It creeps up on you. All too quickly they grow up. One day their chubby, little arms are wrapped around your neck giving you the sweetest, slobbery kisses and the next day they are loading up the car with carelessly packed boxes of bedding and clothes heading off to college.
From the state of my emotions at the moment, you would think this is the first time I’m sending a child off to school. I considered myself a pro at this, understanding the nuances of a child struggling to leave the nest. I recognized the fighting and occasional back-talk as tools to distance themselves from me (It’s easier to separate when you believe you are freeing yourself from a crappy situation). I was ready for the stubborn independence and the constant replies of “Mom I’ve got this,” “I’m not stupid,” and “I’m not a baby.”
What I wasn’t remotely prepared for was how my “half-empty” nest (or perhaps “half-full” considering my 15 year-old daughter’s personality) would change my job description. I’ve been home since I was pregnant with my first daughter, now twenty-one. For almost a quarter century I have been all things stay-at-home mom: room mom, girl scout leader, guild leader, dance/cheer mom…not to mention chief cook and bottle washer. I never regretted my decision to stay home. It was the right choice for me and I have cherished every moment, every milestone, with gratitude for the gift to be home with my kids.
Now with daughter number one graduating college and settling in Washington, DC and daughter number two heading off to school in New York City I find that my job description has changed with out HR consulting me. I have successfully launched two competent, compassionate young adults and I’m confident number three will follow in her sisters’ footsteps. This is the long-awaited “pay check” I have invested my heart and soul into achieving. Kudos for mom!
But as I see the piles of laundry dwindle and address the struggles of only cooking for three, I’m left with an emptiness that is difficult to describe and the tears flow even as I write this.
I have spent the last twenty-one years being “needed.” Whether is was tending to a sick child, wiping away tears of frustration, drilling them on their times tables or last-minute runs to school with forgotten homework and lunches…they needed me. I was the glue; I was the constant.
But it creeps up on you and all too quickly they are grown and they don’t need you in the same way. And the worst part is that they are trying really hard to NOT need you. They want to prove to themselves that they can handle all the adult stuff without asking for help. You watch them stumble and fall, just as they did as toddlers, and you stand back and wait to see if they get up and keep going or cry out for help.
And in my heart I know that this is all good stuff. I know that they need me in different ways now. They still come to me for advice and we are able to explore deeper friendships now that parental discipline is no longer necessary. I know they will still call me with questions about laundry and stain removal and how to make gravy.
So when we return from New York with an empty car and two empty bedrooms it will be time for me to meet with the head of HR and discuss my new job description.
Oh wait…that’s me. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.