I realised recently that I don’t feel like a mother anymore. In the same way I don’t feel like a smoker anymore having quit 29 years ago. I quit mothering too.

I am a mother. I gave birth to four children and raised them to adulthood. I mothered my children imperfectly and inconsistently, and sometimes resentfully. Occasionally I behaved in ways I am ashamed of and wish I could erase from our collective memories. But I loved them and wanted them. Except when I hated them and wanted to run away.

I was a single parent for some of the early mothering years, but was lucky enough to have a willing, able and loving co-pilot for the rest of it. When they were young and all under one roof often I wondered how I would get to the end of each day and of course I did.  But there are large swathes of time that are lost to me, lost to my memory. Gaps I don’t understand. A bit like PTSD. I started to remember what it was like for me when my children were small and numerous, after I had more than one grandchild, and after the grandkids kept arriving and I was sometimes left in charge of them and I remembered. I remembered the chaos, the noise, the boredom and the way the clock hardly seemed to move…

My four fabulous children are grown and long gone. I have grandchildren I adore. I adore my children too. And I respect, admire and am in awe them and their individual achievements. But I’m not actively mothering them anymore. And I’m glad.

I am doing what I want to do, living the life I want to live untethered from them, and at a great distance. This is what I always thought the goal of parenting was – to make your children independent of you, to enable your children to leave you, to help them learn the skills to survive without you – and to celebrate it when they actually do that.

Isn’t that how it should be? You won’t find me texting my daughter 10 times a day, interfering in my sons’ own parenting, or expecting to be consulted about the choices any of them make with their lives. And I know they appreciate this.

My children know I am here if they need support or even “mothering”, but I’m retired from that job now and will only do it as a hobby.

I have a suspicion that my children are glad about this.

Deborah Nicholson