For the past 18 years you have loved, hugged, fed, thought/worried about, watched, enjoyed and laughed with your child through infancy, preschool, elementary, middle and high school. You have loved every minute– well almost every minute. Now, as you plan to say good-bye, unpeel your fingers and leave the dorm room, a wave of sadness sweeps over you –almost the feeling of a newborn being ripped from your arms. Is this it? Is your work done? Is this how it ends? You did not anticipate the intensity of this moment.
In the rush to get everything done — SATs, college application essays and letters of recommendation — you hadn’t realized that this 18-year job would end so suddenly. You have looked forward to this day…but now, there is the haunting question, “What kind of mom am I supposed to be now?” That’s something we seldom really consider.
Parenthood is a pre-occupying and intense day-to-day experience. No wonder there is a name for this universally experienced stage of parenthood when children leave home – “the empty nest syndrome.” Even if your teenager takes a gap year after high school, departure for college has an altogether different connotation. This is serious! Now, your new college student is preparing for his or her life, independent of you.
The good news is when children leave home, parents have a chance to grow up too! In a few months, you may even start to think of things you have always wanted to do for yourself. What is your “learning path?” Taking a writing or ceramics course? Volunteering? Part-time work in an art gallery? Explore areas in which you want to grow. Now is your time to grow, too!
Life can open up for parents in exciting new ways! But first, find a way to celebrate a job well done! It may be bittersweet at the moment, but you’ve earned this. Acknowledge the gift of this passage. And, remember, it launches your new freedom!
And…it’s really not over. There will be Parents Weekend, Thanksgiving break and hopefully, texts and phone conversations with your college freshman as you both have new experiences.