It’s August 20th. Schools have started here in the Des Moines Area. Colleges are starting all around us as well. My sister-in-law took her middle child to Iowa City last week. She commented on how quiet her house was that night and she still has 2 younger children at home! That comment followed by several conversations with friends who were actually taking their “last” child to college got me to thinking about when our kids moved out. It is a change there is no denying that.
I remember standing by the dryer folding clothes for our daughter the day she was moving to Sioux Falls. She was a college student who had been living at home until this day but was getting married in a month. I knew she was never going to live with us full-time again. I was excited for her and full of questions as to what this would do to our relationship. My husband hadn’t said anything yet but they were really close and I knew he was thinking about it. We both just kept ourselves busy with the practical steps of moving. Soon it was done and she was gone. Our house was quieter. We had one less person’s activities to factor into the calendar and one less plate at the table. It was an adjustment and it looked different for each of us still at home.
Then a year later our youngest moved to college. I was excited for him as well. He was ready. He wanted to go. We got all loaded up and took him to school. We hauled all his belongings into a little room to be shared with a perfect stranger…just the stuff a mother loves, NOT! However, we did it. We reminisced all the way home. (about 4 hours) I cried quiet tears. They weren’t really sad tears as much as tears of amazement of where those 18 years had gone. My husband and I were young – only in our early 40’s and now we were empty-nesters. We weren’t sad because we wanted the kids to stay home forever. We raised them with the goal of being independent people. But we love our kids. We actually like and enjoy our kids and their friends so this really was going to be a change!
As we traveled we noticed the leaves of the trees just beginning to change and that’s when we began to put this into context. A new season was beginning. A season of parenting adult children and living alone as a married couple again. We could fight it. My mother-in-law told me I didn’t have to like it but I had to do it. Or, we could embrace it, process our feelings and begin to explore the possibilities of life in this new season. The processing was interesting as we learned we would do it differently. I wanted to talk. Mark wanted to be busy. I wanted to call the kids frequently. Mark wanted them to call us. I didn’t necessarily want to go out much at first. Mark did. We learned to talk about why we wanted to do what we wanted to do. Because we love each other we found a way to allow each other to process individually and sometimes as a couple. We’ve grown to love this season just as we have enjoyed other seasons in our life. In fact, we’re pretty protective of our time alone together.
So to all of you entering this new season of the “empty nest” I encourage you to be sure to communicate your feelings to your spouse and a good friend of the same sex. This is not just about us moms. The Dad’s grieve this change too. I also encourage you to look forward, be open and explore what your new season with your spouse will look like. Who/what helped or is helping you through the start of this new season? What you share may help someone else today!