Some parents want to hold on to their last child forever, not letting them leave for college. Other parents are practically pushing their kids out the front door, eagerly anticipating days and nights of “freedom”. What group do you fit into?
It’s normal to look forward to being on your own with your partner again… but don’t think that territory comes without guilt.
When you are deep in the trenches of raising small children, there are days you would gladly trade diaper duty and teething angst for a day of freedom from parenting. Yet when your children are actually grown and forging out on their own for the very first time, the freedom you have earned may come with mixed feelings, and even a bit of guilt.
“Almost everyone faces this new transition with anxiety, stress, and joy,” says Linda Walter, licensed clinical social worker. “We don’t know whether to celebrate our new-found freedom or cry at feared loneliness. We might feel happy and sad, confident and scared, optimistic and full of dread all at the same time.” Our lives as parents are often so tightly interwoven with our children’s lives that we identify more readily as “Billy’s mom” than as an individual. This can be especially true when your youngest child is ready to move on.
Your role as a parent evolves when your children leave home — you become more of a consultant than a manager. Your ultimate goal has been to teach your children to care for themselves and make appropriate decisions on their own. Now you need to step back and let them try.
“You may no longer hear the day-to-day details of your child’s life, you may no longer be able to tell their daily moods, whether they’re happy or sad,” says Walter. “This is certainly an adjustment. But, a necessary adjustment, one that is in the best interests of your child.”
Coping without moping
Work and other responsibilities will still keep you busy some of the time, but the lack of children in your house will leave you with more free time than you could have previously imagined. Here are a few ideas for finding your way.
Feeling guilty about your new-found freedom? Don’t. Embrace the emptiness of your nest and feather it your own way — you’ve earned it.