A few years back, I attended “College Night” with my son, when he was beginning his senior year of high school. During one of the breaks, I ran into a fellow mom.
“I just don’t know what I’m going to do when Spencer leaves for college.”
She looked distraught, and possibly ready to cry. Well first of all, I said, we’ve got about a year to get used to the idea, and second of all, I can think of about a hundred things I’d like to do when the kids leave home. Just off the top of my head. I sensed her backing away, as if I was speaking a language she did not understand, and it occurred to me that I might have been one of the few mothers who was not dreading the empty nest.
Of course, we love the kids, and of course we’ll miss having them around the house once they fly the coop. They’re generally a lot of fun, and can often be quite useful when you need heavy boxes lifted or someone to see “The Avengers” with. But when my oldest child went off to college, I felt none of the grief and sadness I was told I should expect. I wasn’t in “mourning” for my mothering years. I had done my job and he had done his, and both of us had done those jobs pretty well. He was excited about beginning this new adventure. How could I possibly be upset over his leaving? I was not only happy for him, I was also looking forward to my next chapter.
I have always been of the mind that we parents need to have lives of our own – a point I tried to pound home in my first book, The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting , a book that encourages moms and dads to jump off the child-centric parental treadmill. I’ve tried to encourage the same kind of self-sufficiency in my kids, essentially pushing them out of the house in preparation for an eventual happy and self-sufficient adulthood. But if you’re one of those moms or dads who have spent the last eighteen years or so scheduling, orchestrating or otherwise supervising your child’s every waking moment, you may be in for a shock when the reason for your very existence is suddenly absent.
So it’s time to get a life, if you haven’t taken care of that bit of business yet. Not to say that you won’t have any feelings when you realize there’s an empty room free of stinky socks on the floor, or that you will no longer be able to enjoy the cover of your daughter when the next “Twilight” movie comes out. Indulge in whatever emotions that may arise. Cry, wring your hands, keen, whimper. Then you might start getting busy remaking your child’s old room into a yoga studio, or a crafts & napping den. That should cheer you right up!
There are trips to plan, books to be read, puttering to do. Or maybe you w1ant to go back to school yourself (preferably not the same one your child is attending), or take some cooking classes, or finally write that novel or learn how to sail a boat. You might have time to reacquaint yourself with some old friends, or make some new ones. Find work you love, or volunteer. Rediscover your spouse. And yourself, while you’re at it. Throw out the mom jeans. Take some hula lessons.
What a good thing it’ll be for your kids to come home on a college break and find that their mom is busy and engaged. And by the way, chances are they will be back, and before you know it. For winter break, summer break, and possibly for good, once they graduate, So enjoy these next few years. And do your best to suppress the urge to rent an apartment near your child’s dorm. A house free of children does not mean a house free of fun. Now, go have some.