I've spent five weeks chronicling all the things I was doing and feeling so I could be as real time as possible. I debated if I should share such a raw emotional state. It seems so dramatic and self pitying. I am as embarrassed as I could be that I couldn't hold it together. A few emergency calls to close friends and writing it out really helped me process my pain.
What I learned yesterday is that it won't always be simple and straightforward. If you're like me, a lot of things are going to be happening simultaneously in your world, besides the empty nest. In my case, it is menopause, a milestone birthday, the loss of a parent all within the past few months.
This sort of thing is to be expected around our stage in life so there is a lot going on mentally and emotionally, besides the empty nest. I found myself walloped with a mood I couldn't climb out of... so I didn't. Instead, as I promised, I wrote it all out and I hope that you see how very normal and natural these sort of feelings can be. It's not uncommon, I discovered. I would like to not just share my words, but the wisdom so many friends offered up.
I feel so much less alone after sharing my thoughts and now want to put them out there for anyone who may read this. I have such wonderfully wise friends in my world.
Lori, who is a booster mom friend from band, choir, and drama, had this to say:
Milestones, good or bad, are designed to get us to the next phase of our lives. In [your daughter's] 21st birthday and her "official" entrance to adulthood, you've forgotten that kids need us in a totally different way as they get older. You may not be schlepping them from place to place, but your advice, life experience and just being their mom keeps you close, although some days it doesn't feel that way. Who told you that you had to productively (society's term) spend your days doing what society deems acceptable passages of time? Who cares if you spend all day writing in your pajamas, reading or doing whatever makes you happy? Cleaning, fixing, selling are all things people expect a newly emptied nested mom to do but if they don't make you happy then why do them. I'm close to empty nest hood, have begun the adjustment phase and it isn't easy. Take the time to come to grips with the new dynamic of your family. The right answers will come to you in time, I'm sure of it. Maybe for all of us parents making this adjustment, I pray it is. You've got a grip on this- it just hasn't revealed itself.
To which I told Lori that I had a lot of really silly ways I had been killing time. This is the quite embarrassing way and I even realized why it has been such a crutch for me. I've been binge watching an old television show on Hulu. As long as I'm keeping it real, I will also admit that I have truly terrible taste in television. I don't do culture or thinking shows. I personify the term vegging-out when I turn on the television. The last time in my life that I didn't have children, there was a show I watched every week religiously. My husband worked nights so I would come home and flip on this show with a bowl of popcorn. I even watched it when I was waiting to give birth to Daughter #2. Watching the adventures of Dylan, Brenda, and the rest of the gang from Beverly Hills 90210 has kept me company for several weeks. It really is as bad as I remembered, but I don't care. It entertains me. I've watched so many episodes that Dylan & Brenda aren't even on the show anymore. I'll let you know how it turns out. I never saw the end of the series, because I had children and stopped watching TV near that time. My friend Jackie recommends Gilmore Girls when I'm done with 90210. I think I'll do that.
Thoughts from my friend Denise who vacationed with me as a teenager:
[My husband] and I go on a retreat every year. We learn, in a group setting, that a woman's bond with her husband often gets lost raising children. At the same time, a man gets caught up in furthering his career at the expense of quality family time.Denise really helped me understand that this is a team project and decision. I need my husband to know what is happening and to rekindle what we let slip away. Maybe he just needs to see more boobs. Err, eggs.
Reconnect with [your husband]. Rediscover why you married him in the first place. Marriage constantly needs attention at all stages of life. ...include him in making your decisions about your future. You just may be happier as a result.
Kathleen, who was a fellow band mom with me had this to say:
This is the start of my 3rd year without my girl--and although I always wanted her to fly-soar even, I miss her and I wonder if I spent enough time with her? Every time I see [our marching band] or hear certain songs, I tear up. It does get better -but it is a strange feeling. I love the freedom and I love that [we] can be "free-wheeling"-but there are still times I think of that little girl I had and my eyes fill. You are so busy-and enrich so many lives-be patient with yourself. Cry, reminisce, and take your time to get to wherever your next step will be.Kathy helped me realize that we don't have to "get over" anything. It will be there and that's okay.
From Liz, my former co-worker, whose daughter is the same age as mine had these words:
It's like losing a job- our biggest job that we're the most proud of-being a mom. Every time [my daughter] brings up that she's not going to move back home after graduation in April, I cringe. I look forward to when she's home - there's more for me to do. All this in spite of the fact I work a very demanding full time job. I know how you feel. We're used to being the overachieving parents of our overachieving kids.Liz and I worked side by side for several years. We found ourselves sharing notes through our children's high school years and discovering how very much we had in common besides a common employer. So I know she understands how very much this does feel like a job loss.
With a final reminder from my friend Ellen, who I became friends with right after I graduated from high school, wrote this about her own experience:
I was a whole person before I had children. I was a woman, I was sexy, I was beautiful, I had words, I was a someday novelist, I had intelligence, I was a singer, an artist, I had my voice, I loved deeply. I had goals and wants unrelated to motherhood. I was a force. I was an individual. I planned meals, I went to the store and bought things. I sifted the cat box. I drove a car across the country. I loved. I watched others die. I had a lot of great sex, completely unrelated to procreation, before I was a mother.
I was a whole person before motherhood.
I love being a mother. But it is just one part of me.
They deserve a lot.
But not every single second of my time.
Not my every resource.
Not my every thought or consideration.
Love doesn't mean the destruction of self, or it shouldn't.
I was me, before them, and that's not a bad thing.
I was a whole person before I was a mother.
Ellen, we still are whole people. Thank you for the eloquent reminder.
What exactly did I write to get such an outpouring of wisdom? That will be my next post. Week Five is a big one!