Middle-aged mama, a story of right now

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life99 Comments



Right now there are no dreamy pictures of me, nose to nose, with my little one held aloft in the air, while we both giggle like crazy.

Right now there are no little fingers at last finding the mechanics to pluck a lone Cheerio from the center of a sticky high chair tray.

Right now there are no PLEASE, Mama? just one more story?

Right now there are no time outs and mostly no meltdowns.

Right now we don’t need to hold hands to cross the street.

(but sometimes we still do)


Right now there are nights with an 18-year-old girl where we lay together in my bed and talk all about life and how to live it.

Right now I try to listen more than I tell.

Right now there are days when Mom is the absolute last person a teen-aged son wants to talk to.

Right now I refuse to stop trying.

Right now there are selfies taken and confidences shared.

Right now we are preparing for life with one less body under our roof.

Right now there is a surprising amount of space to step back and watch them figure it out on their own.

(but sometimes it’s incredibly hard)


Right now there are things that hurt that didn’t used to hurt. Things like hips. And backs. And knees.

Right now there are sleepless nights from fluctuating hormone levels, worries over college tuition and less-than-youthful bladders.

Right now there is extra padding in places where there used to be less.

Right now it’s really effing hot.

Right now there is no automatic wisdom by virtue of accumulated years.

Right now there is still work being done on a marriage.

Right now requires love and focus and wholehearted caring.

(but sometimes I miss the mark completely)


Right now I’m a middle-aged mama and as grateful as I am for it,

it’s a complicated place to be.








Cathy ZielskeMiddle-aged mama, a story of right now

99 Comments on “Middle-aged mama, a story of right now”

  1. #1

    A beautiful, honest post. Thank you. Will be there myself in a year – totally scary and depressing but part of the passage of life. Enjoy this summer.

  2. #2

    Oh, I hear ya on so much of this. Except – flipping the college girl stuff around. It’s surprising how hard it can be to shift (again) when they come home. The teenage boy stuff? Spot on.

  3. #3

    I remember those days with my first born leaving for college and all the adjustments that came with it. Hang in there it does get better! BTW good job @creativelive yesterday.

  4. #5
    Kellie Winnell

    I loved this. I started to read and realised that I miss that with having one teen and two in school and I had a somewhat sad face with the realization. Then I read on and I started to smile and my smile got bigger and I loved it.

  5. #6

    Wow-how touching!!!!! It will be ok mama, I promise. 3 have left the nest, 2 have married and created their own nest, and just wait mama………till a sweet little one snags your big heart in such an indescribable way with 2 little words.. “Hi ganma”! It’s worth the wait. You are just so awesome and this crazy life is such a great ride.

  6. #7

    Oh Cathy I feel you pain. Although my soon to be college freshmen is a boy so there are no late night chats in my bed…..the rest I can relate to wholeheartedly. I’m sure we’ll manage to figure it out. Lots of mama’s have gone before us….but until then, I am just strapping in for a bumpy ride. Good luck!

  7. #8
    Kerri Bradford

    I always tell my kids that they will have awesome photos of their own kids…from themselves as well as ‘grandma’–which I will HAVE to find a different word than that for me. I’m so much cooler than that. 😉 And at the rate that they are [NOT] dating, I have a few years to figure out the right word.

    You are awesome Miss C!

  8. #9

    Great post, CZ. Open and honest. It hurts like heck to be open sometimes, but it beats the alternative — closed off and lonely, with no one knowing your real self. I’m a middle-aged Mama to a ten year old, working on a marriage (because you always need to do that, really), trying to be grateful every day for the blessings. {{{hug}}} ~ Laura

  9. #11
    Sian Barnard

    Well said!! I can identify with many of the ‘middle-aged’ aspects of where you are with a body that is not what it used to be, a marriage that needs constant attention to keep it fresh and alive after being married for 16 years, and being both grateful but perplexed by its complexity…. But on the other hand, my daughter is only 7 and has so much more growing up to do!! Yet she does grow before my eyes and just this week, no longer needs me to walk her through the school gate, preferring to be kissed goodbye at the car before walking off, leaving me to sit and watch her from the front seat of my car… I have to admit I am a little heart broken by this development!?!?!? I guess life changes and we just have to do our best to adapt and keep up…….

  10. #13

    Right now you’re living the life that you want to live with the people you want to live with doing the things you want to do. Right now life is how it should be – YOURS!!!

