Empty Nest - from the Mother's Point of View

Updated on January 27, 2014
K.S. asks from Youngstown, OH
21 answers

In trying to figure out how to cope with my newly empty nest after 32 total years of being a mother, I've heard a lot of daughters' point of view. I understand that I have to stand back and let go. But from the point of view of mothers who have been there and survived, what did you do to get through the feeling that no one needed you anymore? I'm sure that there is a total grief process involved there that daughters do not understand because they have not been there yet.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thank you. It seems like I am kind of unique in how I feel. I do have a full time job and have had one since the youngest started first grade, but I suspect that most of my identity has been locked up in motherhood for a long time. She stayed at home during college, so I never had that break. I am working on letting go and just interviewed for a promotion at work. I know that I will be fine in time and I have figured out that I need to let go. Most of my friends disappeared when I had some health issues a couple of years ago and then had to change jobs, I am working on trying to find some more kindred spirits at my newer job. I will survive, I'm just kind of sad right now. And I am glad and proud that both of my girls are doing well on their own. A kitten is on my to-do list since she took our cat with her.

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answers from San Francisco on

With two in college and one in high school I am almost there, and I love it! More time to see my friends, go out with and travel with my husband, volunteer, work on projects and even (eventually) go back to work.
There's a great big world beyond motherhood, get out there and enjoy it!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Have you considered foster-parenting? Lots of teens need a stable family and a semi-independent high schooler might be a great fit for you.

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answers from Norfolk on

How about a trip to Disney World?
You successfully raised an infant to independent adulthood!
Good job!
Well done!
Now you can party till the cows come home!
Or do what ever you've always wanted to do but we never able to do because you had someone depending on you.
Now you need to foster some independence in yourself.
You need you.
Mother yourself for a bit.
Now go out and do what ever is fun for you!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

You should look at it a bit differently... If your child no longer needs you for the day to day stuff, he/she has become a self-sustaining independent adult and you have done something right as a Mother. Be proud of that accomplishment. It definitely OK to feel sad, but the ultimate goal should be to raise kids that become productive adults.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

One of my favorite topics right now!

Not everyone experiences mourning for the empty nest, so if anyone tells you to simply "get a life," they either haven't experienced it yet, or they are just one of those lucky people who didn't feel grief during this process. (I haven't read the responses below yet.)

I have been going through the empty nest grieving for the past year or so, so I can relate to what you are feeling. Let me make this clear -- I have a life. I have friends, activities, a job, hobbies, etc. etc. But your kids moving out represent the end of an era, and it is COMPLETELY NORMAL to grieve the end of this era.

There are a number of factors that might come into play during this time, so it's complex. For me, two of these were the realization that I am indeed growing old and time is growing short. The realization that you are on the downhill slope of life is an interesting one, for sure. Also, you are really forced to face issues in your marriage, if they were previously avoided or skirted in the hectic pace of life while parenting.

One friend and I were discussing this the other day, and we came to the conclusion that we are lacking the same passion for things that we once had, and we are looking to regain that passion. (Once again, we are both busy with full lives.) I fully believe I will regain that passion, but I am coming to the conclusion that there is just a mourning process that you have to go through, because the end of that era of child-rearing is a 'death' of sorts.

Studies show that the bell curve for "happiness" bottoms out during people's 40's and 50's, and then rises up again. So know that you will have that excitement again, but you might have to endure a year or two of feeling a little despondent first.

I'm there with ya -- but I'm finally on the uphill swing.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Ah yes, Our daughter is at this moment moving into a condo in Massachusetts!

This last year she has been here at home working, She was my buddy once again. We had a lot of fun, but I knew that she was preparing for her last move away from home. She had attended college up North, but at least she came home for the summer.

I never stopped my life for our daughter. I kept my friends, my husband and i still went out. I worked different places, on call.. I helped a friends start a business, I volunteered and then I started a new business. My plans changed when my business partner died. I was with her from the beginning of the diagnosis.

One thing I learned is that we are very fortunate to have the internet and cell phones.

