I have always put my daughter first. I did this for the past twenty years without reserve- her needs came before my own. This was my choice, I own it, it worked for me, and I don’t regret it at all.

However-

My daughter will be 21 this year.

A year from now she is expected to walk the aisle at her graduation.

I’m beginning to put my needs ahead of hers.

I know there will be three types of reactions to this: 1) Those who think I was crazy to ever put her first and 2) those who think I should still be taking care of her and…3) those who think I was crazy to put her first but have inadvertently been putting their children first but don’t realize it.

But- I will tell you that it is an odd feeling to put myself first. When planning a summer trip, it feels weird that my daughter will be staying home working and taking care of the dog while my husband and I are off sightseeing. In fact, my Husband can’t quite get past the fact that my daughter will not be joining us- but that’s a whole other blog…

My daughter has become accustomed to texting me whenever and expecting me to proof a paper or listen to an idea or whatever she needs to talk about regarding school, extras and jobs. And I’ve always just responded. But now I’ve begun to set up boundaries- if she needs help with something, she needs to set up a time with me to help. Yes- I’m asking my daughter to make an appointment to speak to me regarding helping her with something… We all know I’m an early bird and my brain is toast after 5pm- I told her I don’t want to get a paper emailed to me at 11pm for my input. I’m setting up boundaries because as she matures she needs to realize that I am a person other than just her Mom. I’m always up for a fun conversation, but I don’t want to be her de facto proofreader.

I admit I feel a little guilty not responding to my daughter’s every call at that very moment. I also know that guilt is a useless emotion, especially when one has done nothing to feel guilty about. I shouldn’t feel guilty about setting up boundaries- yet there’s this little twinge when I say no or later– like I’m not being a good Mommy… But then I remember that the whole point of parenting is to get your kids to the point where they can fly solo. The mark of a well done job parenting is having independent kids who know that Mom and/or Dad helping them is optional.

It’s hard to watch your kids mature and not need you anymore- But by setting them free, you’re helping them grow into themselves. They can’t become who they are meant to be if they are still tied to their parents apron strings. Don’t feel guilty by pushing them towards maturity and adulthood and independence. It’s OK if they don’t “need” you for the day to day- it doesn’t mean that you love them less, or that they love you less- it just means you’re morphing into the next stage of the parent/child relationship.

This is the first time ever that I was not with my daughter for Mother’s Day, and I will not be with her for my birthday. I have spent years having my daughter by my side for these special days, and it feels a little weird to not spend them with her, but I realize that this is part of life- she is going in one direction as I head into another.

So I slowly set up small boundaries as my daughter and I figure out the “What’s next” of our relationship. I’m hoping we can start to become more like friends, as we learn to respect one another in a different way. There’s still much to write in the story of my daughter and I, and I’m excited for the next chapter.

78 thoughts on “Who’s on First

  1. If there is one thing I’ve learned being in therapy forever, establishing healthy boundaries is extremely important. If you find yourself feeling guilty, try to remind yourself that you deserve respect too. You’re not abandoning your child. Your child is now an adult and needs to learn how to stand on her own. I’m sure she does already, and this will encourage her to respect her own needs as well.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. A friend once told me that she started letting her kids know it was ’24 and out the door’. Sounds a bit tough but was impressed that both kids were out by 24. Travelling overseas or working away from home. Really opened their eyes up to the real world. Wishing you the very best.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As an only child whose mother put her first, then established boundaries when said child became an adult, I get this. Relationships change as you go along. If they don’t there’ll be friction– probably forever.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. My kids led the transition more than me. At first I was lost at times, sort of floundering with the new approach but the reality is that I now believe they made it easier on me- that guilt thing (on my part) didn’t really happen. Honestly I came to feel pretty good about my parenting knowing they were able to choose the time and take the lead. I think I did something right along the way!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. My daughter wants the best of both worlds…be treated like an adult and still be babied…I don’t mind being mommy, and respecting her boundaries…however…she needs to respect mine too.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Bravo! You have been pro active in making these decisions and that’s wonderful!. Actually, the separation usually happens naturally as our children graduate and grow up. They go out into the world and need us less and less. But you have embraced the inevitable with flying colors. You have prepared yourself and that’s wise. Many parents have difficulty doing this. I did with my first one, with my youngest I was more prepared and went the route you describe here. I think that’s better. But there will be some challenging moments as you adjust. As our children mature and age our roles seem to wax and wain. Once they become parents suddenly we are needed again lol.
    However, It is rather empowering to focus on one’s self. That’s harder than letting go. As wives and mothers we rarely think of ourselves first. Or even second. But it’s a gift when it happens. Some mothers can’t seem to accept the separation process. But I think it’s healthy. And by doing this, I believe your bond will actually strengthen.
    And in my opinion, you were right in making her your top priority while she was growing up. That’s good parenting. But knowing when to step away is also good parenting too. Well done, mom!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Your post reminded me of Guillaume Apollinaire’s

