I Used To Stalk Our Neighbors When My Kids Were Little

There’s a couple that live in the house behind ours who are about our age and never had  kids.  Because of how the houses are situated and separated by fences, we don’t really share a neighborhood with them and we only see them from afar with the occasional wave and hello, but have never really socialized with them.

Throughout the years when I was still working in a corporate job and getting up each day at 5:30 AM to get dressed, get the kids ready for daycare, race home after a 10 hour work day to get dinner on the table, the kids fed, bathed and read-to before putting them to bed, I would think of the two of them enviously.

During the week, I’d see the woman in the mornings after her husband left for work around 7:00, while I had been up for a few hours already, groggily getting breakfasts and lunches made for the kids before I took them to daycare and then went to work.  She’d be outside in her backyard with her well trained labrador, methodically and peacefully tending to her beautifully landscaped backyard garden.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings in the spring and summers, she and her husband would sit on their deck, reading the paper and drinking coffee, just the two of them looking so calm and relaxed. It looked like heaven to me.

I would watch them from my kitchen window longingly, as I stole my precious ten minutes of solitude on a weekend morning, gulping my morning cup of tea down before the inevitable moment when the kids and my husband would come downstairs and the mad dash of the weekend parenting gig would begin with breakfasts to be made, chores to be done and kids to be driven all over the place to their various weekend activities.

Their life seemed so peaceful and calm, such the opposite of ours with it’s chaos of kids and a full time job, working and racing around.

There was no morning coffee on the deck for my husband and I when the kids were growing up.  I would watch the couple from my kitchen window while I washed endless dishes and cooked endless meals, as they sat on their deck reading the paper and later lazily watered their well tended garden or swam in their beautifully clean built-in pool.

Later in the day I’d pass the two of them walking their friendly and well behaved black lab downtown, while I drove my minivan full of screaming kids on endless trips to school, baseball games, Tae Kwon Do classes, playdates, girl scouts, boy scouts, birthday parties and all the other hundreds of things kids do when they’re in grammar school.

And now, all of a sudden (or so it seems), I’m living the life of the couple in the house behind us.

I quit my corporate job seven years ago and have worked from a home office ever since which freed up my time dramatically.  I don’t have to spend 45 minutes commuting each morning and night, and get to work from home in jeans and a T-shirt with a nice warm cup of tea next to me at my home office desk.

My daughter is 18 and off to college in the Fall.  She drives now, so I don’t have to take her to school or Tae Kwon Do classes or to her friends houses or her many other after school activities.  And she even pitches in for me and picks up her brother if I’m on a conference call when he needs to be picked up after basketball or baseball practice.

Next month my 16 year old son will get his permit and soon he’ll be driving as well and in a very short while he won’t need a chauffeur anymore either.  The days of driving the kids around all day are almost completely behind me.

We put in a pool the year I had breast cancer and now I get to sit by the side of the pool, reading my books and having my friends over on Friday afternoons in the summer.  I’m free to do what I used to long to do when the kids were babies and in grammar school.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s fabulous.  I love having the time to read good books, the time to watch grown up movies, to pursue the intellectual pursuits I longed for when I was busy with the kids, never watching anything but Sesame Street or Nickelodeon and only reading The Cat In The Hat or Winnie The Pooh.  I can even travel pretty easily now, unlike when the kids were young; they’re pretty much able to take care of themselves.

But, I miss the days when they hung on my arms and lay in my lap and wanted me to read them one more story before they went to bed.  When they’d chatter away endlessly and never stop talking about their day, while now I don’t get much more than a few grunts out of them if I’m lucky.

It’s really true how quickly the whole process flies by.  One minute I felt tethered to them, thought I would never have any freedom again.  And now, I fear that they’ll grow up and leave and never come back.  It’s neither a good time nor a bad time; it’s limbo time.

I feel like I’m in the middle of the two worlds.  I can’t really embrace a child-less world yet.  And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to let go, but sitting here in the middle is rocky for me.  I don’t feel like I’ve mastered either world and wonder if I ever will.