  11. #14
    Amie Kiger

    I am with you each step of this journey as we prepare to take my oldest to a college that is states away from us. I am grateful for the former blissful ignorance of everything this phase of life would bring…could not have prepared for it anyway. I am definitely holding tighter to faith and prayer these days. Always good to know when you are not alone, so thank you for the wonderful post. 🙂

  12. #16

    The one thing I have learned is that children do not suddenly know how to handle every situation when they graduate from high school and college. They won’t want you to fix everything, but there will be tons of phone calls to vent and bounce ideas off of you. You start out holding their hand and over the years that grip whittles down to a pinkie and then one day they completely fly alone.

  13. #17
    Glenda Thorne

    AMEN! Well said Cathy. Been there done that as they say. Now it is the grand daughters that fell those empty holes, thank goodness .

  14. #18
    dawny dee

    love love love this. while i enjoy many blogs of young moms with young kids and get such joy out of their words and the pictures they paint, my reality is so different and i wonder about the worth of trying to capture it. is it even worth the effort – isnt all the “fun” stuff already behind me with kids that are 22, 20 and 13 (the youngest being a boy and so over the “let-me-take-your-photo-and write-down-the-answers-to-these-questions-about-what-your-favorites-are).
    but you help me see there is still value and worth as i enter my very own tween phase – transitioning to on call 24 hrs a day mom to mom on the sidelines eagerly ready to pinch hit when ever there’s a need.

  15. #20

    Very honest post. From one middle-age momma to another, I am still working on how becoming an empty nester has changed my life. My daughter is now 20. She just did a summer class in Hong Kong and is going to continue an internship in Los Angeles. I do spend a lot more time listening and being there for her to have a meltdown when in college.
    I only had the one daughter – so it was a big change when she went to college. There is the constant working on marriage. How does it redefine when the child is out on their own.

  16. #22

    Right now I am completely feelin’ ya. I recently thought I was taking too many pics of my 9 year old as opposed to my 17 year old. Them when the 9 year old proclaimed, “No more sleeping pictures!” I realized that the taking-pictures-of-everything phase was coming to an end. Sigh.

  17. #23

    I’m right there with you Cathy. It’s a hard place to navigate sometimes, that in-between place, not children but not really adult (at least in a parent’s eyes). My girls are 22 and 20 – one a college graduate living home again while job-hunting; the other home but missing her college friends and life. And I’m a bit torn too; the little taste of empty-nest freedom we’ve had the past two years is different but nice enough that I’m looking forward to experiencing again and yet I like having my girls home too. Thanks for your honest post…it’s nice to know that we’re all in this together.

  18. #26
    Angela Ezzell

    Cathy, I love this. I love the honest picture and something I’ve been thinking for a while – I like how you give Cole his privacy on the blog. I live with a 13 yo boy, so I’m looking to see how you manage it. Also, I LOVED your podcast with Elise yesterday. I transcribed one of your quotes (“I love my life, but it’s not tidy…”) and will be scrapping it very soon. The honest posts and keeping it real help us realize that nothing is perfect and everything is work (oooh, that’s a great scrap quote, too!). I love your writing, love the struggles, love the will. I agree with you on so many “real” things.

    For the record b/c I don’t think I’ve ever told you this, my all-time favorite post of yours was your homemade “dickweed” label. Close second: you and Dan in separate beds.

    Thanks for all you do and all you risk by being real and vulnerable with us.

  19. #27

    With the experience of four grown-up children and seven grandchildren I can assure this phase of life is incredible, so keep going and the future has lots to offer even though it may seem quite lonely having just one child at home!

    I wish I could express myself as well as you do!

  20. #28

    It will be ok… done it once with my daughter. But I am right here with you because my son moves out for college in just a few weeks. I’ve seen the other side though and it’s pretty good. She still looks forward to coming home and sitting up late and talking. Wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  21. #29

    In the foggy haze of sleepless night #850 that comes with having toddlers, your post made me remember to live in the moment, rather than focusing on the heavy nostalgia of the past or hopeful promise of the future. Thank you for your honesty and that helpful reminder I needed today!

  22. #30

    This is so good. I’ve got kids on both ends of the spectrum- the oldest starts senior year of high school next month and turns 18 in December. The baby turns one tomorrow and there are 3 middle & high schoolers in the middle of them. Watching my oldest makes me stop and pause and cherish the baby times more than I did before. Time and perspective change you. I do love being able to have “adult” conversations with my daughter. Keep doing what you’re doing, Cathy!

