Fast forward twenty years and here I am again. I just looked at my daughter’s room full of boxes and suitcases as we make our final preparations to take my baby to college in a couple of days and I am overcome with emotion knowing nothing will quite be the same after this as well. I’m excited for all the new adventures, but the dynamics of everything I’ve known for the past 20 years are about to change again. We will be coming home today not as a family, but as a couple once again. How will that look? How will my husband and I handle the transition? Will we figure out our new world? Will we love it as much as I hope we will?
I have some friends that think empty nesting is the greatest thing ever and I’m so thankful they have this experience. But for most of us, it’s a mixed bag of emotions and it’s a journey that takes some time to navigate. The transition began when my son left for college two years ago. Although my daughter was still home, I felt a little lost. Our day to day family of four became a family of three. I missed his daily presence, but we stayed busy with visits to watch him play basketball and lots of time on the field and court with my daughter. Friendships were still easy to maintain because we preserved them in the stands as we watched our kids play the sports they loved and happy hours before and after games. We kept them alive through school activities and travel sports. They carried on through graduation planning and weekend trips. I still heard the laughter of friends congregating up in my daughter’s room and on nights I felt a little bit down, my daughter would hunker down with me for a Netflix marathon.
Now there’s just silence. Something I longed for for so many years ago, but now makes me uncomfortable and quite frankly lonely as I remember the hustle and bustle of nightly dinners, practices, homework, games, friends over, movie nights and so much more. Friendships are harder now because you have to work at it. Our common ground, our kids, is gone. And now get togethers have to be planned and we have to make the time for each other. Nothing comes naturally anymore by us just showing up to a game or activity.
But with this sadness, comes the excitement as I think of all the possibilities of me filling this silence...hobbies I never had time for, trips I didn’t take because I didn’t want to leave the kids, rekindling friendships that took a backseat to my parenting responsibilities, working out, being spontaneous with my husband, following my passions and finding my purpose. And the new relationship I’m forming with my adult children. It’s a different kind of parenting but one I find just as special and fulfilling. I’m amazed every day at the unique, thoughtful, and loving kids I raised, who are now that and so much more as young adults.
I don’t know how this empty nesting thing will turn out for me (stayed tuned!), but I do know the outcome is up to me. I’ve had a lot of change in my life recently and I can wallow in the past or I can make this new stage one of adventure and new experiences. And if this transition turns out anything like parenting did, it’s going to be some of my best years yet! Good luck to all you empty nesters out there, as well as the ones that are just starting this emotional journey. You are not alone! xo