They’re gone. The house, which was so busy and noisy over the summer, seemed empty and lonely after they left. Or maybe it’s just that I felt empty and lonely. It seems like just yesterday the kids were here – laughing, arguing, making messes, and hanging out with all of their friends. Then they left to go back to college and it was just too quiet.
In the last month, I saw moms everywhere getting their children ready to return to school and I thought about how quickly those years passed. Where did they go? It was really hard when my first child left for college – but I adjusted. There was still so much to do with two others at home. Then the second one left and it seemed so strange. We missed them both but threw ourselves into the activities of our youngest and savored the opportunity to have some special time with just him. Then he left for college too – and life seemed very empty at first. No more groups of loud teenagers, no more screaming at sports on TV, no more rushing off to practices or games, and no more late night bonfires with laughter ringing out in the darkness. It took awhile to adjust to having an empty nest. Keeping busy at work helped filled the days, but the nights and weekends were harder.
One of the hardest things that many of us moms struggle with is the need to feel needed by our kids. So much of our identity is wrapped up in being a mother and fulfilling the needs of our family. When they leave home it can make us feel like we’re not needed anymore and question who we are as a person. They’re off on their own and they’re managing without us. But you know what? They still need us – in different ways than before- but they still need us. And not just for money to help them get through college. They need our unconditional love, our moral support and our guidance – and sometimes they even now ask for our opinions! They are becoming independent, successful adults. And I see an appreciation and love from them for us that I didn’t see so much before they left home. And I think that that means we’ve done a pretty good job at being parents. Not perfect – there is no such thing as a perfect parent. But pretty good.
Over time, I have learned to embrace having fewer demands on my time. I have more time to relax and do things that I enjoy. I’ve found new interests and taken on new challenges. It’s actually become a very enjoyable phase of life with the freedom to do whatever I want and the time and energy to become closer to my husband. I still miss the kids and greatly enjoy connecting with them through texts (frequently), calls (rarely), skyping, and occasional visits. But the emptiness and loneliness I felt after they leave for another school year has lessened with each good-bye. They’re all following their own paths in three different states now and wont’ be coming home much anymore except for holidays. They’re gone from home, but they’ll never be gone from my heart. And I know we’ll never be gone from their hearts either.
By: Karen Duffy, LLPC, NCC