  23. #31

    Thanks for keeping it real. Everyone needs a bit of reality and not the shiny happy perfect world that we too often show in our scrapbooking, journaling and blogging. Real life is awesome in it’s realness – sore knees and hurt hearts and all.

  24. #32
    Leslie Solomon

    Oh, yes, when your child leaves home, there is that feeling that something major is missing in your life. I remember bemoaning the fact that , “Things will never be the same with our relationship.” And the relationship did indeed change over the four years of college. But now it is deeper and richer than ever. Life is messy!

    1. #32.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I hope for deeper and richer. That would be the best of all worlds, as we are so very close right now.

  25. #34

    I could have written this myself, although my oldest still has one more year of High School. The stress of facing his final year at home has really been weighing on me. My babies are no longer babies. It really is a hard place to be sometimes. Thanks for your honesty. You expressed it so succinctly and so well.

  26. #36

    Dear Cathy,

    This is beautiful…and so, so true. I am there with you and I am sending hugs. Know that your sharing makes my life richer. This motherhood thing is not easy is it? You are not alone!

  27. #37

    CZ, I missed you! It was interesting to read about your rebrand and the realization that you were keeping it safe. This is real-talk. And it’s truth. Love it!

  28. #40
    Cindy Easter

    I spent so many years looking ahead — trying to control the future — in futility. Life’s been more enjoyable since I switched to remembering what’s been (the good, the bad, AND the ugly! ;-D) and enjoying the present moment.

    You are a gifted wordsmith. The feelings and events that you reminded me of … wow! Thank you for publishing this post!

  29. #42

    I am a tired middle-aged mom, and was feeling down today wondering if there is any hope for these teenagers of mine, hanging on to the hope that they might turn out in spite of their less-than-perfect mother. It was nice to read that I am not alone in this challenging time of my life.

  30. #43

    Your beautiful post made me cry..
    Right now I think I shouldn’t have gone to study to another city, I shouldn’t have moved to another country after the studies. I should have stayed closer to my mom.
    Miss her so terribly much. Especially now, after she’s gone.. way too early.

    I wish you strength and health!

    1. #43.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Olya, your comment just made me burst into tears…. I think it’s that part of me that hopes my baby girl will always want to have her mama in her life. I think that she will, but…

      Thank you for your comment.

        1. #
          Kathryn Benfiet

          This is oh so true. Olya, my heart hurt when I read your comment(s). I’m sure your Mom was so proud of you and wanted you to experience the world. My Mom has been gone 21 years and I miss her so much, especially since our one and only child…daughter, left the nest a little over three years ago and is a Marine (college is next up for her:). We are now in that strange mix of friends with some “I’m still the Mom” thrown in…I still get tearful phone calls when her world has been turned upside down and she’s homesick and lonely. Savor all of it because it changes so fast.

  31. #44

    That’s what I LOVE about you Cathy!
    You tell it like it is!!!!!!

    Thanks soooooooooo much for sharing with us!

  32. #45

    Oh Cathy, so, so much of this hits home for me. I love your style of writing. You are truly gifted and an inspiration.

  33. #47

    this post is why dear cathy that you rock. you’re true to yourself, & your words make us feel connected. i’ve never been a parent, but it makes me miss my mom. i can’t touch her hand, but i can hear her voice, if i call. i can’t hold my nieces & nephews, but i can look at their eyes through a computer screen, & i can treasure what is. even though things aren’t maybe what i want, they can still be pretty darn good. you were fab on creative live yesterday. 🙂

  34. #49

    So open and honest…tears in my eyes. I’ve got a beautiful 25 year old daughter who’s about to go to Afghanistan (major mom stress) and two sons at home – soon to graduate college. Thank you for keeping it real.

    1. #49.1
      Kathryn Benfiet

      Phyllis…our daughter spent 6 months in Afghanistan (with the Marines). Definitely scary but she did great. Lots and lots of prayers, care packages and the best thing….FaceTime!! We will keep your daughter in our prayers.

  35. #50

    I’m with you on everything but, especially the last line,
    A complicated place to be! I would never have thought when my children where young that life could get so hard!!!

