Motherhood is the state of being a mother. What does that mean exactly? The day your child is born, you become a mother for life. As your child gets older, your relationship with them changes. You can’t protect them every waking minute. They go to school, have friends, and have their own thoughts, and they aren’t you.

I adore seeing my friends with young kids and teenage kids under their roof. It also brings me back. Raising a family was one of the greatest joys of my life. Each stage had its trials and tribulations. I look at this photo by Anna Maria Maiolino and see the generational connection. In some countries, families live under one roof with babies, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and sometimes even aunts and uncles.

Our kids have completely flown the nest. We raised them with wings, and boom, off they go. It has been a few years now, but recently I have been thinking a lot about motherhood. It is an integral part of my life, even though I don’t talk to my kids every day, sometimes not for a few weeks on end. When we see each other, my heart sings, and they are very present. Nobody talks about how mothers feel when their kids become adults and have their own lives separate from yours.

Then I saw this portrait—a woman carrying her mother on her back. Indeed, our mothers lie inside of all of us, but this made me cringe. I know how many things from my Mother live inside me and many I wish didn’t. There are things from me that live in my children, of course. Do I wonder what they are, good and bad? Sure. With older kids, you can become more aware of what they are. Sometimes, cringe-worthy.

I am enjoying our empty-nester life more each year. My 60th is coming up next week, and our children get older; I realize I miss my kids; I love them with all my heart and am thrilled they are building their own lives, and that is ok.