A mom knows her baby birds will one day fly away. It’s a fact of life—when the time is right, the young leave the nest.
I spent my whole adult life preparing my children to leave. When the time came, I wasn’t ready.
When my youngest left for college, I cried.
Driving away from the school the day I dropped her off, tears started the minute I was outside the city limits—salty tears that forced me to the side of the road where I sat for a while, sobbing.
It’s a curious truth that, as parents, we tend to stay in place and only move forward when our children do.
Having lived vicariously through my daughter all of her life, her going to college was a wonderful adventure I was somehow going to vicariously experience . . . or so I thought.
In the daze that followed, reality set in. I wasn’t going anywhere, vicariously or otherwise. My daughter was busy with this new chapter in her life. And with both of my children now grown and on their own, I had nowhere to go but back to my big, quiet, empty house.
I moped around for weeks, alone for the first time ever in my life, with nothing more to do than take care of myself. My role as a mother was finished; and without this defining force in my life, I felt I had no real identity.
There’s more to the story . . . read about it here
I am here to tell you—there is life beyond motherhood. It doesn’t come quickly, it doesn’t come easily, but it does come.
This is My Best Advice
- Be gentle with yourself. What you’re feeling is perfectly normal.
- Stock up on tissue; you will cry.
- Be patient. Allow yourself time to grieve, work through the loss, and rebuild your life.
- Lower your expectations. Your child might not call every day. Accept it. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
- You’ll have good days, you’ll have bad days. Take each day as it comes.
- Keep busy.
- Get selfish. Focus on your own life. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child.
- It doesn’t matter what other people think or say about moving on.
- Stay positive. Compliment and offer kind words to others. It’ll make them feel good . . . it’ll make you feel better.
- Stay positive with your child. Don’t burden them with your anxiety. They have enough on their plate.
- If you have a spouse, partner, or significant other, talk to them. They might be hurting, too.
- If you need a friend, don’t hesitate to reach out.
- If your feelings are debilitating and preventing you from enjoying life, seek professional help. Seriously.
It was a year or so before I could shake the emptiness I was feeling.
Once I accepted the changes in my life and adjusted to them, I started to embrace and enjoy my new freedom as well as the opportunities that came with it.
In Linda Lowen’s article, “Time to Fly—Surviving an Empty Nest,” empty nester Mindy Holgate describes the process of letting go as “similar to paying out rope: First you ease it little-by-little; then suddenly it just slips out of your hands, and you’ve let go.”
So true . . . when I finally did let go, my life began to bloom independently on its own.
Christine London says
We became foster parents to a fifteen year old girl who needed stability in her life. It was a great transition and not so empty. Oh, and I found that I LOVE writing, so here I am–strong, proud, multi-published author and almost empty nester. (That little fifteen year old is in college and living at home.)
Christine, that’s wonderful! I admire that you were able to open your home and heart to a foster child. I imagine she has brought you a lot of joy, love, and pride. How truly wonderful!
Kathleen Leisel-Berger says
BTW, I LOVE your website. That post you did on decorating with blue is my favorite!
Kathleen Leisel-Berger says
I totally relate to everything said here. I devoted my whole adult life to raising my children – I have three and they’re all grown and gone. When my youngest left for college, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My husband wasn’t much help. He told me to get a job or hobby or something else to do. It took about a year for me to accept and start enjoying all the free time I had. I’m OK now, but I love my kids to pieces and still sometimes miss being a soccer mom.
I think anyone who’s invested a lot of time and energy in raising children has the same feelings when the nest empties. It’s hard to switch gears. You’ve devoted your life to it. It was meaningful and fulfilling.
I’m having a terrible time with my empty nest. I miss my boy. He’s in the military so I have to worry about that too. If it wasn’t for my friends, I don’t know what I would do.
Sharon Greenthal says
Linda, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have a child in the military. You and your son are so brave. Please thank him for his dedication to our country.
Linda, please stay in touch and let us know how everything goes. I’ll keep you and your son in my thoughts and prayers.
Sharon Greenthal says
It took me a full year to accept the empty nest for what it is. After the two kids came home for the summer, I was, to be honest, grateful when they left. I found my way to blogging, connecting with other people in the same situation, and enjoying the freedom and quiet and time to myself, far more than I ever thought I would. I too lived vicariously through my daughter – and my son to an extent – but now I am happy to watch from the sidelines. It does take time!
Really great post. Thanks for sharing!
Sharon, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m always interested in hearing what others have to say about having an empty nest. Your experience and feelings are similar to mine. I, too, enjoy the freedom, quiet and time to myself more than I knew I would.