It has been just a little over two months since we moved our youngest out of the house for her freshman year of college. That was the day I had been dreading since her graduation ceremony back in May. As summer grew to an end, my anxiety about losing my grip on life as we had known it, took over.
For the past 22 years, our focus had been on raising our two children, tending to their needs and being present at their events. Although it was difficult when we moved our son to college four years prior, we still had a child at home so the emotions weren’t quite so severe. This time, however, not only were we moving our baby girl off to college but we were also faced with that dreaded “Empty Nest” syndrome. As much as I tried to prepare; reading articles and visiting with others who’ve already been through this experience, I still had to go through the grieving process myself. There were several sleepless nights, doubts about whether we had prepared her to be a thriving adult, and many, many crying sessions! It seemed as though I would never get off of that emotional rollercoaster! There are still days that those feelings of emptiness resurface, but for the most part they are now few and far between.
I am learning to cope. The hardest part of becoming an empty nester, for me anyway, was dealing with conflicting feelings of joy and sorrow. Our children are facing new beginnings of sorts. They are young and have so many possibilities ahead of them; college life, making new friends, new and exciting careers, finding love and having families of their own to raise. It’s difficult not to feel that with their beginnings come endings for my husband and me. I’m still a bit apprehensive about missing out on events in their lives, but I have to keep reminding myself that we’re just beginning a different chapter – and that we’ll get to share many experiences with our children.
After move-in day, I made sure that we didn’t go home and sit around realizing how empty the house was without her there. I cleaned out closets, stained the deck, and hired a handyman to finish some projects that we had avoided for years. The busy time kept me from sulking quite so much and gave me other things to focus on. The one room I didn’t touch was hers, because I want her to feel that sense of comfort and security when she comes to visit. We also attended some high school sporting events, which was a nice way to connect with several people we don’t see as regularly as we used to, and a large group of my girlfriends get together monthly for dinner and drinks.
I’ll admit that I texted her quite a bit that first week during sorority rush and classes, but since then I have made it a point to let her make the initial contact so I’m not interfering with her daily routine. She occasionally comes home on the weekends, and we had a “girl’s day” with dinner and shopping over her fall break. Although it seemed strange the first couple of times we got together, we have all gotten use to our new roles. She still calls or texts to ask for advice, requests home-cooked meals, and loves to sleep in her old bed. I couldn’t be more proud of her as she has developed a great routine at college between studying and her other activities. I am slowly finding comfort that although I am not physically there for her every day, I am still in her thoughts and just a phone call or text away. And maybe, just maybe, I gave her the proper wings to fly!