  36. #51

    Cathy I totally admire how seemingly easily you are able to express such deeply reflective emotions. There are so many times I read your posts and think now why didn’t I think of writing about this? And then my next thought is I just want to “borrow” her words because there is no way I could express this emotion so simply and so very beautifully. You are a total inspiration to me in ways so beyond a scrapbook.

    1. #51.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Nancy, thank you. You know, there is nothing wrong with borrowing an idea for writing about your own experience. There’ve been many times I draw inspiration from other bloggers. Like my dear friend Ali Edwards. She’s done “right now” journal posts and I knew I could use that approach to write about this whole middle aged mama thing. 🙂

  37. #52

    The sad part is that I am going through the same thing again as a grandma. My grandkids are in their teens. My son told me not to “hover” when they came for a visit this summer. But that’s my job!!! LOL

  38. #53
    Kim Smith

    It took me a few hours to gather myself and post this.

    Cathy, take it from someone who has been your Aidan is, your relationship will grow stronger than ever! She will have some of these same feelings as she leaves home, but will love that she has a home to come to in a few short months and will tell you of her experiences while away…..til the wee hours of the morning. You and Aidan will grow from this experience and years later, laugh about your feelings (yours and hers). Been there, done that, me and Mom, some 35 years ago. Wow, am I really that old??!

    When Mom was first diagnosed with cancer, I used to read your blog posts to her daily and I think your honesty about life is what helped to take her focus away from the pain and weakness. After her fall, and subsequent hospitalization, I would print out your blog posts and take with me to the hospital, then later the rehab center, and read them to you. Although Mom wasn’t really herself, I know that she remembered who CathyZ was, just like she remembered me and Dad. She would smile and say ‘that Cathy is real’.

    So, keep on being real, Cathy and know that Aidan is bound for her own ‘realness’ and guess what? You get to share in her realness too!

    Big hugs to you!

    1. #53.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Wow, Kim. Thanks for sharing this. I really hate cancer. I’m so sorry that your family has gone through this. Hugs to you.

  39. #55
    Cheri Andrews

    Oh lord I can so relate to so much of this! Even though mine are a few years older than yours (24, 21, 21) it is still hard to step back and watch them figure it out on their own. And to listen more and lecture less. But seeing them become responsible human beings is SO WORTH IT! Hang in there CZ!

  40. #58

    Thanks for being real, for taking the time to share it with us. My youngest leaves for College at UW Stevens Point in the fall. He is ready to go right now…I’m glad we still have a month. I enjoy reading your blog so very much.

  41. #60

    Amen! Right there with you. Mine are all in college and while the thoughts and worry go on, some days the silence in our home is just deafening. Learning to live without them everyday is tough.

  42. #62

    Hormones at night. Holy moly! You must read The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottried. Life. Changing. Seriously awesome! She gets IT!

  43. #63

    AMEN! i am sitting right next to you.

    my oldest left for college 2 years ago, he’ll be a junior this fall. hardest effing thing i ever had to do and it doesn’t get easier with time.

    i’ve been trying to figure out what do i become after my boys leave, what do i do without my boys here all day? it’s a hard place to be in. and i’m not sure i like it and no one has any answers for me.

    so i guess only time will tell, til then i still have one boy at home, he’ll be a junior in HS in the fall. he runs with scissors most of the time so he’ll be hell bent to get out of here soon…..

  44. #64

    a beautiful post Cathy. I am one of those mamas now , nose to nose with my little one and your post reminded me of cherishing these moments however tiring each day is. THANK YOU>

  45. #65

    It’s a right of passage. It takes some getting used to. Your roll changes, but you never stop being their mom. Watching them grow into caring, responsible adults is the most rewarding thing ever.

  46. #66

    Words well-written, Cathy. I am in a different place, but similar. My son, after having been away 5 years in college, returned to the area, but is now leaving for a new job 1000 miles away. My daughter has accepted a job in another city 5 hours away. I still have my oldest daughter in town with my 3 wonderful granddaughters and I told her she isn’t allowed to move! I will miss my Sunday promptu family dinners or our dinners out for each and every birthday. I will not be able to just run by my daughter’s house to check on her or her dog. It’s going to be different. But it’s not the end of the world. My husband has always said that we will try to raise our children to be responsible adults so they can have their own lives. That’s what we have done. My relationship with all 3 of my kids is better than ever. You have such a strong family unit – it will be okay – it will be better. Enjoy every minute of them being home now and when they return home from college. Those short trips home are priceless. And then there’s Family Weekend at the University!

