How to Enjoy Becoming an Empty Nester
Even if your kids left the nest a long time ago, it is hard to forget the moment when they first go off to college. It may also be difficult to have let them have their independence, to leave, but it is good for young adults to live on their own. These are the some of the feelings and thoughts that may run from your mind when becoming an empty nester.
The First Experience With an Empty Nest
Your children leaving for college may not have been the first experience to make you feel like an empty nester. You could have similar feelings leading up to that point such as when the kids go to sleepovers or school trips, taking them to the airport and waiting with them until they board the plane.
The first time when you are separated from your child or children for a long amount of time is when you get a taste of what empty nesting feels like.The house is quiet, the refrigerator is more empty, music is not blaring and in general there is less noise.
An Experience of Finding Freedom
Over the course of the eight weeks, a funny thing happened. I began to enjoy the freedom. I did not have to be home at a certain time, I did not have to get up at a certain time. I could eat when and what I wanted and that is when the guilt set in.
I thought, what kind of mother am I? I am not missing my kids as much as I thought I should.
I loved getting their letters and postcards from camp. They sounded like they were having a blast. Swimming, horseback riding, archery, hiking, camping out, cooking marshmallows over an open fire, making friends with people from all over the world. What’s not to love?
I began to feel relieved and started to recognize they could flourish without my being around them all the time. Once I got over the shock of realizing they were becoming two very well-adjusted, independent people, I was happy. I thought that I had done a pretty good job of parenting up to that point.
The years passed, the girls continued to go to summer camp or travel during the summer and I continued to enjoy my summer freedom.
Then came the time for my oldest daughter to fly the coop. She graduated high school and went to college in Boston. Her room remained the same, with all her stuffed animals, dolls, posters and some of her clothes.
I didn’t feel like an empty nester, and in reality, I was not. My youngest daughter was still at home.
Empty Nest Syndrome
The typical “empty nest” syndrome did not totally hit me until my youngest daughter went off to college. Once I took her to school, got her settled and came back home, it not only hit me, it whacked me all over.
From that point forward, I knew my girls were never going to live with me full-time again. They would be home for holidays and maybe for a summer, but we most likely would not have those special spur-of-the-moment trips to the all-night diner for breakfast, or our scary movie marathons, or any of the other little things that made their growing up such a joyous time.
On one hand, it made me sad. On the other, I was so proud of them being off on their own, making their own decisions, living their own lives.
Processing the Feelings
I vacillated between the two feelings for a couple of weeks while I faced my grief and mourned my loss. Not only was it an important passage for them, it was important for me. I also had finally graduated to another facet of my life. I grieved and it felt great! I let the tears flow until I felt better.
Once I completely got over the shock of not having to grocery shop for three and wash clothes for three, I planned and took a three week trip for myself. This is something I would never have dreamed of before.
When Saturdays rolled around and I did not have to be in the office, I went to museums, met friends for lunch or dinner, went to movies, played a lot of golf (which still did not help my game), took a couple of courses I had been wanting to take and generally made (and enjoyed) “me” time.
And then all it took was one phone call to make me realize that no matter how far apart we physically are, my girls will never really be gone from the nest. I will always be ready to rescue them from whatever and provide a warm and comforting place for them to land