Taking Flight and Letting Go
Many major milestones in a child’s life are often as emotionally taxing for a parent as for the child. One of the most significant milestones comes when a child is ready to move out.
Whether this is for a limited amount of time, such as to pursue further education elsewhere, to start a family of their own, or simply as a means of gaining independence, it is exciting and anxiety-inducing for both young adults and the parents who are watching them go.
As mothers, we often find this particularly taxing since we are typically more involved in the day-to-day minutiae of our children’s lives than fathers are, though they still feel the emotional separation.
When children leave home, your whole relationship with them as a parent changes. They do not need you in quite the same way anymore and most likely never will again. Yet, how, as a parent, do you approach such a departure, knowing it holds such excitement and sadness?
And what do you do if afterward, you are left with an empty nest – without any children to take care of, a situation you have not been in for the best part of 18 years more or less?
It is essential to recognize and acknowledge how you feel, even if the only person that you can admit it to is yourself. While they will always be your child, and you will always be their parent, the relationship has changed.
It is essential to let yourself grieve the life you have had and have been used to having your child or children in your house and very actively being their mother. You are allowed to mourn the fact that it is a life you will no longer have, even if your children spent their adolescence arguing with you.
Telling your children how you feel is not advisable so as not to quash their excitement or make them feel guilty, but for some who find their grief over this change lasting longer than a few weeks or months, it may be worthwhile reaching out to talk to someone.
Whether this is another loved one, a friend, or even a professional. There are many support groups to help parents dealing with ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’, and many therapists or therapy services that can offer support in such situations. They will be able to help you through navigating big life transitions such as this.
Addressing grief and sadness you may be feeling is vital in dealing with children leaving home, but so is looking towards your future. It includes making plans, both with your children and without them, perhaps taking trips, reviving hobbies, or doing activities you may not have had the opportunity to do while your children were living at home.
Many mothers, in particular as typical primary caregivers, often find when sons or daughters leave that they have lost any sense of themselves, slowly over time having been consumed by their identity as a parent.
If this is the case with you, it is even more critical that you try out things that interest you and work to rediscover who you are as a person, and understand what some of your likes and dislikes are. By discovering more about yourself, you will have a more fulfilling life and cultivate better relationships with your now-grown children.
Trying to control your children’s lives from a distance once they have moved out will only create tension and resentment. On the other hand, if you were to enrich your own life, you will be able to enrich theirs too. It also allows you to have deeper and more honest conversations with them as you approach them as adults with their own lives.
Ultimately, the most important thing about being a parent when your child moves out is to remember that your child still loves you, just as you still love them.
Even though you are not in such close physical proximity anymore, you still have an unbreakable bond that is unlike any other, and they are still dear to your heart. Just because they are not as close anymore does not mean they love you any less. It is an opportunity for you both to embrace exciting new adventures, both apart and together.