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A Not So Empty Nest

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 2522746yesterday 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

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Carol Brady, Clair Huxtable & Other Parenting Myths

Recently, I read an article about a young mother wondering if anything she accomplished in her day amounted to much of anything. Truthfully, we might all feel the same way from 1789513time to time. The laundry lies unfolded on the floor, dishes pile in the sink, we forgot to make cookies for the bake sale, and we haven't showered in days. We wonder,” where did that competent, witty, intelligent women go?” Some women stay home with their children, longing for the days of presentations and working lunches. Others spend their days at on the job trying to focus on the report that is due in an hour, when all they really want to know is how their son did on his big science project, or if their daughter made the soccer team. We ask ourselves, "How can I possibly be enough?"

As women we grew up watching successful tv mothers like Carol Brady and June Cleaver perfectly content in their role as a stay at home mother. We admired Clair Huxtable's ability to successfully manage a home, children, and career while still finding time for nights out with her husband. As we drop into bed exhausted from our efforts to be the perfect mom, wife, daughter, friend we might ask ourselves what am I doing wrong? We might even have thoughts of disappointment in motherhood. This isn't what we expected when we dreamed of starting a family.

The truth is parenting is the most difficult job you will ever have. You are on call 24 hours a day, you get no vacation time or sick days, there are no raises or bonuses and the return on your investment is slow. Too often our culture devalues the role of motherhood. How many times have we heard a woman say "I am just a mom" if she stays home to raise her children? A mother who works outside of the home may feel unsupported by her employer when she needs time off to care for a sick child forcing her to choose between her children and her career. In her book, Life Will Never Be the Same, Ann Dunnewold, Ph.D. speaks of the Supermom Myth which implies there is only one right way to be a good mother. The Supermom is loving but firm. She listens and then acts. She is always in control. She always knows the right thing to do or say and does it perfectly. Her home is always in order and her children are always neat and properly dressed. Trying to live up to these impossible standards leaves us feeling inferior, or worse, a failure as a mother.

There are many functional ways to parent and mother our children.   When a woman creates her own definition of motherhood she can stop blaming herself for not living up to the Supermom expectations. She can create her own standards of motherhood based on love and acceptance of her needs and limitations. Her children will thrive with a mother who understands that mistakes in life are not only inevitable, but opportunities for growth. She will teach her children about the importance of self-care by taking time to nurture her personal needs. So are you good enough? Absolutely! - by Susan Orlando