I had told our daughter I was always thinking of her. I was always missing her and to please feel free to contact me anytime she wanted.

I told her I would text or email her, but if she was busy I would understand. I just needed to know she was ok..
Many times, just seeing her posting on Facebook, was the way I knew what she was up to.. But I tried not to comment on there, just "Like" her photo.

There are so many things you can be doing.

You can volunteer your time, You can work. Think of what you are interested in and enjoy. Love shopping? Apply to a store.

Love flowers? Work for a nursery, learn more about plants, or volunteer at a Nursing home, or for a Public Gardens taking and tending the plants.

Good with children? Look for a family that needs someone to pick up their children from school and care for them till the parents get home from work.

Become a mentor, a tutor at a school. Teach an adult to read.. Go to the library and ask if there is a program for this.

Use your energies for good, doing something you enjoy.

If you have the money, travel. Plan a trip and see if any of your friends would like to join you.

This is what what your job was, to help your children grow up and move on.. Now it is time for you to spend time on yourself..

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You are not "not" needed anymore. Your dynamics have changed.

You had children living under your wing for years and I can understand that you feel rejected by your daughter who just got married. Think of it this way.... You helped her become a great young woman all these years and now she is spreading her wings, and living her life. She'll come back around... she just wants to become her own independent self from mom. Aren't you PROUD of her and yourself because she is thriving with her new life.

My 19 yr old (only child) moved into her condo in August and started college. I left her alone so she could adjust and get everything worked out the way SHE wanted it in her condo and learn to deal with her new schedule without any reminders from me. Yes, she has a couple of slip ups but that is a part of her learning.

It does feel weird without her here but I have not felt any grief from it. I am proud of her, I am proud she is focused and thrives on responsibility.... that means we did something right!!!

She is fully aware that my door is always open and she is welcome at anytime. Since she moved out... our relationship couldn't be better. We lunch at least once a week, we text daily.

Way back when my daughter was in K, I spent a lot of time volunteering at her elementary school which ended up in me becoming a substitute teacher for the last 13 yrs. I LOVE spending time with the children and teaching. One reason I have continued to do this is to stay involved. It is my "hobby"

Hubby and I run our company from home and he is on the road a lot. Now that daughter is on her own for the most part, I have more time to go on the good trips with hubby, I have lunch with my best friend every week. We work hard with our company and my "mental break" is to go substitute a day or two to recharge my brain.

There is so much to do and enjoy when children move out. You are not less of a mother, your role does change... embrace it and enjoy post motherhood!!

Your daughter is not rejecting you. If you can't get past your grief from this, please go talk to a professional. Don't let your grief make you miss out on great opportunities!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

Time to grow up Mom :)
I love empty nest. My husband and I can do whatever we want whenever we want, it's awesome.
I do not pressure my kids to keep in touch. You need to get a life so that when they do call or visit you have something to show and talk about--
Get a puppy or a kitten.
You will be fine, give it some time to sink in and then enjoy not having any strings... you are FREE!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

My only child and I have always been close. Actually, my son and I are now closer since we are thousands of miles apart. I am estranged from most members of my family and he is rather introverted. We bounce our emotions off each other. We take a grand vacation together each year. We take road trips when I'm in Texas. I'm proud of him and we give one another unconditional love and respect.

After the initial shock, I pray that you will be alright. Blessings.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I would have loved to have a foster mom like you. You have so much love to give and could change lives through your mothering.
Your daughter will come back but she is trying to be independent and pulling away. I am close to my daughter and would feel like you do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I was happy and proud to see them fly away. Roots and wings. They always come back. My husband and I felt like it was our time. Took about a week to adjust once the last kid left. LOL. Grieving, that I do not understand. Enjoy your life now. Way too short to lose time mourning their independence.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

Well for one my purpose in life was never only to be needed. I think it is also rather arrogant of you to think that only those that have had all children leave the house are capable of understanding what it is like. I am sure you had the same feelings when your youngest went to kindergarten, middle school, high school, god knows how you survived college.

