Kids Going Off to College? or Who’s That Guy?
The other day, a friend who’s last child is going off to college this week asked me how I liked being an “empty nester.” I’ve been asked that question before and inherent in it is the real question: Am I going to make it?
First, I don’t have any answers for you. Every mom handles it in her own way. For example, my perspective may be entirely different from a single parent. What I can tell you is that if you’re sad and lonely, it will get better. And if you have a husband, you might be wondering “Who’s that guy?”
This summer was my first childless summer, which is to say, that when your child goes off to college, he or she will typically return several times. So, buck up. If you’re lonely, that clean, empty bedroom will be messy again in no time — probably in October during fall break. And again at winter break. Then there’s spring break and summer. You can also look forward to Parent’s Weekend, which is usually the first “official visiting days” for moms and dads on campus. If you can, try to encourage your child to stay on campus (in other words, not come home) those first few weeks. And try to avoid “dropping by campus” to see your child for a few weeks. That way, you can avoid being shocked by the condition of the dorm room, and the time apart will give both of you a chance to adjust. Your child may be homesick, but you can both look forward to seeing each other on Parents’ Weekend. By then, your child will have settled in and you’ll get to meet some of his or her new friends and find out a little more about what’s going on at the college or university. When my youngest graduates in a couple of years, I’m really going to miss going to a Parents’ Weekend.
There were certain things that I enjoyed doing with each of my children, and I really missed doing them when they were gone. One of the things I enjoyed doing with my daughters in the summer was going to the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. We would go early with the dog, get some coffee and buy food. When my youngest decided not to come home for the summer, that was one of the first things that crossed my mind — Who will I go to the Farmers’ Market with? It’s the little things I miss. Try replacing those things with other things you enjoy — something you’ve been wanting to try. Or spend more time with friends. I really value my friends, both those who know my kids and those who don’t. It’s nice to have people that you can talk to about your kids, but it’s also nice to have people who share only your interests, apart from your children.
If you’re married, you’ll find that you have more time to do things with your spouse. No longer will you have to consider several opinons when you’re deciding on a restaurant. Same with cooking. It was difficult at first to adjust from feeding five people to eventually two people, but it can happen. If you have kids at home right now and you and your spouse are mere blurs as you pass each other going in and out the front door, you might want to develop an interest that you can do together now, or when your kids leave, you might find yourself saying, “Who’s that guy?”
The best advice I can give for new empty nesters, if anyone wants my advice, is to give yourself a pat on the back. We spend 18 years nurturing, kissing, protecting, loving our children, just to have them leave us. It doesn’t seem right, but if you did your job, then they are young adults who are capable of being on their own. Think about the exciting things they’ll be doing as they enter a new phase of life. It’s fun for me to hear what my kids get excited about — classes, jobs, friends. And, don’t worry. Life is bumpy. They’ll still need that shoulder to cry on and a listening ear from mom.