It’s early August and for many of you Kuel women it may mean packing up your teen to transition him/her to university. If this is your maiden voyage into an empty nest you may be feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed, and exasperated. The sheer number of items to check-off the list to get your teen ‘out the door’ can be mind-boggling. This Herculean effort is not made any easier by your teen’s ‘attitude’. You’re not the only one experiencing the climactic change. Your teen’s emotions may range from excitement to fear of the unknown. Even if they are scared they might not be very transparent about it. Instead, you might be dealing with anger or aloofness as your teen processes their conflicting feelings.
All of this turmoil can be very challenging for us moms. As it’s been since you brought them home from the hospital, your priority is to help them and put yourself second. No matter how you look at; it’s emotionally messy.
Education consultant Jennifer Miller suggests a way to mitigate the pain of the transition and help us all cope with the fear. Their feelings can lead teens to push their parents away both physically (by not spending time with them) and emotionally (by getting into more conflicts and disagreements). Miller says: “Reassure your teen that you will always be there for them, even if they don’t seem to want to hear it. Plan a specific date when they will first come home to visit, that way your teen realizes that they are not leaving for good.”
If you can get past the actual ‘disturbance’, you might find the empty nest welcoming and freeing. Finally, you can put yourself first; even if it’s just for a few weeks or months. If you need some additional help appreciating your empty nest read on.
Do What You Want: Seriously, after forever attending their sporting events, or violin concerts, or shuttling them to parties or sleepovers you get to quit. Your role as an ambulatory ATM and Uber driver has come to a screeching halt. Guess what else you don’t have to do? – at least for a few months. Their laundry! What to do with all the extra ‘me-time’?
No Random Clutter: I don’t care how great a kid they are, chances are they are MESSY. Backpacks full of books, smelly athletic gear, power cords, headphones, wet towels; all strewn about. Once they’re out of the house miraculously you can stop hunting for those missing dirty drinking glasses. As a matter of fact, you can neat-freak yourself all you want because no one will sneak in to mess it up.
Time For Your Significant Other: Whether you’re married, dating, or single; you can focus on what makes you happy and spending time with your significant other (YOU might be your own significant other). For the first time, in a long while, your day-to-day parenting tasks are gone. This leaves room for incorporating some romantic gestures to enhance your long-term relationship. Coffee in bed, a long walk before dinner; you can indulge in activities that before seemed too frivolous to usurp watching them kick a ball around or making them dinner.
Bye-Bye Ear Plugs: Even you have only one kid, they probably have friends. If your house has been ground zero for your teen and his posse then you are very familiar with the concept of cacophony. Video gaming, refrigerator raiding, loud giggling, loud heavy thuds of young-man-sized bodies knocked to the floor…. Let’s face it; they’re not quiet.
Sleep: Not sure why teens live on a completely different time schedule; but they do. Once they’re off to college, you can tun on your early morning radio or news show and play it as loud as you’d like. But, what’s even better than that? You can SLEEP without worrying about when they’ll get home or having to yell at her and her friends to “KEEP IT DOWN, it’s after midnight”! The removal of your teen may not directly translate to better, longer sleep (menopause is a pesky sleep depriver) but it can’t hurt.
They Visit: They leave in August and before you know it; it’s Thanksgiving or Fall Break and home they come. It’s wonderful to have them home but the go button on all that crazy may remind you that your empty nest is pretty great. And, as if the original transition out of the house was not significant enough, with each passing year at college your child evolves more and more into an adult. As they mature and spend more time on their own, they develop their own ways of doing things, passions, and opinions. They may fall in love and come home with a partner. With a little luck, the adult visiting you moving forward is someone you like, respect, and admire. The nest no longer feels empty but rather a springboard for a whole new set of memories.