Have you heard the term “middle mom”?
I hadn’t until a friend recently explained it to me. As soon as I heard what it meant, a lightbulb went off in my head.
“That’s it!”, I thought. “That’s my life right now.”
Middle mom doesn’t refer to being middle aged, or having a middle schooler, although both of those could apply. Instead, middle mom refers to being in the middle of your journey as a mom, particularly if you have more than one kid in more than one stage of life. You’re neither the somewhat naive and exhausted mom of a baby or a little one, nor the veteran pro nearing the end of your kids’ high school years and eyeing that empty nest creeping up on you way too quickly.
You are somewhere, well, in the middle of all that.
A middle mom has been doing this mom thing for awhile, and is fairly confident in her parenting style and abilities. She might have one kid in high school and one in middle school, or maybe a preschooler and a -bless her heart- tween on her hands. For the adventurous few, some of us tick all those darn boxes and have one kid in just about every stage of childhood. What’s life without whimsy, eh?
A middle mom knows about field trips and PTA meetings, about Fortnite and whatever social media the kids care about today. She has had her share of teacher conferences, signed up for some volunteer duties and ignored others, and is adept at multitasking completely out of her car.
A middle mom also knows what she doesn’t know, and that part is terrifying. College and scholarship applications loom, teenagers become drivers who can literally JUST LEAVE when they want, and who knows which of her kid’s friends are good influences and which ones are decidedly NOT good influences? She doesn’t know. She can’t tell.
Things were easier when we were new moms, as crazy as that sounds. The things we didn’t know then pale in comparison to what we don’t know now.
A middle mom has gotten so good at carrying weight that she doesn’t realize just how heavy it all is.
Maybe she’s divorced. Maybe remarried. Maybe working out custody issues, or raising stepkids, or sending her own kids off to a stepparent for visitation. Maybe she’s parenting alone as a single mom, or locked in a marriage where she feels like a single mom.
Often a middle mom has begun to carry the weight of her own aging or sick parents, or her spouse’s.
Sometimes she’s already lost her parents.
A middle mom may struggle with identity as a working professional, or homemaker, or both. The comments are endless, well meaning attacks come from all sides.
“Now they’re all in school, are you going to go back to work?”
“Now that they’re older, can you start working full time again?”
“You’ve got college and savings to think about, isn’t it selfish to stay home?”
“What do you DO all day?”
“I hate that you missed the cheer competition (football game, chess tournament, etc.), but don’t worry, I snapped a few pics of your kid for you. Maybe you’ll make it one of these days!”
A middle mom knows guilt.
A middle mom’s marriage takes work. It’s hard when you’re pulled in so many different directions with kids, school, activities, extracurriculars, work, volunteering, the freaking laundry…it’s hard to prioritize a spouse who’s often busy and worn thin themselves. This is the season in life when it’s easiest to live almost separate lives, to become ships that only pass when picking up one kid or grabbing takeout for a ten minute dinner before the other kid’s class/practice/appointment. A middle mom has to take the tougher road and somehow make time to value and appreciate the relationship.
A middle mom’s friendships take work. It’s hard to stay connected when you hardly ever see each other anymore, or when coordinating schedules for one coffee date takes weeks of texting, canceling, rescheduling, and then gets cut short anyway because somebody’s kid got sick at school. It’s really REALLY hard to maintain friendships when this one’s kid was caught vaping, and this one’s kid sent a nasty text about your kid, and- well, it’s a little different than being grumpy that a kid bit your kid on a playdate at the park. We all know how tough this stage is, and don’t often judge our friends, but it’s still tough to keep those relationships intact with just a few texts and the occasional five minute chat at the concert/game/competition.
A middle mom may not get much love from her kids, these people she’s running around for all day, every day. They’re busy, after all, and stressed out and tired. They’ve reached the age where their friends matter more, where their parents are embarrassing, and honestly they’re just not that interested in her right now. Unless they need money, need her to approve a sleepover or party, or need her to bake cookies for tomorrow.
A middle mom has felt the dagger in her heart of a snarly middle schooler, or the cold indifference of a high schooler, or has had to blink back tears as the youngest one needs her less and less.
She knows that the years of diapers and bubble baths, story time at the library and cuddling up to watch Disney Jr, have somehow slipped away. She knows that soon enough she’ll be taking her son to get his driver’s license, or shopping for dorm room furniture with her daughter. Sometimes the heartache of all this leaves her on autopilot, speeding through the crazy busy day and checking off the endless to-do list, just to start again tomorrow.
Middle moms, stay strong. Yes, the sweet days of fitted pajamas and fluffy diaper bottoms are gone. Your smelly teenager or sassy tween may not tell you they need you or show you they love you, but they do. You can get through these times, and you will. Most of us will end up with fairly well functioning kids heading off to college or careers after high school, and then we can take a breath. Have some coffee with our friends. Go on a trip with our spouse. And we’ll miss all the chaos and stress and piles of shoes and houses with yelling and music blaring.
This stage is long and difficult, and you might think it will break you, but it won’t. You’ve made it this far, mama. You can finish the race.