When my son left for college, my friends told me to reach out whenever I needed to. They knew that I would have moments when it would hit me hard. My son has been my world the moment he was born. And even though I still kept working and pursuing things that brought me fulfillment in other ways, my life was wrapped up into being a mother.
This last year, right before he left for college, we had the most difficult chapter in our mother/son relationship. He had already turned 18 and was ready to take on the world. I was still having trouble letting go, and wasn’t going to forgo household rules because of his age. To sum it up, it was time for him to figure things out on his own and it was time for me to trust that I did a good job and that it’s OK.
No one prepares you for that moment. One minute you’re planning their 7th birthday party, the next minute you’re packing their bags and helping them move to their new place.
Right now I’m in the midst of what is called Empty Nest Syndrome wavering between the stages of grief, relief and joy. If you’re approaching this time in your life, here are a few things I’ve learned so far:
It’s bitter sweet: I won’t cut corners. My son drove me a bit crazy his senior year – From dating a girl mom did not approve of to managing the most impressive social life I’d ever seen. On one hand, I knew this was all normal stuff. Who wants to date anyone mom approves of when they’re a teen? I mean, really. I get it. Been there. And a teen with a healthy social life and tons of friends is actually a good thing, right? But, as the parent, it wasn’t always fun being in those shoes. There was a part of me that looked forward to having a break. The other part of me could not stand the thought of not seeing him everyday.
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It’s a new life: Not only is it a new life for you, it’s an entirely new one for them. The first few weeks my son was at school, I felt like he was going to forget me. I know, illogical. But I had become so used to him saying “I love you, mom” everyday, I honestly didn’t know what to expect anymore.
Now? I can’t even get him to text me back sometimes. Not hearing him say those three magical words to me everyday was tough, but it’s slowly getting better. He’s got a whole new life. The one I worked hard to prepare him for, after all. I’m still testing what works for him but I noticed that if I go MIA for two days, he calls me. We’re both working out a new rhythm.
Exploration time: While my son learns more about film (his major), how to live with roommates and figure out what he’s going to eat for dinner, I too am going through my own chapter of exploration. I can now work without guilt (I work from a home office). My fiance and I can go out on dates and stay out later (Even when my son got older, I never stayed out late. At the disappointment of my friends, I just always felt that staying too late didn’t set a good example. That’s just me). I’m also a lot more inspired to decorate and add more feminine touches to our home. There are things I can do now without the mom guilt.
Related: 5 things new moms need to know
I’m still in the baby stages of this new chapter. I will be sure to update once a full year goes by. He’s only two hours away, and I’ve already been up to see him twice. Our visits are so nice because he holds the day just for me, which makes our our time very special – It will be interesting to see how he and I grow into these new roles.
Ah, parenting. It’s such a mixed bag of emotions…