This was 3 years ago –
Oh my gosh! I thought I was so ready for my last baby to fly the nest! I was so dang tired. Cranky Boy mom. 😴😫 I was ready SOOO ready to be done doing ALL Mom things!
But when I dropped my youngest off, instead of feeling pure JOY for getting those little 9lb babies across the finish line, I felt sadness. Like a sadness I had not experienced before.
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? It WAS for me. I felt lonely, and really confused. I was supposed to be excited, right?? Shouldn’t I feel joyous for a new start???
But I already missed my kids. I missed the hustle and bustle and the business that kids bring. It went so fast… I learned real fast that indeed I had been an adrenaline junkie for quite a while. I now had to make peace with the quiet.
How often was appropriate to hear from my kids? Was it okay to have an expectation on my boys as to how much they should call me? Can I get mad if they don’t call me and if I do get mad… Does anyone really care??
Let me premise this ALL by saying – I have WONDERFUL boys.
Like extraordinarily kind. They love me and I do not doubt that. They are truly caring and I know if I asked, they would try hard to fill any requests I might have. But…as you have probably heard me say before, “the reasoning part of their brain, the prefrontal cortex, is not developed fully age 25.”
If you are about to embark on empty nesting, let me give you 4 things to consider.
Set up Expectations
You should have an idea of how much communication you expect with your college freshman. Unexpected calls or visits can lead to unwanted situations.
When my oldest was a freshman I wanted to SURPRISE him and take him to lunch. The surprise was on me – He didn’t have time that day. He was a pledge and, not only did I feel worse than before, it made him feel guilty he wasn’t able to take time with his mom.
Give Yourself Permission
Permission to feel any and all of your emotions. Don’t judge them, or tell yourself “I shouldn’t be sad, this is a happy time” You can be sad AND your child can be living their best life. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
If you don’t feel your feelings now, you could find them coming out In other ways that you had not intended. Like frustration, smoking, over drinking, or overeating.
Feeling your emotions doesn’t have to mean sitting in your house by yourself feeling sad. It can mean you’re traveling; doing all the things you want to do, noticing when the eyes start to tear up, and being okay with it.
Have Straight Talk With Your Kids
“I want you to know that my feelings are not your responsibility to carry but WOW! I am so sad you guys have left home.”
Just talking about it with my boys, released a little bit of shame about how I was feeling. Being vulnerable with your kids means letting them into your life. Sharing my feelings with them allows them to share their feelings and that’s what builds relationships.
Find Common Ground
Somewhere along the way of raising kids. I forgot to have fun. I was the one to remind them to eat their veggies, quit smacking their gum, stand up straight, don’t be late, turn your reports in on time… I probably was a little bit of a drill sergeant 😬😜
I wasn’t very fun, and that’s on me. It’s hard to want to have a relationship with someone that is constantly picking out all the things you should be doing. I apologized a lot for things that they’ve had to endure like divorce and my parenting from a place of fear.
I try not to judge myself, because honestly, it does no good. I acknowledge it and take full responsibility for my part. I did the best I could do with the knowledge I had, and that has to be enough. Wouldn’t it be nice if each child came with their own rule book??
We are learning to spend time together. Bowling, diving, taking Buster for a walk – I am figuring out what it means to hang out and have an adult relationship with my sons (Who are 21 and 23).
That first year after your kids leave home, it could be sad. Or it could be the best year you have ever had!!
You won’t know until you have experienced it, so just be curious. Life is not over once the kids leave home. Lean into the uncomfortable stuff, give yourself lots of love and patience, even if you don’t understand all the emotions you are feeling.
You will be glad you did.