Becoming an Empty Nester: What Do I Do Now?

It’s happened. 

The day I have been dreading for eighteen years is here….my baby, Hanna, is graduating.  I will officially be an “empty nester” in August.  Sigh.

Becoming an Empty-Nester...What Do I Do Now?

How on Earth did this happen?

It’s not rocket science, she grew up.

The same thing happened to her two older sisters. But why? Why did they have to grow up? I wanted them to stay little their entire lives! They had no right to do this to me! What will I do to occupy myself? All three of my daughter’s senior years of high school were very emotional for me. Every moment was their last. Each concert, each race, each game. Heck, for that matter, each morning driving off to school was their last time on that particular date. It was also my last time for all of these. 

So, here’s the thing…I’m fairly confident that my children did not think about every one of these “moments” as their last time, especially the driving to school thing! Instead, probably enjoyed that last game against the rival high school across town, thinking “this time we’re going to beat them,” or  were exhilarated that they ran their best times at State track and finally won that State Championship title they had been dreaming of. Those tears of never running or playing there again would be left for me.  Believe me, there were plenty to go around too. Thank goodness for cute rain boots!

My toughest year, so far.

With my last child leaving, I have been going through the emotional process of reminiscing about their youth. For years, my Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day weekends were dedicated to soccer and track, traveling out of town for hours of sitting in the hot sun, rain, wind, and cold to watch my girls compete.  Sometimes I felt like a bad mom letting my kids get soaked to the bone or baked in the sun just to play a game or run a race. Seeing their smiles on their sweaty, beat-red faces after getting a medal or how muddy they got their uniforms changed my mind. They loved it! 

There were very few games or meets I did not attend. I guess I could have sent them with another family and had a bit more relaxing weekend at home, saving a little hotel money, but the times I did do that I had a pit in my stomach the whole time. How could I pass up a moment watching my kid???  So, glad I didn’t.

There were also the times my daughters would play at the neighbor’s house for hours, spend entire days at the swimming pool with friends, or hole themselves up in their rooms reading or playing Barbies together. Has your child had a lemonade stand yet? I remember spending $20 of my money to buy cups, lemonade, Kool-aid, and ice all so my kids could make $3.00 selling 25 cent drinks.  Best days of my life! I wasn’t there, observing every moment of their playtime, but I made sure to check on them, walk over sunscreen, run down to the pool with snacks, or made brownies to serve at their lemonade stand…in other words, I somehow made myself a part of those special childhood moments.

What’s to become of me? 

What do I do now, when she goes off to college and I can’t check on her every waking moment?  I surely can’t move to her dorms, walk her to class, or go to lunch with her to make sure there is a leafy green on her plate.  I’ve thought of it, believe me, but I think it would weird her roommate out.  Yeah, I’d better not. By evidence of my two older daughters, I have come to the conclusion that I have done my job in preparing her to spread her wings and fly from the nest.

My now empty nest. 

Now is the time I get to take a breather. I probably should have done that years ago, taking more time for myself, instead of going to every game, or taking every volunteer opportunity thrown up for grabs.  I didn’t let myself take breaks for fear of missing something. Some moms will need that break…I didn’t want it. It just wasn’t in my “mom DNA” makeup. How many people do you know that can rattle off every item in the high school concession stand and price in 15 seconds flat? (Um…me!)

THIS is what I will do now!

Well people, I have decided what I will do when my baby leaves. I will fill my days and nights remembering the fun days I spent with my girls. I will tiredly bask in the beautiful, memories of being there for my child’s 3rd grade Thanksgiving re-enactment feast, the painful 2 hours of watching her sit on the bench just to bat once in a tee-ball game or listening to the squeaky 5th-grade orchestra concert rendition of “Hot Cross Buns” with pride in my eyes! Moments I will cherish always!

Believe me, it’s going to be another emotional year for me, and there will be an adjustment period, but I must trudge on. I will now have the time to get up-to-date on their scrapbooks, paint the walls in my house, and maybe squeeze in a Zumba class or two. Gee whiz, I just might engage in a nap once in awhile!  I might cry for a bit off and on too, but hey, I’m entitled to it! To all of it! 

What do I do now?  Pack a ham sandwich, roadmap, and head to Ames every weekend!

(Just kidding, Hanna!)

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