As of January 2014, I've gotten through the first semester with Ky away and the first lengthy break back home. Some thoughts about this first step into my empty nesting journey:
I miss Ky less in the day to day than I thought I would, though my "life" misses Ky more than I expected to.
Truth be told, I actually enjoy having the freedom of guilt-free time to do what I want, work as late as I want, go running at odd hours and to schedule things back to back to back without break. Single parenting an only child means that you're all they've got - you're the one they talk to, ask questions of, eat with, wish goodnight before bed. When I wasn't home, Ky didn't have that sounding board and companionship. Guilt used to flood me like acid when I couldn't get out of a commitment and Ky would be left with a microwave leftover dinner (more likely microwave popcorn) and Tumblr or a TV show. Sometimes Ky would call me at work to ask my advice or complain about a terrible day and my mind would spin, trying to switch gears from work to Mom-mode, and I was never the Mom I wanted to be at those times.
And grocery shopping (or not) is so much easier. I'm a creature of habit in the kitchen, and $30 in produce and a little meat can get me through a week or more without a hitch. It's actually nice to not feel I have to be inventive with dinner, or even make dinner if I'm not hungry, or eat at 10pm if that's when I get home. Added bonus: if I buy a treat, it actually lasts until I finish eating it myself!
However I feel a lot more loneliness in the life-sense than I was expecting. I didn't realize how much Ky anchored me. How wanting to be a better mother and better example for my child actually made me a better person. How much of my definition of myself hinged on the fact that I had someone in my life that was half (or more) of the reason I did things on any given day. How Ky gave me most of my direction and purpose.
I guess I've realized that as a parent I've grown like a bonzai tree branch around my role as a mother, and with my child subtracted from my day to day life, I'm this weird twisted shape standing alone, not seeming to make any sense without the scaffold I'd been wrapped around.
I always thought I had an incredibly strong sense of myself and sense of purpose as an individual. If I do, I can't remember how I expressed those things just yet. Part of my journey - if that word doesn't make it sound too hokey - is remembering how that rusty machinery works.
Having Ky back for break has been a huge relief. I feel like things are just as they should be. I don't know how I'll feel next week, when college starts up again and Ky gets back into the ins and outs of dorm life, committees, classes and friends - and I get back to the ins and outs of an hour + commute, two jobs and the hectic rush of trying to fit in one too many obligations to fill the hole I don't want to acknowledge in the center of my life.