Monday, June 04, 2007


Have you ever noticed that men don’t change? Okay, yeah, that’s a broad generalization, but here’s the thing; my husband went to the optometrist a few days ago where the employees spent forever trying to convince him to change his frames. After a short lifetime he ended up with eyeglasses infinitesimally different than the ones he’s worn since the day I met him twenty-eight years ago. Which got me to thinking--why?

Why do women change their styles, their shoes, their hair, their thinking with astonishing regularity while men can plod along for years with little visible change? And here’s what I came up with--it’s biological. We can’t help it. It all starts with menstruation. The monthly flux sweeps us along on its usual crazy course, hitting the highs and the lows and the tears and the insanity with lunar regularity whether we want it to or not. And that affects everything. How we think, what we feel, how we react.

Guys, on the other hand, are…well guys are pretty much always on the ‘GO’ hormone aren’t they?

But for women there’s pregnancy, post parturition madness, nursing, weaning, and all the anxiety that goes along with seeing our kids leave home.

Okay, that’s the crux of this whole blog--kids leaving home. See, my daughter just graduated yesterday. My ONLY daughter. My last child. And I’m trying to figure out…where does a mother go from here? The rest of my life is looming, towering over me like a menopausal thundercloud. While my husband is just kind of skating merrily through it all. Because let’s face it, his life won’t change drastically with her exodus. He hasn’t centered his universe around her very existence. After she’s scooted off to college (leaving me awash in her wake) he’ll get up, go to work, carry on just like he has since the day he graduated from college.

I, on the other hand, feel like I have to reinvent myself completely…again. Figure out who I am. Find a purpose. Do you know what I mean?

So…ladies…tell me…what now? Do I just get a new hair style and soldier on or how exactly does one handle THIS change of life?


Helen Brenna said...

Lois, you'll be a grandma before you know it, and all will be well again!

Keri Ford said...

My mother never went through that empty nest thing. I think she enjoyed the quiet of not having teenagers running around. And then, having a house that stayed cleaner was a bit plus!

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, I think you've hit one of the real traumas of our culture and modern society. What to do with all the life left after our primary biological function (mothering) is over. Yes, there will probably be grandmotherhood, but believe me, that's not a given these days or necessarily a major time sink, depending on where you and the grands live.

So yes, you probably do have to reinvent yourself. And the key to it is in the word you used: "again." Because, when you think on it, by the time we've reached 40+ we've probably "reinvented" ourselves several times already. Change is an ongoing process, even though we often ignore it until the recognition of it is thrust upon us. We're always changing, always growing, always becoming. And that's a good thing.

Yes, there'll be hormonally influenced feelings of loss and regret at the fledglings leaving the nest, but there are probably equivalent feelings of pride and accomplishment and freedom to counteract them. We may look back in longing for those sweet times when our little ones were home and safe under our wings, but there are new aspects of relationship to explore with them and new ideas and experiences to discover.

Besides. . . paying college bills helps remind you that--though they've graduated-- they're still yours for several years more!

Yeah. . . a new hair style helps.

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- I so feel your pain! I don't have a daughter but I did have an only child and was so surprised at how conflicted I was when he toddled off to college and life!

But what I found out since that happened is that there is the yo-yo period. They keep zooming off and zooming back. If it's not laundry, you have to fix a shirt for them. If it's not a favor, it's a joke they heard they just have to tell you or a movie review they call to give you.

That helps. But you still need the reinvention of your life because it revolves differently now. If you don't reinvent and find new things that fill you up with that same sense of purpose, then you just go on tilt way too often. (g)

I took up quilting. :) And when you're done you can wrap them around you and they don't go off and have their own lives unless you give them away.

Diane in Syracuse said...

Congratulations on having done so well that you got your daughter into college! I'm sure you will stay close, but I hope you'll become differently dependent on one another - I had a friend in grad school whose mom called her daily, which was a little weird (and said little for the state of the mom's marriage). Another friend's dad kept wanting her to do things with him (ditto).

Are there others you can mother? Heaven knows there are plenty of young people who could use more caring adult inflence in their lives. From scouting to religious youth groups to literacy volunteering, I'm sure your community offers lots of opportunities!

Best wishes!

Oh, and some of us never do change our hair. Mine's been the same for about 20 years, and the only changes are NOT of my volition. Once I've got something that works, I tend not to alter it (with the occasional exception of food - but I still make lots of my mom's recipes, too).

Michele Hauf said...

