Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Empty Nest


Much is written about the empty nest syndrome and how to cope with it. Some mothers are thrilled when they drop their last child off at college. I wasn't one of them. That initial moment when I gave him that hug goodbye, when I walked away from the dorm and back to the car without him, was awfully hard.  I knew he was ready by I wasn't so sure about myself. You want to teach your kids to fly out of the nest, but you don't want them to actually do it. The house was suddenly quiet, the vibrancy of children gone. The days seemed empty without soccer games, school plays and bake sales. The job I'd been doing every day for 24 years was over.

I was also mourning the passing of an era. We were no longer young parents raising kids and I just wasn't ready for that new phase in my life. I spent quite a while wondering, "Who am I  now?" "What's my purpose?" Things I read suggested getting a job, volunteering, going back to school. Nothing sounded important enough to compare with motherhood. One thing we never think about while we are raising our kids is that parenting is terminal. It does eventually come to an end, or at least it should under healthy conditions. But that end sort of sneaks up on us and then we realize how fast it all went.

I would love to say that I have the answer for coping with the empty nest.  I don't. But it has gotten easier. They are adults with their own lives and I am so proud of each one of them and what they are making of those lives. I am grateful that they are close to each other and to us and that we see them often, have dinner together, vacation together. I have two beautiful grandchildren who are the light of my life. We did a good job. Life is good.

Have you coped with an empty nest? Or does that still seem like a long way off? Do you think you will be one of those who handles it well or not so much? We would love to have you share your thoughts on this subject.  And to all of you "lurkers", this means you!

Remember, our theme for May "The Sky's the Limit" is continuing and we would love to see your shots posted in our Flickr group. If you want them to be considered for an In Focus selection, make sure to tag them with TSTL.


19 comments:

Carol said...

I was a single parent and always worked, but it didn't help a bit on the day I dropped my kids off! Because the thing is, you are no longer privy to the small moments. They can call and give you good news - but you aren't there to see their eyes light up when they first hear the news.
I love the peacefulness and the freedom of the way I live now, but but I loved the life I lived then too. I think you know the secret - gratefulness for all of it. those of us who have been born in a place and time where we can bring our kids up the way we want to are so lucky!
enjoy those grand children Terri, and job well done, girl!

Carol said...

I was a single parent and always worked, but it didn't help a bit on the day I dropped my kids off! Because the thing is, you are no longer privy to the small moments. They can call and give you good news - but you aren't there to see their eyes light up when they first hear the news.
I love the peacefulness and the freedom of the way I live now, but but I loved the life I lived then too. I think you know the secret - gratefulness for all of it. those of us who have been born in a place and time where we can bring our kids up the way we want to are so lucky!
enjoy those grand children Terri, and job well done, girl!

Dotti said...

Oh, my! The day I took my only child to college six hours away from home was excruciating, to say the least. It got even worse because she was miserable there, her college choice was a disaster. She transferred after fall term and that turned the tide. For her and for her dad and me. I was working but it didn't help a lot. It was a painful episode in our family. Thankfully we've moved on and she's now happily married. And I am loving the empty nest that my husband and I now call "home". These days my photography, blogs and granddaughter keep me busy. As you say, Terri, "Life is good"!

Hugs,
Dotti

Linda said...

Yes, the house suddenly became so very quiet when our son went away to college. I don't think the parenting ever stops though, it just changes. It's not so hands on, it has matured but there are still moments when my kids need a little parenting, they will ask for it. It comes now as a shoulder to lean on or a little asked for advice, maybe a little council, words from us that fell on deaf ears in their youths, they are now asking for!
For me, I was also a little lost at first, but have settled into grand-child care and it's the best job I ever had!
But one day last summer, I passed a teen-aged boy walking into the grocery store, he was dressed in his soccer gear, obviously headed to a game, and a wave of nostalgia swept over me. I miss those days sometimes. (not the smelly soccer bags though!)

xo,
Linda

terriporter said...

Oh, yes, I hear you, Linda! I think I'm doing fine and then I see a young boy in soccer gear or something else that brings those days back and that nostalgia hits for me too. Yes, they still need us in other ways and I am grateful every day that whatever we did right, they still want to be with us, want to talk with us and share their lives with us. I think that's all a parent can ask for. I agree, being a grandparent helps a ton! Thanks for your sweet comment.

terriporter said...

Ah, yes, those "small moments"! I miss those too. Yes, I'm focusing on being grateful for all the wonderful years and for the fact that they still want to share their lives with us. Being a mom was and is the great joy of my life! Thanks for your sweet words!

terriporter said...

Oh, Dotti, that had to be so hard! Mine were never farther than two hours away during undergrad and that was hard enough, even though they were mostly happy. Having an unhappy child so far away had to be pure torture! The past three years of our youngest being clear on the other side of the country have been hard but now he's coming home! Yes, grandchildren definitely keep you busy and our wonderful hobby and sharing that with all of the amazing people we have met while doing it definitely helps too. Thanks for your comment.

heyjudephotography said...