What do you think?  Do mothers ever learn to let go?  Will my kids come back after they’ve left the nest?


  1. says

    I so identify with this! Though I still one young one left at home – so I’m living in both worlds right now. I hope they return home after they’ve flown – they’d better! I know I’ll never be able to let go – not like some of my friends have been able to. Too much of Me has been wrapped up in these kids for too long. And though, especially for the last few years as I’ve watched my oldest drift further and further into his own life, I’ve consciously built on my own “life of the mind”, doing the things I’ve always wanted to do more of but not had the time, I know I’ll forever miss those “little kid” pain in the butt moments when they’re finally all over :-)

  2. says

    I’ve been working on building a life of my own too, one of the reasons I’m getting so much into blogging, to be honest. I hope mine come home too, if they just move out and away (like I did) I’ll be so sad. Thanks for the sweet note!

  3. says

    HI Claudia,
    As my kids have turned into amazing young adults, I’m finding parenthood just gets better and better. I don’t think it’s ever possible to let go of that mother hat, but realizing they are out in the world making it successfully on their own is a wonderful feeling. And when they still want to come home and just “hang out”, it’s extra special. I used to think those early days were the best, but my mind is changing on that!

    • says

      Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for reassuring me; my older sisters both say the same thing and I really hope it’s the same for my kids. There’s a long story behind my fears, I didn’t get along very well with my parents for a long time after my college years and I worry that history will repeat itself but since my relationship with my kids is nothing like mine with my own parents, I think I should let go of that fear. Thanks for the kind words of reassurance! xo

  4. says

    Maybe you have a neighbor with young children who is “stalking” you and fantasizing about the day when she has time for herself.

  5. says

    My kids are 5, 8 and 9, so I can’t quite imagine this yet. But when I talk to moms of toddlers, I feel a similar way – I miss what it was like when they were so little and it was so intense, but I also love that I have more time to breathe now. #typeaparent

    • says

      Wow, 3kids under 10, you’re amazing! I hear you, that you have more time to breathe now that they’re all 3 out of diapers. The whole diaper, stroller thing was very time consuming when mine were younger.

  6. says

    Holy moly – 5 kids, I bow down to you, Barb! Now that your oldest is a senior, he can help you a little with the younger ones (driving them to things, or picking up if you’re tied up with the others). My daughter has been a big help now that she has her license, made my life a lot easier. And yes, it’s very important to have “me” time.

  7. says

    My mother always commented that, ‘You never stop worrying about your kids.’ Now that mine are all adults (my youngest turns 30 in May) I know exactly what she meant. Although they all are wonderful adults and I couldn’t be more proud of them, there are always times when they need some Mom or Dad TLC. Thank heavens they don’t always seem to need it at the same time! We do love the freedom of the empty nest as well…the best of both worlds.

    BTW – I’m so glad that I came upon your blog over at SITS and I’ve enjoyed following your posts, so I nominated you for a Liebster Award! Go go my website http://jackcynredesign.blogspot.com/2014/03/a-special-award.html to check out the specifics and see the questions to answer if you are interested in participating. I had a lot of fun putting it together and thought you may like to as well. See what you think. Cyndi

    • says

      Hi Cyndi – My mom used to say the same thing and my sisters say it now (they’re both a bit older with grown kids). I’d love to be a part of your Liebster award, but can you explain what I have to do? Not sure I understand…..Thanks for reading, so glad you’re a fan :)

    • says

      It’s just a method to introduce your new blogs to your readership and for others to pass along your blog to others. I wrote a post about it on my blog, answered 11 questions that were asked by my nominator, Dana, and then listed 11 blogs I like to read. Then I asked you all 11 questions that you can answer on your blogs. You just reference back to my blog in your ‘award’ post, list and answer the questions about yourself, then repeat the process listing 11 blogs you like to follow. Its a fun way to get more eyes and ears on our blogs. Let me know if you need any further explanation. Have fun!

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