I’ve been feeling a bit odd and unsettled lately and I wasn’t sure why. I finally figured it out: my oldest child is literally almost never at home anymore.
She’s 21 years old so this is perfectly normal behavior. By her age, I was married and living 1300 miles away from my own mom. When my mom was my current age, my younger sister had turned 18 and also moved out of home.
My mom really knew what empty nest syndrome felt like; she was three years younger than I am now and already had both kids living away from home. Same for my mother-in-law but she was even younger still.
This isn’t true empty nest syndrome yet because my oldest still technically lives at home. However, she’s only here a couple nights a week and plans to move out when my husband finishes chemo later this year. With the pace that her social life is accelerating, I would not be at all surprised if she moves out sooner.
My other two kids are still at home, too, which makes it all the more ridiculous that I feel any semblance of empty nest feelings, since my nest isn’t, you know, actually empty yet. But I feel it coming.
My 18-year-old will be getting his drivers license within a month or so and a car shortly thereafter. Then he plans to get a job and has already said he hopes to move out sooner rather than later. It’s an age-appropriate desire for independence, although he’s also not always the most motivated so we’ll see when it actually happens.
My 16-year-old still has two years of high school left but I know from experience that the time will fly by. He’s the most social of my kids and has been with the same girlfriend for 2.5 years, so he’s gone from home a lot. He too will be driving within the next six months and have his own car. Then he plans on going away to college.
My kids were practically my whole identity for 21 years. Who am I when I’m not primarily their mother? I got so swallowed up by being a mom at home for so many years. Similarly, I asked the other day who I am independent of my husband. This is kind of identity shifting time, so of course it’s a bit unsettling.
I can’t help but feel like it’s all kind of lonely. I am in the process of making some new friends and something may come of that. But my life is changing and I don’t usually like change. I want to like change but I actually don’t.
But if there’s one constant in life, it’s change. I have to sit with the slight discomfort and get used to these feelings. I need to make peace with them. I don’t ever want to hold my kids back or make them feel like they owe me their companionship. These are the years when they’re supposed to be becoming more independent and needing me less, and I’m glad that they do. It means I’ve done my job as a parent.
But that still doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sometimes hurt a little.