Trying to Build a Not-So-Empty Nest

This sharing hits home in my heart more than any other story has in quite a while. For any of you that have a child graduating, leaving the home, or if you are becoming empty nesters for the first time, reading this story will allow you to feel that you are in good company. The first of my three children is graduating from high school next week. Wow, talk about hitting me like a ton of bricks. This is the natural order of things and yet where did the time go? My heart is as open and vulnerable as it was the day he was born. My emotions are all over the place – to a point that sometimes I don’t know what I am feeling in each moment. At the same time I am overjoyed for my son and I am anxiously awaiting the future before him. Thank you Catherine for your vulnerability and strength. I feel connected, supported and united with all moms in this time of transition  in our lives.

Anyone who has ever become a parent knows there is plenty to do to prepare for the arrival of a newborn child. It begins with preparing a room, a crib, a baby-proofed home, accumulating a layette, clothing, diapers, classes and so much more on a seemingly endless to-do list. This has come to known as “nesting.” It is a natural instinct that swoops down upon us from the time we know we have conceived up until the baby has been delivered. There are a plethora of books on how to prepare, all to let you know what to expect when you are expecting.

I could go on and on about how little I was prepared regardless of how much reading I did, how many classes I attended and how much advice I was given. However, that’s another story. This story is how unprepared I am to be what is known as the “empty nester.”

Where are the books? How do I prepare for this?

Over the years, our family has diminished in size. My stepson had already left for college when my husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We went from five to four. Then my husband passed away (along with one of the dogs) and we were down to three of us. Four years later, my son Alex left for school in California. That was a huge transition, but I still had my Caroline at home and we became two peas in a pod – a very tight-knit, very comfortable pod. We grew closer and closer, and although we missed Alex tremendously, our mother-daughter bond had an opportunity to form like no other. With the absence of any male figure in our home, we had become known to those closest to us as the “Gilmore Girls,” not to be confused with the Golden Girls, which is where I may be headed to next.

Don’t get me wrong. I am still the mother, and she is still the teenager, and at times those two titles don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, which means I am still doing my job. However, Caroline has become not only my daughter, she has been my roommate; my friend. She is my movie partner, dining partner, lunch date and my shopping buddy. Perhaps to some, that seems somewhat unhealthy. To me, it has been the best experience I think a mother could ask for. Add to that the fact that I have a 20-year-old son who is thriving and happy and healthy, and what more could a girl want?

The second official breakdown in my life hit me like a ton of bricks a few days ago while sifting through photos for a project I was doing. Everyone tells you it goes by so fast. I never understood the point of that saying. Of course it did. They are supposed to grow up. And the more grown up they became, the closer we all had grown. However, with graduation creeping up and college decision making being mulled over, I am basically on the verge of tears 24/7.

I encouraged my children to go out of state from day one. I want them to see more of the country than our Arizona home. That, for some reason, was really important to me. I have gotten my wish, and I am happy for that – very, very happy. This is what is supposed to happen. They grow up and they leave the nest.

So now what? What happens to me?

Well, here’s what happens to me. I no longer hide behind the role of Caroline’s and Alex’s mother. I will have to figure out what the next path will be. Who do I want to become? Where do I want to live? What can I do to enhance the lives of others while my children persevere and enhance their own?

These are the streams of questions that run through my mind all day long. I am waiting for the answers to come. No rush. Just more tissues, please!
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About the Author | Catherine Graves

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7 comments to "Trying to Build a Not-So-Empty Nest"

  • amanda

    I am one if the “kids” that left the nest and I wanted to say thank you for posting your experience publicly. I have dealt with my own share of responsibility for putting my own amazing and supportive mother through this life transition– that began six years ago when I left home for a military enlistment and then moving to CA for my university. That transition has never been completed. She pushed for me to spread my wings, too, but the pain has always been evident. More women need to discuss this experience and provide inspiration for the next phase of life. It is a vital and exciting time, but so few are prepared for it and our communities are missing out on their new freedom of time and compassion. Thank you again and keep sharing.

    • Thank you~ Yes, my poor daughter has probably had that on her mind as well!
      I will be ok…sniff sniff…
      In all honesty, there are definitely some things I look forward to. It will just be an adjustment I am not prepared for!

  • candace O'Bryant

    Thank you so much for sharing. My oldest graduated a year ago and my youngest is 16. my oldest works goes to college. I am proud of my kids but I feel very lost without them I had been fighting so many emotions because of dealing with the loss of my husband 19 months ago (ganglioglioma of the brain), To my oldest and now my youngest becoming more independent (driving lol). I feel like I had no control of my life. When I read the words that you could no longer hide behind beein there mother that hit home. I have alwayds hide behind my role as wife and mother. I now see I have to rebuild myself and find out who I am. thank you and God bless

  • MIchelle

    My elder daughter just graduated. She is going out of state. My younger daughter is starting high school and is demanding her independence. I am so proud of both of them, but YES, I am a basket case!!!! I know it is right. I know it is natural, but personally, behind closed doors….it is so painful!!!! I am working on creating new purpose. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • Shelley

    My oldest is going to college in a month. Next year my daughter will graduate from high school. I have many mixed emotions but mostly excitement for him. It is the natural sequential order of life and another new beginning for everyone in the family. He will mature and grow and come home with new experiences. My daughter has become very independent. I went back to school and will have a new career. The last thing I wanted to do was “mourn”. I look forward to everyone’s new adventures in life including a renewed relationship with my husband…change has a lot of positive features too!

  • I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come
    back later. All the best

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      Women For One

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