aging

With My Kids Back in School, I’m Struggling to Find My Purpose

quiet village street in autumn

Fall has always been an emotionally intense time of year for me. Summer is ending, school is starting, and we are hurtling forwards towards the High Holidays. There is an electricity in the air, a sense of urgency, a shadow of changes to come.

The last few years have been especially tumultuous. There was something about turning 40 that cut to the quick of me. I was on fire with an urgency to break free out of the cage of suburban motherhood that I’d nestled quietly in for years.

Each fall, when the kids went back to school, I would revel in the hours of free time I could use to write and socialize and find new work opportunities. Even during the evening hours, I was restless. I’d find every chance to escape, both with my husband, and with friends.

They’ve been a good few years, an exciting few years, and also a terrifying few years. I’ve pushed boundaries, both internally and externally, and in turn, I’ve discovered a side of myself that I never knew existed. I’d always been free-spirited and non-conforming, but the slightly-wild, rebellious new version of myself was an extreme that, frankly, shocked me.

But, something happened this summer. Maybe it was that I’d pushed through all the boundaries that I needed to for now, maybe it was that the fire inside of me had finally cooled, or perhaps it was simply a change in hormones. I don’t really know. What I do know is that this summer, for the first time in years, I was completely happy to be home with the kids.

We went on daytrips, read side-by-side, and spent lots of time on my family’s farm. The only adults I saw were neighbors and family members. And I was just fine. In fact, I was more than fine. I was peaceful, content, and more satisfied than I’ve been in years.

Until last week.

Last week my kids went back to school. I helped my oldest get ready for his first year of middle school, then waved goodbye as the younger two got on the bus for elementary school. And then they were gone and I was alone and suddenly there wasn’t a thing I’d rather do than go chasing after that bus and bring my babies home.

In that moment all those clichés about how “it goes too fast” and “you blink and they’re grown” suddenly rang true. That bus rolling around the corner wasn’t just a bus, it was a herald of days to come.

That bus didn’t care if I was going through a mid-life crisis, or needed to “find myself,” or re-capture my too-short youth. That bus was going to keep on moving forward, away from me and onto bigger destinations… just as my children are doing.

Maybe that’s really what these last few years have been about. Maybe all this restless searching I’ve been doing has just been about me trying to find my own destination as the kids embark on theirs. Maybe it hasn’t been so much about breaking free as it has been about finding new security and purpose as my kids become increasingly independent. Maybe it’s time that I find my own bus.

I spent the rest of last week going for long walks and staring aimlessly into space. I thought about calling up all the friends I’d missed this summer or trying to sit down and write, but I just couldn’t find the energy or the focus.

That world that I’ve created in the last few years of artsy friends and freelance writing gigs satisfied the hungry, restless side of me. I love knowing that it’s still there, waiting for me to pick up a pen or pick up the phone. But, there’s been something missing these last few years. Some feeling of deeper purpose that grounded me and kept me feeling satisfied and whole when the children were little.

It’s that purpose that I need to find now, that wholeness. Today I called to volunteer to help with families of critically ill children. Perhaps that is the bus I’ve been looking for. I’ll let you know.


Read More:

3 Ways to Handle Your Toddler’s ‘Why Phase’

Mayim Bialik: Why I Refuse to Get My Kids Smartphones

Quiz: Which Celebrity Jewish Mother Are You?


Lela Casey

Lela Casey is a mother of three children living in Bucks County, PA. Being raised by a fiery Israeli mother and a gentle farmer in the middle of nowhere lent her a unique perspective on Judaism. She holds degrees from both Penn State University and Rhode Island College. Besides contributing to Kveller, she has written several children's books and young adult novels.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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