The way I see it, you have a few options:

1) adopt a new child (I know, I tempt you fiercely.)
2) buy more horses (to keep you busy)
3) stow away in your daughter's luggage when she moves out.
4) wear widow's weeds in mourning for the loss of your children (no they're not really gone; and yes, you can so work black)
5) see your friends often, throw many parties for yourself, and celebrate the you that maybe you've yet to discover


lois greiman said...

Diane, I think about adopting a lot, but I don't think my husband's up for it. But I do have a bunch of 4-H kids that keep asking me to continue as coach. It seems so sad though to be there without my own little people.

I didn't realize the trouble with raising my best friends.

I like the idea of quilting, Debra, and the thought that they don't leave you, but I just made a quilt, one I had promised my daughter when she was six. That's right. six. I promised it would be done by the time she graduated cuz we used little scraps of her life to make it. The last two days before graduation were pretty much nothing but quilting, but I got it done...and when I say 'I', I mother...who actually HAS those womanly skills. Anyway, no more quilting for me until I'm too senile to remember I hate quilting...which may be soon.

So I think it's down to reinventing myself as Betina the Wise suggested. But doesn't that have to just kind of happen organically? It doesn't seem like it's something one can force.

lois greiman said...

Hauf, I like you. And the widow's weeds--not a bad plan, but daughter reprimands me when I wear all black. Course, she'll be gone won't she????!!!

Laura Vivanco said...

Men do tend to go bald and/or grey and quite often develop paunches. The main difference is that fashion tends to be aimed at women, so women are encouraged to change their appearance. Appliances/gadgets/cars are more often marketed towards men, so perhaps that's the area in which men are more likely to seek out change.

As for motherhood, I'm not centering my existence round it. A long time ago I heard this quotation from Kahlil Gibran and it expresses how I feel about my child:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls, [...]
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

Susan Kay Law said...

Lois, you know what my solution was. I had a kid ten years after the others, postponing that moment for another decade.

I figure, by the time he leaves, I'll either 1) be a grandmother, neatly transferring the problem or 2) be too old to care.


Kathleen Eagle said...

Lois, it's not nearly as hard the second time they leave home. The third time you help them pack for it. By the fourth time you're thinking if the real estate market wasn't in such a slump you'd put the house up for sale and move into a nice little one-bedroom condo.

FIONA said...

Dear Lois,

Congratulations! Gettting a child all the way through school is a major achievement.

If you feel that your nest is too empty, consider hosting an exchange student. There are several good programs, and you will get to relive the senior year again.

We will be getting our 9th exchange student in mid August. Every one has been an adventure--and you get go give them back at the end of the year. Some are harder to give back than others!

Kathleen Eagle said...

And speaking of menstruation, what does anyone think of the new pill that's supposed to eliminate it altogether?

I don't have to worry about it anymore for myself, but I personally think it's a big mistake. For one thing, I think you should limit the amount of your lifetime that you spend on the pill. Anything medical that's "made for a woman" inevitably seems to get the oops asterisk attached a few years down the road.

God knows there's a reason for menstruation, and I'm sure She'll tell us what it is when we get our halo and wings. Meanwhile, I don't think it's wise to fool with Mother Nature too dang much.

What does anyone else think?

lois greiman said...

I see now that I've made a host of mistakes.

I got too attached to my children, which I wouldn't have done had I spoken to Laura first.

I didn't have a child ten years later--good thinking, Susy.

And I've hosted no foreign exchange students...which I might consider.

Fourth time, huh, Kathy? That's a lot of times. Even I might consider moving out by then. And the pill thing!! I'm with you, it sounds like a bad idea.

Susan Kay Law said...

Kathy - I think that we should come with an off switch, that's what I think. I'm done with my reproductive organs; why are they still bothering me?

My doctor and I had this conversation at my last check-up, while I was stirruped-up.

She says it makes her question intelligent design, that our ovaries aren't simply delivered with the last child.


Laura Vivanco said...

I suppose she was joking, because pre-menopausal ovaries produce a variety of hormones, including oestrogen which, among other things, helps retain bone density. Even after menopause the ovaries continue to produce hormones: 'the ovaries continue to produce some testosterone after menopause, albeit at a much lower level then when we were 20. This matters because hormones affect libido.' (from here).

Susan Kay Law said...

Yes, of course she was joking. I was whining. We're the same age, and we're both done with babies. I does seem like there should be an easier way though, doesn't it?


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