From Mom to Me Again – Book Review
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Do you ever ask? What do I do now? I have spent 18+ years of my life nurturing and guiding my child, only to work myself out of a job. I can't even remember what my hobbies, desires, and dreams were before I had kids. What now??? The book, From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived my First Empty Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life by Melissa T. Shultz will help you answer these questions.
Ms. Shultz is an author and acquisitions editor for Jim Donovan Literary. She has written about health and parenting for many publications, including the Huffington Post and the New York Times. She is the mom to two grown sons. Her book follows her transition from the college search with her two boys to a nest without kids. She does not mince words – she covers it all, from Wallowing in the Past and on the Couch to Finding the Right Path to Reinvention.
The introduction, It Happens to the Best of Us, and Part One, Letting Go of the Mothering Instinct, make clear that the process of separation needs to begin before your child actually leaves home. My favorite quote from these sections is:
Adolescence, contrary to what many parents think, continues until your child's mid twenties. During the years when they are preparing to leave home, the experts say our role does not and should not go away, but instead, it needs to shift to that of mentor – someone who can help them sort of what's happening and why it's happening without making all the decisions for the them.
Part Two, Wallowing in the Past and On the Couch,” are the empathy chapters. She's been there. She quotes others who have been there. It is a shocking transition when the last child leaves home. If nothing else, your routine has been completely upended. Spending time worrying if you did enough, if you taught them enough, if you helped them transition enough are normal, but we can't stay stuck there. At some point, we have to shift our focus to the rest of our lives.
Searching for a New Life With Meaning is the third part of the book. She begins covering the “what nows?” Even if you work full-time, you will find yourself with time on your hands that you have not had before. If the majority of your time before your child left was spent assisting with and watching their activities, you will have a considerable amount of time. Your new normal will involve new routines, activities, dreams, and goals. Interestingly, Ms. Shultz spends a chapter discussing some of the things that may hold us back from moving forward – things that we may have been able to repress while we were rearing our kids, but now become stumbling blocks to achieving new goals – such as the impact of our own parents on our lives and thinking. She then emphasizes improving our outlook and resilience. I love this quote:
One of the basic tenets of psychology is that what you focus on grows in significance. So if you're focusing on something negative, it can cloud all your thoughts. To bring about change, especially during times of change, such as when your children are leaving home, begin by shifting your focus away from how difficult you think it will be to adapt to their leaving to more positive and productive thoughts. What do you want to change about your life? What are you curious about? The experts say if you can shut out the negative noise, envision what you want, and pursue an interest, you're well on your way – intentionally moving toward something instead of intentionally staying still.
The last section of her book is Finding the Right Path to Reinvention. She covers our changing relationships with our spouses and friends, making new friends, discovering new hobbies, and perhaps returning to school and/or starting or changing careers. She includes many examples of women who have chosen many different paths in their reinvention. As I read the book, I highlighted websites, blogs, books, and articles that she generously peppered throughout the book. I was so relieved to find a “Resources” section at the end of the book with every one of her references listed. This list alone is worth the price of the book.
From Mom to Me Again is a fairly quick read. She flows from one section to another seamlessly. I was not only encouraged that there will still be life to live after my last child goes to college, but I am also now filled with so many ideas and possibilities for how I will spend that time. The book is genuinely entertaining and relatable as she tells her story. As I flipped back through my highlights to write this review I could not help but reread many of the pages. I highly recommend this book for any mom facing an upcoming empty nest or who is considering her options as that happens.
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