Nest is now empty. Brain space is freed up. Is it finally time to decide what to do when I grow up?

One minute you’re looking at a blue line in a pregnancy kit, the next you’re walking a chattering little girl to her first day of kindergarten, then the next you’re comforting her as she sobs through her first brush with romantic heartbreak, and then suddenly you’re driving away after leaving her standing in a new apartment or dorm room.

Life revolved around my two daughters ever since the day I discovered I was pregnant. Twenty-one years old, freshly grieving from my own mom’s recent death, and absolutely clueless about how to be a mom myself.

Now the youngest has moved out, I’m on the downslide of my forties and still wondering what I should be when I grow up. And realizing that parenting is a job that’s never finished – thank goodness! I guess I did some stuff right because they actually still like me and (usually) answer the phone when I call.

Time to write down some thoughts on the painful process of watching my babies become adults, helping them navigate the pitfalls, sighing from the sidelines as they suffer the inevitable falls, and finally figuring out what else I might be besides Mom.

Not to mislead – I haven’t spent the last quarter-century hanging around baking cookies and greeting the girls at 3 pm. each afternoon when they returned from school. I am now embarked on career number two. I wrestle with guilt about my too-frequent absences rather than my hovering.

During the last months I’ve vacillated between a sense of stunned wonder that the years have passed so quickly (what happened?) and a bubbling feeling of exultation at the potential and opportunity that opens. What’s next?