From the second a child enters our lives, we are on deck, doing most things on his or her behalf - the physical care of an infant and a young child to the more emotional and logistical care of adolescents and teenagers.
And while I'm not there yet, my friends with college-age children tell me that even when they leave, we are always on call.
So, when do adults get to be adults? Sure, you may take time to exercise or have dinner with a friend or you and your husband may trade off doing things so the other one can be with the kids. It is this way for 18 years per child ... and then what? What do you do after that? How do you fill your time?
One mother told me the other day that she took up biking when her youngest daughter, a teenager, spent most of the summer traveling. It makes sense to start new things before your children leave the nest so that you will be well on your way to having a life apart from being a parent.
My best friend from college recently dropped off the last two of her four children at college. It was a bittersweet moment for her, trying to figure out her new identity as wife and independent woman who no longer had to fix meals for a big family and chauffeur children here and there.
She and her husband took a trip, just the two of them, a rare luxury in the life of a woman who has spent the past 20-some years raising children. After being a stay-at-home mom for much of her adult life, she also started a new job before her children graduated from high school. She threw herself into it with the energy and passion of a 20-something. It gave her purpose and a new challenge.
The empty nest years are several years away for me. For now, I will settle for carving out bits and pieces of adult time when possible and when it makes sense in my family's schedule.
I escaped to the beach this past weekend, a little more than 24 hours of adult time. It's enough to recharge the batteries, and to re-enter the mom-life with renewed vigor and more patience - and perhaps a little more panache.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.