New Year, New Endeavorsby Sharon Rosen Leib January 2, 2018
When I first began writing this column in May 2004, my three daughters were 10, eight and four. I was in full-on Mom mode. Now those “girls” are 23, 22 and 18 – independent, smart and resourceful young women. They no longer require the massive daily dose of time and energy I put into raising them. They’ve all flown the coop, leaving my husband and me to mind the hen house.
When my late mother achieved empty nest status she merrily crowed, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Yet shortly after I gave birth to Oldest Daughter, Mom pronounced, “You’ll never have another worry-free day in your life!” I remember thinking ‘Thanks for the words of encouragement.’ Mom’s sentiments struck me as contradictory. Now I comprehend her cognitive dissonance. As a Jewish mother with inbred anxiety, she constantly worried about my siblings and my wellbeing. Yet, once we all left home, she felt liberated from the in-your-face demands of monitoring the whereabouts of three kids. She embraced her freedom as we did ours, by flying away from the confines of home – a win-win on all sides.
I’m not saying our kids no longer need us, because they do. We are the sturdy backboards they bounce everything from ideas to anger against; the savings and loans that bail them out of financial distress; and the sympathetic care givers ministering to their mental and physical illnesses.
As they age, we bear responsibility for enabling them to survive and thrive without us. We too must demonstrate healthy independence and take responsibility for our own happiness. As they fly, so must we. We must broaden our role from being hands-on parents driving carpools, coaching soccer and stocking the fridge to being mature fonts of wisdom demonstrating how to face aging with courage, vigor and renewed purpose.
Contemplating all these bird metaphors and life stages made me realize the time has come to relinquish this page to a new parenting voice. Way back when I first pitched this column, I envisioned it as experiential rather than advice oriented. I feel fortunate that a succession of bright young editors allowed me to fulfill this vision. They gave me the space to tell stories about my family life (although my daughters didn’t always appreciate being the subjects) and climb up on my soapbox to advocate for favorite causes (like gun control). The SDJJ’s publishers Mark Edelstein and Dr. Mark Moss have been wonderfully supportive and open-minded, allowing me to push the boundaries of nice Jewish mamadom by writing about controversial topics that offended some subscribers.
Most of all, I’m grateful to you my dear readers. I appreciate that you stuck with me even when I veered into self-indulgence and self-righteousness. I love the kind words and kudos you’ve shared with me. I’ve also enjoyed the pissed-off letters to the editor challenging my assumptions because they demonstrated you were engaged.
These won’t be my final words on the SDJJ’s pages. I’ll still be a contributing writer pitching book reviews, travel and news stories. I just feel compelled to move in new directions and broaden my journalistic/writing horizons.
Here’s to 2018 – a secular year representing Chai (life) according to Kabbalah numerology. So please join me in squeezing the most juice from 2018 by seeking new challenges and striving to be our best selves/role models for our kids.
P.S. I’ll miss you all and this page. But this proud Jewish mama will continue musing in different forms. You can always keep up with my work by googling Sharon Rosen Leib. Α