    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    “We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    “We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
    “Come to the edge,” he said.
    And so they came.
    And he pushed them.
    And they flew.”
    Is this the point of takeoff? It is preceded by a push…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. It’s definitely a strange feeling to watch as your kids get older and to become empty nesters. When my first child went off to college, I remember staying up late to talk with her or even look something over. With our next one, it was: call me in the morning, I’m going to bed! Ha, ha. And as far as being too much in their lives or being too little, I’ve always come back to the response that my values/relationship with my kids are different than yours. No two are alike. You gotta be you!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh, my friend, I’m right here. My husband and I are planning a trip this summer and will be travelling across the country without the children, which will be strange. But you are absolutely correct regarding boundaries. It was difficult at first, but it is now becoming more normal and acceptable. This is a natural aspect of change, life, and progress.

    Sigh. A good sigh, though. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Good for you, LA. Sounds as if you’re handling this transition in a way that’s best for you and your daughter. When I move to Portugal this fall I will not be with my son (28) and only child for several important holidays and events, for the first time ever. Not sure how I’ll feel on those days, but he has been supportive of the transition.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Welp, it is like this. Vacations with your husband and no “kids” is great! We raised our childrens to be independent and they lead the way. So much so we have to ask them if we can help with anything. The big stuff they usually ask us, but they ask their friends more times than ask us. As the song goes, “hold on losely but don’t let go.”

    Liked by 4 people

  11. You are doing what is right in letting your daughter fly. It’s a tough adjustment but having kids respect mom as having her own needs is important to a healthy relationship. My kids are 25 and 28 — and they both have needed mom this past year. I was happy to help. But most days they don’t need me.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Very mature of you, LA. I agree 100%. I put the kids first (well, actually my husband first and then the kids) but when they turned 21, or honestly when the youngest left for college, I definitely started putting myself first. While I haven’t set boundaries about phone calls, if they do call and I’m busy I’ll let them know that and they can either call me later or get a version of distracted mom answers.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hey LA…this was the first year my daughter wasn’t with me on mother’s day as well. Our stories sound so similar, I’m just one year ahead because my daughter’s a year older than yours. Personally, this has been the hardest stage of parenting for me…watching them spread their wings and hoping they land softly. It’s exactly what we raised these girls to do, but it gets easier my friend. My life is so full now when she’s not here and it feels exhilarating. 💖 Not sure if it’s the next chapter, or the next book. 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Where IS that manual on “how to let go”? I must have shelved it next to “How to be the Perfect Parent” or “How to Raise the Perfect Child.” Maybe it’s next to “How to Survive the Terrible Twos AND Teenagers.” Since kids don’t actually come with manuals, I wish you well knowing you will do your best for you and your daughter as she spreads her wings and flies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t understand why people think you need to be right there with your kids. If it works for both sides it’s awesome…but it shouldn’t be expected

      Liked by 1 person

  15. A parent’s job is to bring up a child to become a fully fledged and independent individual. The transition can be emotional, but it needs doing (for the benefit of you both). Keep at it, it won’t be long before those boundaries will be the norm.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. this resonates with me. Mine is 23 and it is only the last couple of years that I have really taken a step back. She encouraged me the day she got her acceptance letter for uni to get a tattoo to show I have my life to live so I have part of a world map tattooed on my feet so I do indeed have the world at my feet. good luck

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I totally agree with this because as a young adult i know what it means to what to grow and make right decisons for myself. Letting your daughter understand that the first person she can count on apart from God is herself. She needs to know independence is key. This doesn’t mean you won’t be there for her anymore but that the stage she is, is the stage she needs to be there for herself the most. You have your own life as well so i don’t think you should feel guilty about it but explain to her with actions and words that you still and always will love her but life is still life. 💜💯

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Ahhhh…..boundaries! So hard to set them and harder to follow them if one is a parent. I may resemble that remark but I’m trying! If a parent can give them “roots and shoots,” they will remember where they came from as they grow into responsible and productive members of society! 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Weird situation for me: I began putting my needs ahead of theirs early on, but only on my non-custody weeks. Freshly divorced, and then later on unexpectedly laid off, I had no choice if I were to survive. There’s certainly no shame in self-care.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This is a great post–very well expressed. My 23 year old lives at home. My 20 year old is moving back home tomorrow after his second year at college. I am trying to navigate these issues and will be placing some new expectations on the 20 year old once he is home. There is no manual nor is there one way that works best for all.
    I hear you about one’s brain being toast after a certain hour. I’ve told the 20 year old not to text me with questions that involve a certain degree of thinking when it gets close to my bedtime.

    Liked by 1 person

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