Parenting adult children is one of the hardest roles we will have in life. Actually, we are parents of adults longer than we will hold the “mommy” role, and yet this event is the least discussed. It is a transformational period of our lives and yet oddly we think “everyone else knows what to do, why is this difficult for me?”
There are millions of books, videos, support groups, and more on parenting for new moms, toddlers, PTA moms, soccer moms, parenting teens, and more! Let’s be honest, this time in our life wasn’t a picnic either. It was difficult, yet very rewarding. We had lots of support from our children’s friends' moms, they became our friends and we were able to bond over the harried and fast life of “motherhood”. We had a purpose that we were able to fulfill, heck we had 18+ years to figure it out and transition through it. We are proud of that role we held and it has shaped who we are today.
Yet it seems that this new stage happened in an instant! We were not able to prepare for it, read about it, learn through others on it, or even be consulted by friends on how to do it. \ Not only do we have to quickly figure out this new role, but our relationships with those who we love so much are dependent on it.
We never let go of the bond of being a mother, however, the role has to change. The role of the CEO is no longer needed or wanted. The new role is not about “letting go” but moving forward to a more adult relationship.
Our modern lifestyle is different from what it looked like when we grew up and were out of the house. As adults, we were not able to have constant communication through phone calls, text messages, and even video calls. Our parents were not able to view our lives through social media, not able to see who we were friends with and who we were dating. We had the freedom to make decisions good and bad on our own and consult with our parents on our terms.
The reality is that our adult children live in a very different world than we did. Often they are physically with us longer as they have crippling college debt and a greater cost of living. Our adult children now have social media pressure to have it all figured out as well as outside pressures and anxiety to perform at an unreasonable pace.
Because of these pressures, the role of adulthood is different. Yet the role of motherhood should be different as well to mirror the needs of our adult children, not the needs of the world. Our adult children should be able to have the freedom to make decisions good and bad on their own and consult with parents, on their terms. That is where it gets tough on us!
The new reality is that we need to not let go of being a mother, what we need to let go of is the parental attachment to our adult children - even if they live with us or still need our physical or financial support.
How to let go of parental attachment
It is not the relationship that we need to let go of, it is the parental attachment role that needs to change. Your children will always have your love and devotion, forever. You, however, only have that same love and devotion for a limited time. The balance shifts as it should so that they will be able to provide that same love and devotion to their significant others and their children. Often as this shift happens though, it leaves an emptiness that is hard to figure out how to fill.
Once you let go, you are able to achieve a new and better role, one of friendship and consultant. This new stage opens us up to allow our children to be who they are and in return to be fully who we are. It has been a long time since we were able to be fully ourselves, it might even be the first time you are able to do this.
This transformational stage of life can be scary but if we allow it to happen, it can be an exciting time of life, one filled with new experiences, joy, and happiness.
Recognize and accept differences: You may not always agree with their life choices, but as their independence grows, find joy in connecting without conflict.
Share your wisdom and insight, when asked: Suggestions, opinions, and “how to’s” are unwelcome unless asked. Your role as CEO and explaining how to do something the best way is no longer wanted or often needed.
Set boundaries, and respect boundaries: Even if they are living with you, boundaries should be set between you and your children. What is acceptable and what is not should be shared. Set boundaries on how to disagree.
Be a sounding board: Your children often are not asking for advice, they need a sounding board. Someone to listen to them and consult if asked. Keep a poker face when they do talk to you about stuff that makes your skin crawl.
Discover your personal interests: This is a new adventure for you as well. What are your goals and aspirations? What makes you happy? What have you always wanted to see or do? For so long we were laser-focused on our children’s aspirations and goals that we may have actually lost ourselves. We bonded with our children’s friends' parents, we bonded and became interested in the hobbies and aspirations of our children. It was important then and still valued. However, now it is time to discover ourselves.
As a mom of 4 adult children, I have made some mistakes and have made progress. It really is a balance. My mom would always say "I am as happy as my saddest child", that still rings true. However, I am learning to let go so that their anguish isn't mine. I am using tools such as therapy for myself, journaling, yoga, and lots of prayers.