Mother's Day Essay: Mom to College Kid: Text Me, Maybe

Whatever kind of mom you are—and whatever kind you had—we see you, and we're celebrating. This is one of 11 essays in this series.

mom essay By Kerry Herlihy

For the entire year before my daughter went to college, everyone asked me, “What are you going to do when she leaves?” I would no longer sit for days beside badly ventilated indoor pools waiting for her to swim for 30 seconds. I would no longer have to pick up sweaty leggings flung in the middle of the bathroom floor. I would be free from the daily toils of single motherhood.

OTHER MOM ESSAYS IN THIS SERIES:

My heart cracked open when I thought of her leaving. It had been just the two of us for so long, it was hard to think about living my daily life without her. But I was also a teensy bit ecstatic about the time I would finally have. I could finish writing the book I’d started a decade ago in any spare moment I could find after teaching school. I could go out for fancy whiskey cocktails on weeknights and not worry about making dinner. I could jet off for the weekend with the boyfriend I would surely now meet since I finally had time to date.

Kerry Herlihy B&W

Photo courtesy of Kerry Herlihy

Photo courtesy of Kerry Herlihy

But the free time I anticipated has not appeared. During her first year, my daughter and I have exchanged hundreds of texts. On easy days, my daughter wants my opinion on small decisions she never consulted me about when she was home: “Should I get a poke bowl for lunch?” Other times, she wants to keep me in the loop about her classes: “If I die during this test I want lupine at my funeral.” Sometimes she has an immediate need for essential information: “Which teas are toxic? Can you send me a list? Before dinner?” And sometimes she just wants to tell me she’s sad or anxious or exhausted: “Are you awake? Mom? MOM??” 

Even though I’m not getting up every two hours to breastfeed or creating homemade Play-Doh dinosaurs each afternoon, my time is still wrapped up in the emotional universe of my daughter. Mothering is mothering, even from 100 miles away. 

However, the terrain shifts daily. Some nights she doesn’t text me goodnight and I panic. Last week she texted me to tell me she was going to Ecuador, adding five exclamation points and two heart emojis. Maybe next year I’ll be sipping a mojito in Miami with my (as yet unmaterialized) new hunky boyfriend, but for now, I am content to tell my daughter to go to yoga class, splurge on the peppermint mocha and venture away from our world built for two.