The U-Haul carrying my youngest child, her possessions and part of my identity, recently backed out of the driveway and transported her to a new life, city and career. I was numb. I had the feeling you get when you rush to the end of the greatest novel you have ever read and you yearn for more chapters. After the initial shock of roaming around a vacated house that was once filled with noise, chaos, constant cooking and countless bodies on our version of a clown car in couch form, I do what I always do when coping with a difficult situation; I ponder what I am thankful for
The short list:
- I will no longer have to decorate around Harry Potter and The Godfather posters.
- Three daughters with four-year degrees, in four years, cum laude, financially independent, gainfully employed and following their dreams.
- No more buying in bulk, worrying about having house guests who could drink in excess or smoke something funky on your watch.
- No longer having to pull thongs out of the deep, dark recesses of the dryer.
- No more black hair in the drain that looks like a small rodent or 23 bottles of hair and body products for God knows what in the small enclosed shower space.
Well, that helped a bit but it didn’t last long. I read some terrifying articles that discussed how ‘Empty Nest Syndrome” can lead to alcoholism, depression and marital strife. Since I am single, I could cross off marital discord from my list of concerns, but immediately decided that binge watching Netflix while drinking red wine and eating Cheerios needed to come to an abrupt halt. Over the last few weeks, I have discovered some “transitioning tricks” that may be of use for others coping with a vacated nest.
Find yourself. Who the heck were you before carpools, permission slips, bleacher sitting and removing Scuba Barbie from a toilet? I loved music, movies and art. I made a list of upcoming events I am going to attend.
Let it out. Just when you think you are doing OK, a wave of grief may strike. Cry, call a friend and if necessary seek help from a professional.
Surround yourself with friends and new experiences. The weekends are now official YOURS. Make the most of them. Eat well, try something new, have an adventure. Someone actually told me that I could now run around the house naked if I wanted. I was thinking more in the lines of taking a ceramics class or working on my “core” or at least finding the general area where it once was located.
Shift your role as a parent. For me parenting was a full-time action verb. In the words of my beloved grandmother, “If you throw enough stuff at a wall, something is bound to stick. Trust in the job that you did and trust your now adult children to make independent choices. I am gradually adjusting to my new role as consultant and friend.
Write it down. Remember all the things you thought of doing if you weren’t stuck in a PTA meeting or on your 14th college visit. Write them down and take an action step to actually making them happen.
Give back. I’ve said this before but I truly believe the best way to get out of a “funk” is helping someone deal with theirs. Volunteer! If you miss the chaos of kids, there are numerous organizations in need of “seasoned” parents willing to lend a hand.
Believe me, I am still a work in progress but I am making strides to writing the next chapters on these crispy, clean pages of this new phase of life. For all you yoga pants-wearing moms, smelling of formula and Play-Doh, remember the meltdown your two-year-old is having because their “woobie” is stuck between the car seat, will one day be you as you watch them, far too quickly, drive off into their futures, leaving you holding a pen to create your yet unwritten future.
Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect the first of each month.