Someone asked family counselor and parenting educator Randy Rolfe today to help her with her feelings now that she faces "the empty nest" - one child is moving away after college and the other is leaving to go to college. This is the answer Randy gave her, and she said she was so grateful to know that her feelings were quite "normal" and okay. Hopefully it may be helpful to you too.
This is the simple bottom line. Restructuring is the right term. Make sure to tell your husband how you are feeling and that you need more time and attention from him to help you adjust to the new smaller family community.
Things around the house stay where you put them, for example! It’s crazy-making!
Parenting is a life-long process of letting go that starts when you give birth. Humans are designed traditionally to have at least some of their children in their daily lives for life (think tribal living), so this kind of thing we are not well adapted to and it does take mental energy to deal with it.
Let the kids know too that you are feeling a bit needy and it’s not about them, it’s just that you are transitioning to them being who you always imagined they could be.
Make a list of all the great things you did for your children and pat yourself on the back that your job is done. Now you are meant to enjoy the fruits of your labor, even if just from afar.
Have a chat with each child about how often seems right for you both to connect by phone, and keep generally to that schedule. Then they feel you are confident about them and just want to connect regularly out of your love.
Often you hear stuff like get a hobby, blah, blah, blah, but don’t worry about that. It’s about processing your great parenting experience and appreciating it fully, so that you can move on into the second half of your life!
The second half will indeed be wonderful. Randy talks to her children about once a week and sees them monthly or quarterly depending on geography. If it goes longer than that, boy, she feels it in her bones!
But we moms have the glorious gift of love and that pulls us through always!
Take Home Tip: Parents feel separation feelings as deeply as their children. Talk about it freely and confidently. It's all about love.
Read Randy's books You Can Postpone Anything But Love, and The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents to understand more about the gradual process of letting go and celebrating your family all through your life.