Too many words on my mental state at this exact moment.

Dear friends,

I don’t have the right words to describe how I’ve been feeling lately, so I’ll just take a ham-handed stab at it.

Teary. Jittery. Frustrated. Angry. Distraught. Restless. Blue. Pensive. To the tenth power.

I told Mr. Mom yesterday that I alternate between wanting to burst into tears and stab somebody in the face. (Actually, I think if I could stab somebody THEN have a good cry, I might feel a whole lot better.)

At any other point in my life, I might have called this feeling hormonal. (Sorry male readers.) But I’m pretty sure I’m not hormonal.

I’m pretty sure I’m freaking out. I’m pretty sure I’m flipping my lid because the beautiful young woman in the photo above is moving out.  I’m pretty sure I’m melting down because my mother card is being punched for the last time and I don’t get a new one.

I’ve been a working mother for all of my children’s lives. My own mother raised my children until Mr. Mom took over a few years ago. I have always known my days as a pinch-hitter were numbered. But I looked up not long ago and realized my number had dropped from triple digits to double digits. That’s right, Kate moves away in 79 days.

Seventy-nine days and I’m no longer the mother of a daughter who lives under my roof. Seventy-nine days and anything I wanted to be as a mother, do as a mother, is over. Seventy-nine days and my fate is sealed on what Kate thinks and feels and remembers about her time under my wing. I had my swing at the ball and now I have to go sit in the dugout. Forever.

The thing is — when you are a working mother, you can’t think about your expiration date. You do, of course, but you don’t contemplate it seriously because — damn — you’re just trying to get through the days, you know, with some sliver of your sanity intact. Maybe stay-at-home mothers feel this way, too. I would never know. And maybe their guilt and regret is every bit as intense as those of us who go to the office everyday and work too many nights and weekends and take too many business trips and miss too many school plays and sporting matches.

Maybe the lot of every soul born a woman and who later gives birth is to feel sorrow and guilt and regret and to second-guess every thing she ever did, including the pink lipstick that she insisted upon and that infuriated her daughter on dance recital day, as well as the moment she lost her senses and threw the remote control at the back of her daughter’s head and mercifully missed because she can’t hit a target to save her life. Maybe the lot of every mother is to live out her days convinced all she did was fritter it away and screw it up and believe there is surely a special hell for mothers. Especially neurotic, introspective mothers.

All I know is this mother misses every moment she didn’t get to have with her daughter even though she knows made a bargain with her partner and her end of the bargain included earning a living and now feeling this way is selfish and indulgent, like she wanted it all and knew she couldn’t have it all but is still p-o’d about it.

Hey, I didn’t say I was being rational.

And since I’m not being rational, please don’t tell me about how great it will be to transition to the next stage of motherhood. I cannot hear those words right now. I’m still having a tantrum over this stage coming to an end.

But if you want to tell me I’m normal, not psychotic, that would be appreciated. If you want to tell me this feeling, much like grieving, will diminish with time, then that will be appreciated, too. If you want to commiserate and tell me this transition in a mother’s life sucks big-time — whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom — then I’ll give you an “Amen, sister.” If you want to hold my hand and cry with me, then come over soon, please, or at least before I get my ugly cry-face on.

Because let’s not compound the tragedy, okay?

With gratitude {for . . . I’m searching . . . I’m searching . . .},

Joan, who feels a little like Anne of the Thousand Days, only she had 7,000 and it’s still not nearly enough

The downhill side.

Dear Friends,

A million years ago (actually 6,902 days, but who’s counting?) I birthed my first child. In the seconds after my Sweet Baby Kate first emerged into this world and I glimpsed her already-familiar beauty, I felt as if the whole world stretched before me like some endless yellow-brick road to a promised land called motherhood. When my child was born flawless and healthy, I was so euphoric I imagined, for one sublimely-cocooned moment, that this promised land was eternal and free of heartache, or fear, or worry. I felt like Mother Earth, solid and ageless and in perfect orbit in our universe.

And that lasted about a minute, until somebody prodded or poked my perfect baby sufficient to elicit a wail and my bubble was burst by a tsunami of abject fear. It’s pretty much been downhill from there, because every mother I know thinks she simply cannot bear another fever; another trip to the urgent care; another sleepless night worrying over The Teacher Who Doesn’t Understand; another snub from the snotty Girl Who Makes Her Friend-Candidates Try Out and, sorry, Kate, you didn’t make it; another lost tennis tournament; another boyfriend; another broken heart; another anything, because for Pete’s Sake, Can’t I Be Done Mothering Now?

And then one day recently I woke up and realized — all this daily bucking up I’ve been doing — holy crap, it’s almost over! I am being relieved of my duty because this fair-haired baby of mine with the delicate skin and chubby cheeks and sweet disposition has grown up. And, though I have pretended for months it can’t possibly be true, just last week two college acceptance letters came in the mail, pretty much proving she’s moving out soon.

And what will I be if I am not the Woman Who Mothers This Child? Don’t tell me I’ll be mothering her all the same (because those college kids need lots of loving support and encouragement, you know). Tell me how mothers survive children who move away because in all these years of bucking up, in all the books I’ve read about mothering, nobody told me how to endure The Day When She No Longer Resides With Me.

I’ve got less than 200 days to figure out how to be a Mother Who Lives Apart from Her Child. I welcome your advice. Well, let me be more direct: I desperately need your advice and encouragement and Mr. Mom has flat run out of words to offer the Woman Who Is Wholly Unprepared to be the Mother of a Grown Child.

With gratitude {for 7,000 days of cohabitation with my Sweet Baby Kate, even though it clearly wasn’t enough training for the likes of me},

Joan, who in those 7,000 days took hundreds of snapshots like this one, because the imperfect moments are the ones you really savor