    Thanks for sharing. You make me laugh, make me cry, inspire me all the time. Thank you for continuing to write and be yourself!!!

  47. #67

    Thank you so much Cathy for putting words to your feelings and sharing them so honestly. I am in a similar spot in life and it helps to know that other mamas feel the same as I do about their children becoming young adults and about the aging process.

  48. #68

    Right now I’m kissing chubby cheeks and sticky fingers and breathing through big brothers melt downs. At the beginning of my mama ride. Knowing all too well I will blink and my baby boys will be grown. Read your post and immediately put down the phone to go play while they’ll still let me. Thanks Cathy.

  49. #69
    Angie Hall

    Beautiful post, Cathy! I am there, too. And just today, my 18-year-old said, “Mom, I’m going to miss you when I leave [for college in 2 weeks]. We’ve really bonded this summer.”

    And yes, to achy knees and graying hair and WTF (acne…still? acne), but oh, yes to doing a lot of that early mama stuff so much so that Kayla is primed for world domination!

  50. #70
    Stephanie Howell

    Oh Cathy- I sit here with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. My girls growing up…well one day I want it more than anything and the next day I’m terrified. I want to hold on so hard but lately I just want things to be a bit easier. I know they get harder in many ways, but I’m talking about them just being able to take care of themselves in basic ways.

    I look to you as a touchstone for so many things and again I want to tell you THANK YOU for your transparency and honesty. I’m so glad I can call you a friend!

    1. #70.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You are so in the thick of that whole early childhood thing. I look at Harper. I remember Aidan at that age. And that just feels like such a blink. But that’s life, right?

      Here’s to drinking wine in Italy some day. Believe me, my brain is already working to figure out how we can do it next summer. 🙂

  51. #71
    Barb in AK

    Where is the “like” button? Great post— so many of those same “right now”s have been in my life, too. All I could do was LOTS of praying. The heart can sure ache at this stage. {{{Hugs}}} to you, Cathy!

  52. #73

    Oh Cathy, thank you so much for your brave words. I’ve so been there and am still there in some ways (mostly the ways you describe about the hormones and bladder!) I’m a mom of 4 so I’ve had kids grow up and leave and get married and leave, one still at home till she graduates from college next year, and now 2 (the married daughter and her hubby) have come back to live with us temporarily. It’s all so hard -these feelings and these changes and I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. Hang in there 🙂

  53. #75

    While things change when children head off to university it isn’t necessarily for the worse. We left the country and began a whole new adventure for several years once the girls were away on their own! Then the girls arrived to join us, one with her husband in tow, and they spent three years living with us. We loved that they wanted to come stay and we were able to have a whole new relationship as adults. I feel sad sometimes seeing lovely IG feeds with cute babies and wondered where those years went. However, every new chapter brings its own delights. The key is to embrace the changes and be excited about what is to come.

  54. #76

    Hey Cathy
    I loved this post.
    I’ve enjoyed your work and writing for years but have been away for a while from scrapping as other seasons and tasks have muscled their way in. This is my 50th year and I started a university degree two years ago which will take me forever as I am doing it part time but I love it. We have been asked to write about a blog we love and if we aren’t bloggers then find one and love it and then write about it.
    I’ve never really been a blogger or read many, so I was left wondering where to go. I asked my scrapbooking girls on Facebook and your name came up. I thought, yep, I’d love to see what she’s up to now, always loved her scrapping approach.
    Fast forward to this post – Aidan and Cole have grown up. that was the first thing that got me. Where do the years go? Then, as I read the post I realised we have so much in common. My 19 year old son is in the UK for two years, studying. He’s been gone 5 long months so far. My daughter is 16 and it sounds as though she and Cole share some wavelength. All the physical stuff, the marriage, everything. I’ve always loved your spin on creativity, but in your blog I see more of YOU. I’m a big fan of people who are ‘real’ when they write. I am going to love your blog. I’m so glad you’re still around, it’s like meeting up with an old friend (hopefully not in a weird, stalkerish kind of way lol). Blessya and thanks.

    1. #76.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hey Tracey, well I’m glad you found me again. My goal in this new space is to write truthfully about all kinds of things in my life. Hell, I’m a middle aged woman. I have things to say, right?

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