The Nest is Empty – Now What?

This is for all you parents out there whose baby is going off to college.

The Parenting Life

Some or all of this may sound familiar:

You gave up alcohol for 9 months during which time the smell of onions sent you rushing to the bathroom to puke. Or you could barely make it out of bed in the morning. And your stomach continued to grow until you couldn’t tie your own shoes.

Then you gave up alcohol for several more months while you nursed this cherubic being (we tend to blot out from our memories or even remember with a wry smile the nights of screaming infants and croupy coughs).

And then there was this wonderful blur of romping, reading, laughing, and hugs. Followed by play dates and soccer games and less frequent hugs (at least in public). Followed by computers and texting which didn’t directly involve you but you had this feeling of well-being just being there. And then the pride at good grades, profound thoughts, thoughtful and generous acts coming from this kid who might even be taller than you are.

Going, Going, Gone…

And in a week or two, they will be gone. Off to college. For some, it may be within driving distance. For others, the whole country may lie between you and your college child.

How do you feel? Sad? Anxious? Wondering what you will do with all that time you have been spending with them?

Now What?

I’ve been through it and reached the other side. So here are a few things that surprised me in my journey getting from there to here:

  • Before my baby left for college, I thought the fact that she would no longer be around the house would be the big, overwhelming feeling. It turned out that what colored my mood most was whether she was happy. My emotional radar was on high alert during every phone call. More often than not, especially during those first few weeks, she gushed about her roommates and the parties and the sport she was playing. I came away from hearing her happiness with a feeling of satisfaction much like I felt when she was home.
  • There were times when she hit bumps in the road. At first, I had a powerful urge to storm onto campus and set things right. (I am happy to say, I refrained.) But I found as time went on that she handled the bumps just fine without me. And that was a RELIEF! Which made me feel good about myself as a mom, too.
  • And what was I doing back at the ranch? Yes, there were times when I walked past her bedroom and teared up. But I also began to spend more adult time with my partner and my friends. I tackled the ten books on my nightstand. I actually took advantage of the fact that I live a few blocks from a big beautiful lake with paths specifically for biking and walking. When I was tired or just tired of being busy, I could spend weekend mornings in bed with a cup of coffee and a croissant. And when I felt like an impromptu cocktail with a friend, I was fancy free.

The parts of me that are not “mom” started getting more time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t thrill every time my college kid and I had a visit. Or that I didn’t ache when it was time to say goodbye again. But it does mean that life back home was not so bad.

So chin up. And carpe diem!

Share your empty nest experiences!

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