A Second Act for Mom

August is a tough month for many moms — it’s the time when their university- or college-bound kids leave home. This is especially true when the kids are leaving for the first time, as opposed to a situation in which the child has been back home for the summer after already having gone off to school for the year. It’s also true even when there are younger siblings still living at home.

I think by now we’re all familiar with the term “empty nest syndrome.” I probably don’t need to define it here. But moms who have been tearing their hair out over teenagers — argh! — and yearning for the day when they have more peace and quiet and less conflict at home may be surprised to find themselves morose when that teenager leaves home to go off to college or university.

Moms may also be surprised to find that they are hit hard when their eldest son or daughter leaves for school, even though one or more other kids remain at home. What they may not recognize is that the first child’s departure gives them a foretaste of things to come and brings home the reality that one day, all the kids will be gone. As much as one can generalize, it’s safe to say that moms with thriving careers are less likely to be hit as hard by their kids’ departure compared to moms whose lives have largely centred around their kids. If you have made your children your raison d’être, and that reason for being vanishes from your everyday life, you are left floundering. If you have a solid and satisfying outside interest — if not a career then perhaps volunteer work — of course you’ll miss your flown-away teen, but you may not suffer the same level of heartbreak.

Of course this all leads to the obvious question: What should you do about it? The first step is to recognize that you’re not alone, and you’re not being irrational. The teen’s music that drove you batty no longer reverberates through the house. His/her clothes are no longer carelessly strewn everywhere. Your fridge doesn’t get emptied within an hour of you bringing home bags of groceries. And yet you’re sad? Yes — and it’s normal.

Assuming your marriage or relationship has remained unbroken, now is a good time to reconnect with your partner and bring new closeness and togetherness into your partnership. If you don’t already have a career — not just some job that feels like drudgery, but a career you at least enjoy if not feel passionate about — consider starting one (no, it’s not too late in life), or opening up your own business (it’s not too late for that, either). If neither of these options is feasible or appealing, embark on some sort of meaningful volunteer work, something that will take up a significant amount of your time and involve a significant amount of your passion.

One last thought before I wrap up: another reason that some moms don’t cope well when their kids leave home is that they feel they’ve taken a large step toward Senior Citizen Land. We’re all getting older, yes, but we’re not ancient. We all get a day older every day and a year older every year, but we’re not advancing rapidly toward the old age home or senility.

The curtain is now going up on Act 2. The script is yours to write. What will you make of this golden opportunity?

Cynthia MacGregor is a writer, editor, speaker and former TV host of Solo Parenting, aired in the South Florida viewing area. Among her over-100 published books geared to parents and kids is Facing Down Empty Nest Syndrome (published by Familius), a helpful guide for mom and dad wondering how to cope and connect with their children once they leave the family home. www.cynthiamacgregor.com

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Cynthia MacGregor

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