The Kid is Ready for College, but what about Mom and Dad?
Editor’s Note: Felicia wrote this last year when her son left for college. He has successfully completed his freshman year (and so have his parents). Claudia Arthrell is taking a break this month as she prepares for two weddings (both sons) and a grandchild!
I’m a busy woman and I’ve always worked. I’ve held a full-time professional job in Tulsa for the last 20 years. And not just any full-time job. I practically had a crisis at my office to deal with every day for 18 years. The position I held was as the Executive Director of a domestic violence and sexual assault agency. Then 5 years into that job, my husband and I had a baby boy. And last month, after only one job change three years ago, that baby boy left the nest to become a freshman at college. And my heart has the biggest hole it has ever had!
On every page of every parenting book there should be a warning…“after so many years of pouring your heart and soul into them, they will leave you.” Everyone jokes about this “empty nest” thing. That sounds so benign…empty nest. It should be called, “broken heart.” My husband and I rattle around this too large house, wondering why our son is now 9 hours away from us…studying. He calls only about once a week, and we remain chipper and lie about how we are doing. We say, “We miss you, and we love you” and hold each other back from saying, “Ready to come home yet?”
Our son was a totally easy kid to raise. He is funny and could always make us laugh. He did his chores without any fuss, and often helped with drying the dishes or putting them away without being asked. It was a team of three and he was a perfect team member. As opposed to my oldest nephew, who gave my brother and sister-in-law such grief they threw a party when he went off to college, our son was the light of our life. My husband and I might be having a meaningful, intense conversation or even an argument, and when he walked into the room we both instantly stopped whatever we were doing, looked at him, smiled and waited to see if he would interact with us. Don’t we sound like doting parents? Yes, we were in love.
But unlike when a love affair ends, where at least the one jilted knows that the other is also experiencing some kind of pain, we know our son is having a blast. He hardly calls, responds to our texts with as few words as possible, and only just last week “friended” me on Facebook. And to add insult to injury, I know he is blocking me from viewing everything…I just know it!
So I am writing this basically as a warning to all those young moms out there who like me would give their life for their child. I have a full-time job as the CEO of the YWCA (remember, I’m a busy woman) and even I was not prepared for the loss and emptiness I would feel. I love my job and I loved my job as a mom. I had a perfect life/work balance and felt wonderfully fulfilled. I can’t imagine what life would be like as an “empty nester” if I didn’t have a profession, or something I loved to do to fill my time. And I can’t imagine dealing with this if our marriage wasn’t as great as ours is.
Parenting is the ultimate oxymoron – love these little guys with your heart and soul; think about them for countless hours during the day and night; rearrange your entire schedules, in fact your entire life to get them to school, tennis practice, etc. etc. only for them to totally walk out of your life one day — and that means you’ve done a good job. Go figure!