From Superstar Mom to Supporting Cast

By Margaret Bishop

When I was 27, I was awarded a starring role in an unscripted series: motherhood. It was a role I’d dreamed about, a role I’d wished for, a role I planned like a maniac for, but when the day finally arrived for me to assume my starring turn, I felt a little unnerved by the totality of it.

In a matter of hours, I was suddenly the expert on another human being. Doctors, grandparents, aunts and uncles, even my spouse turned to me to ask questions like: “How many ounces is he eating at each feeding?” “Does he like to be held on his stomach?” “Does he always spit up like that?”

Like so many workers new to their jobs, I felt like a fraud at first. Oftentimes, I didn’t know the answer and was only guessing as to what I supposed to do next. But gradually, over the course of weeks, months and years, I actually became the expert I was always expected to be. By the time my third child was born, I had hit full stride in my role as Mom. I was confident. I was secure. I knew what the hell I was doing, and it felt good. I no longer felt like the fraud I’d worried about being in those first weeks of motherhood.

If someone asked what to buy for a birthday present, I had three options in all price ranges at the ready. If the doctor inquired about a small mole located just below the belly button on the right hand side, I knew when it first appeared and if it had grown. I was the first name my kids called out when sick in the middle of the night, and the first hand they reached for when they woke up in the morning. I was the star of our little universe, and though I often felt tired and drained, I relished my role. I had a purpose, and I was fulfilling it.

And then, after countless days and endless nights of full on mothering, there was a profound, but gradual, change in my role. Without any conscious realization on my part, my starring role was slowly being diminished. I wasn’t necessarily the center of anyone’s universe anymore. No one was reaching for my hand every morning or calling out my name in the middle of the night. When I was too busy and too preoccupied with my starring turn to pay too much attention, everyone else had been off doing some work on their own. Each of my children had become the star of their very own original series, and while I’m still a member of the cast, I’m relegated to the background just like all the other sit-com moms.

And while I’d like to be a star that ages gracefully and accepts her demotion to supporting cast member with dignity and aplomb, I find myself back to the place I was so many years ago when I first became a star – unnerved by the totality of it. Never again will I be the center of my kids’ universe. Never again will I be the first person they think of every morning or the only person that knows what they really want for their birthday. In fact, I now find myself in the humiliating position of having to ask what they really want for their birthday along with everyone else. I’m no longer the expert on their lives.

When I wasn’t looking, my children snuck out from under my thumb and started blossoming into the adults they want to become. It’s a beautiful thing, really. It’s what every parent hopes and prays for – that their children be afforded the good health and opportunity to follow their own dreams. But no one told me that it would be so hard for me to let go. No one told me that I would find myself slightly adrift by the new limitations of my role, and yet, everyone told me. I think I just didn’t believe them.

As we look ahead in the years to come, I’m told that I’ll be pushed even further into the background. “Once they can drive,” wise mothers tell me. “Then, you really find yourself peering in from the outside.” It’s a lot to give up, but a lot to look forward to as well. If we’re lucky, we’ll be gratefully giving thanks and celebrating birthdays, graduations, acceptances, breakups, disappointments and achievements for years to come. And while I won’t be the star in any of these events, I will always be Mom. My wish now is that I can cherish the relationship we once had and embrace the relationship that we are in the midst of building.

About this writer

  • Margaret Bishop Margaret Bishop and her husband, Matt, reside in Camden, South Carolina, with their three wonderful children (David, Olivia and Thomas) and always entertaining dog, Sugar. In between carpools, Margaret enjoys reading and writing as much as possible.

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6 Responses to “From Superstar Mom to Supporting Cast”

  1. Jackie DeLozier says:

    loved it, understood it, lived it, Hooray for Motherhood!!!!
    Keep writing!!!

  2. Margaret, your enjoyable story made me realize how we do take aback seat, and even when our children profess not to need us, they do.

  3. Erika Hoffman says:

    Very insightful. And poignant. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it gets worse. When they marry, you get pushed off the stage entirely. lol But then it gets better. You find yourself again. You are okay just being the master of one life—your own. And when grandchildren appear, well, you get to put on your expert hat and try to remember all the wisdom you gathered raising kids long ago.

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