hungry reading her book, I wanted to inbox her to ask for a sandwich. I am sure she would have made me one. You get a strong sense that she is a giver.
And you cheer for her when she begins to break that pattern. She learns to take for herself:
They're coming home for Thanksgiving in search of homemade meals, a warm bed, and sleep. So I've been thinking ... maybe I could leave town for a while?
I love my two kids with all my heart. It's just that while they were away for a few months and going through roller coaster changes, I've been going through a few of my own. And they haven't a clue. Why should they? They're focused on becoming the adult versions of themselves - learning, growing, thinking more independently, becoming more independent. That's why they're in school. To them, I'm Mom, and I'm always here, in this house, being Mom.
No surprise to me, when I last checked, From Mom to Me Again is currently ranked #1 on Amazon's New Releases. Buy it here. And if you get value from it, and I know you will, do Ms. Shultz a solid and leave a review. For new authors, that's gold.
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