Dropping our youngest off at college and the long ride home was hard, knowing that I was leaving behind not just my friend and our youngest child; I was also leaving behind a time of life that I had dedicated all of who I am to.
I’m not wild about this term empty-nest, but at least one part of that phrase is a good description of what our home and my heart has felt like these first few weeks without her.
Because really, how exactly does one suddenly navigate the days and settle into child-free surroundings after years of doing all the Mom things? That same space that once felt joyfully chaotic has suddenly become unbelievably silent and at times, terribly lonely.
I am reminded that most of my schedule for the last 3 decades has been adjusted to suit the needs of 4 other other people and it’s natural that I will need time to adjust. That is perhaps the thing that has stood out the most to me in this new phase of life. We went from 6 to 2 and I’ve had a lot of time to realize that I have a lot of time.
One chapter has ended and another is beginning, but I would be lying if I said it was easy. I rally myself out of bed each day, saying all the right things on the days when my spirit sags.
This too shall pass.
After all, motherhood is forever, even once they’ve grown and flown. Parenting isn’t over just because our kids have their own addresses, drive themselves to work and spend their days with people other than Mom. Motherhood evolves and grows just as our children do. This new part of the journey is about trusting God in new ways as He teaches me how to hold on and let go in a brand new season of parenting.
I spent the better part of my life encouraging our kids to be independent. Now that they are, it’s only natural that I miss them. I miss being a part of their daily lives and I miss their companionship, but I did what I set out to do.
Change is the only constant from the moment our babies arrive, and just as soon as we settle into one season, life demands that we adjust ourselves to move on to the next.
With the kids gone, hubby and I are learning to recreate a rhythm in our home that took years to evolve. Our hands on work with the kids may be done, but we are still parenting. We get to enjoy true and meaningful relationships with our adult children as they raise their own, and now we have time to do the things we postponed while we gave the best of ourselves to parenting 4 great kids.
That period of intense, demanding, physical parenting that I once couldn’t see the end of has come and gone. This is the motherhood moment of truth: it doesn’t last for ever. It is the fundamental paradox of parenthood: we bring them up with one ambition, which is to let them go.
I’d be lying if I tried to glam this new stage up. It’s a plethora of emotions that keep me on my toes (or knees, as the case may be). The experience of letting go can be painful a painful one, but I’m learning that there can be beauty in it, too. So I’m honoring the feelings as they come and go and refusing to get stuck there. As Francesca Battestelli sings, “Joy comes, tears fall, I’m learning there is beauty in it all. It’s not hard to find it, you just have to look. Oh, God is good.”