Sending your last child off to college means many changes and plenty of emotions for the brand new empty-nester.
I have had many job titles over the course of my lifetime. Associate, assistant, freelancer, independent contractor, manager, specialist, and entrepreneur, just to name a few.
Each of the positions has come and gone over the years. Some lasted longer than others. Some left me with a great sense of accomplishment, while others had me dreading another day. There has been one particular title that has been consistent throughout all of it. Since the time I was just twenty years old, I have had a wonderful job known as Mom.
Being a mother has been my most important job of all. It has certainly been the most exhausting, and by far the most thankless job I have ever had. And yet, I have never felt so rewarded or fulfilled in any other roll.
I just had the toughest day on the job so far. Today, I dropped my youngest son off at college. Life, as I have known it for the past thirty years, has just changed with a much-too-quick-for-my-liking hug goodbye and what I’m guessing is a false promise of sending frequent text messages. As he turned to walk down the dormitory hallway, I realized that’s it. It’s over.
There are two gifts we should give our children.
One is roots and other is wings.
There is no one left at home for me to ask about their day; no one to pick up from wrestling practice; nobody to remind to take the dogs out; no more snuggling on the couch watching some Marvel movie I really didn’t care to see in the first place but would never say no to; and no more making their favorite meal just to see them smile.
I am sure it is commonplace to be a little lost when the kids leave for college. In fact, lost is just how I felt when my oldest left for college twelve years ago. However, back then, my middle child was just entering high school and the baby was getting ready to start first grade. My oldest son was five hours away and I missed him terribly, but life had to go on. I was still busy with all sorts of kid related activities. I was still a Mom.
When the second child, my only daughter, left for college, again I felt lost. No more preparing for dance recitals or impromptu shopping trips to the mall. This time, though, I had a bit of a reprieve – the oldest moved back in to save up for his eventual big move across the country. The house was still bustling, full of life and love.
When my daughter graduated from college, she returned home for a short time before settling into her new city 1500 miles away and a mile high. The focus was on the baby of the family, his last few years of high school, and his full calendar of sports activities. And now that’s all over, and he has left the house, too.
I will be honest with myself because I’ve been down this road before. Since my two oldest kids have grown and left home to move on and build their own lives, a piece of “us” as a family is removed. Sure, we visit together as often as possible and stay in close touch (thank goodness for today’s technology that allows us to send an instant text message or have a glorious video chat any time of the day or night). The problem is, I feel less and less connected to them, as their Mom, with each passing day.
For the last thirty years, I have had someone else to look after. Someone that depended upon me. Thirty years! That’s a full career, and it’s not going to be an easy thing to “retire” from. There are now crickets in this house. Complete silence. It’s an empty nest. I don’t know who I am at this very moment. Of course, I’ll always be their Mom, I know that. But, for the first time ever, I don’t feel like a Mom anymore.
It’s difficult to not only say goodbye to your child, but also to life as you’ve come to know it. I don’t envision feeling sad forever, but I will need a bit of time to get my bearings straight. And when I do, I’ll be looking for that next job title. What will it be, I wonder?
I kind of like the sound of Grandma…
P.S. If you are feeling like you aren’t sure what’s next for the second half of your life, download my free guide, Finding Your Midlife Path.