Oh Terri, what timing here with your post! I have been so struggling over the past few weeks. My older son is not "coming home" this summer since he has a job in the city where he attends college. I realize how much I had truly looked forward to him coming home each summer, for almost 3 full months. It was always an adjustment when he came back into our home, but it was wonderful. I'm trying to stay positive for my younger son, who is 9 and adores and "worships" his big brother, and is, needless to say, not very happy that he won't be here for the summer. I see that this is only the beginning - he is maturing and becoming an adult. I have to keep reminding myself that that is exactly what we do as parents - try to raise our children to be strong, independent adults. But why did it have to come so soon??? hahaha As you all have mentioned - I'm trying to be grateful that he is only two hours away, and we will obviously be able to see him here and there this summer. And, just a few moments ago, I was on the phone with him after he called for advice. Feels good to still be needed. :) Great post Terri!

terriporter said...

Ah, Judy, I definitely feel your pain! Once they leave for college, we can look forward to them being home all summer and then when that time passes and for one reason or another they don't come home, it's definitely hard. And you're right it's only the beginning. But if they still call home for advice, I guess the apron strings aren't completely severed, huh? Yes, if only they'd told us it was going to come so soon. I think it definitely helps to know we aren't alone in feeling this way and can share with each other. Grateful for all of you today!

Deanna said...

Empty Nest....that was a really, really hard one for me. My son had been away at college which wasn't too far away, then decided he wanted to move west. He left and moved to Lake Tahoe and then even further west to LA. I cried for a solid week. I wanted my children to leave the nest, just not leave and go that far away. My answer to empty nesting is to get a pet, something that diverts your attention away from raising children, raise a dog instead. PS they also don't talk back and never bring dirty laundry home...

kelly said...

this post really hits home with me. the past year has been quite a journey for me. what i found was that i didn't just miss my daughter's physical presence, but also the direction and focus that she brought to my life. but i took this opportunity to explore and discover my life outside my role as 'mom' and in the process i learned alot about myself. which has been a good thing. i guess i should also add that my family and my faith played a huge part helping me cope. and now i feel like i'm in a really good place. not sure what exactly the next chapter of my life has in store, but i'm not so afraid of it anymore. :) thanks for sharing your story. love,kelly

terriporter said...

Yes, when they really move away, it is so hard! My oldest son lives in Dallas, as you know, and I only get to see him a few times a year. But in July, two out of three will be back in town and I'm so grateful for that! I have two cats, and it does help, but they aren't the greatest conversationalists! But all I have to do is open a can and fill the water bowl and dinner's ready! A lot to be said for that!

terriporter said...

So good to see you here, Kelly! I really hear you about the "direction and focus". It's all about them for so long and then when they're not there, it sort of leaves you a bit aimless. Sounds like you handled that quite well. I visited your blog and have to say it is now on my list of places to visit daily! Loved everything about it! You give me inspiration to be a little more faithful in posting to mine. Thanks for stopping by and for leaving your heartfelt comment. So appreciated!

stephmull said...

What a wonderful post, Terri! Even though I'm not an empty nester yet, I can feel all of the emotion that one day I, too, will experience. It's also a good reminder to me that my children grow up way to quickly and that when they are grown, the seemingly important tasks I have to accomplish this week/month/year will fade into insignificance. I feel the need to go up and hug my children right now (even though they are sleeping)!!!
Hugs to you!
Steph

terriporter said...

I was hoping this was how those of you with young children would feel after reading my post! It's so hard to imagine a time when your little ones are grown and gone and how fast that will happen, especially when you are in the middle of all the hard work of mothering. So go up and hug them right now! You have such a beautiful family and I know you treasure that. Thank you, my friend, for letting me know that I have reached not only those who have experienced an empty nest but those of you who are still very much involved in raising your children. It truly touches my heart!

leighlovedesign.com said...

Great post Terri! I'd like to think that I'm a ways off from being an empty nester, but my first will go to college in 8 years and seeing how fast time flies by that will be here before I know it! I know it's going to be a major life change when it happens and I'm so grateful you wrote about it. It really gives me some perspective and like Steph said, reminds me that some of the things I think are so important now really will fall by the wayside.

terriporter said...

Oh, Leigh, you have no idea how fast those eight years are going to go! But the relationship you are building with your children now will keep them close even as they move away and into their own lives and you will be thankful, as I am, for all the wonderful memories you build while you have them with you. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed my post.

terriporter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AFishGirl said...

Lovely post, Terri. I still struggle with it. I'd say that is accurate. Yep. I still struggle.

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment here on this post, please leave your comment on our Facebook page or in our Flickr discussion group. We love hearing from you!

 
© Focusing On Life