My purpose as a mother was to not be needed. I raise self sufficient children and I am proud, not sad or grieving, when they achieve a higher level of independence. If my children still needed me in college I would have considered myself a failure as a mother.

I enjoyed, with a huge sense of pride, helping my kids move their stuff out of my house. I was a moving man, they knew where everything needed to go, what was needed to be purchased, had their budget down cold, I just got to sit back and beam at my success.

I was the mom that couldn't understand why I was required to walk my competent daughter to the bus stop in kindergarten. You are the mom who had to drive her to school, walk her in, take a million pictures and still worried all day that she was fine. Trust me, there are plenty of moms like you and even though they still have kids in their house they totally get you. I will never get you. No worries, takes all kinds. Thing is I suspect your youngest is more like your husband. May want to back off a bit because she has got this and doesn't need you and that is actually a good thing.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

Sounds pretty normal to me. You ARE still needed, once a Mom, always a Mom.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hi K.,

This transition is not as easy for some of us, as it is for others. But heck, that's ok, 'cause we're individuals, right?

Now that your girls are married and establishing themselves, I think this is an opportunity for you to do 2 things. Invest time and love in yourself and invest time and love in your marriage. Decide how you would like to approach this period of your life. Make a list of 5 things you would like to do by yourself. And 5 things you would like to do with your husband. Work on making 1 of each of these things happen. Start slowly. Could be going to the library each week to delight yourself with literature you never read before. Or join the library's book club. Could be your goal with your husband is to enjoy one hour a week making plans for mini-vacations (day trips to local museums, etc., with free passes from your library). It really doesn't matter what it is. I began painting with a wonderful, local teacher. I have made new friends, developed a skill and have new things to talk to my husband about. I also have invested more time in my spiritual life, learning how to be the me I want to be.

Wishing you the very best.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

As my children grew up, I saw so many good mothers become at loose ends when their children flew the coop - some of them even having to deal with depression, because they identified themselves so closely with their children that suddenly they didn't know who they were.

I didn't want to go that route, so I started looking around early at things I could do. There was the possibility of going on to a money-making career - most of the empty-nesters I knew got themselves paying jobs - but I decided I would rather do things that nobody would have to pay me for. I'm the type of person who needs someone or something to love, and some way I can be creative. I've found those things.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to deal with was the fact that I became interested in those new things and my grown kids didn't care! So I had to adjust to the fact that I wouldn't have their support. They were interested in their own lives instead. That's fine, since I have my own life. I can keep up with what they are doing, without expecting anything of them in return.

A kitten might be good! There are plenty of cats who need loving homes. And it's always a good thing to have something or somebody (or somebodies!) to go home to and get up in the morning for.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My oldest left for college this year, so I'm not an empty nester yet, still have a 14 year old at home.
I love seeing my kids grow up. I'm excited to see my oldest going out and creating her future. Maybe that comes from survivng cancer, which I had when the kids were 3 and 7. It feels like a privilege to see them grow up.
I always had things that I did other than raise the kids - work, friends, outside interests. Since my daughter left for college, I've added activities to my schedule - making sure that I have some sort of social activity each week with a friend, taking on a volunteer activity with work, enrolling in a class. I have an "empty nest" list of things that I plan to do once I have no kids living at home.
I don't need to be "needed' that much. I always viewed my role as a mother as primarily being to prepare my children well for what I hope is the 75-80% of their lives that they will lead as adults.
Hugs and good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I know what you mean. While you are happy that you've raised children who can move out into the world as productive adults you are a little sad because you've raised children who have moved out and are not productive adults in the world. You spend so many years putting other's needs ahead of yours that it's a little daunting to try to figure out what it is you actually want to do with your time.

Take heart and know that it's ok to feel how you feel. It's a change and change usually isn't easy. You'll get your footing soon enough.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

My only daughter moved out a few days before her 18th birthday. I never felt the "empty nest" thing. I had plenty to keep me occupied, and it was the same things that I was doing before. My job, theater, church (back when I went to a church), socializing with friends, taking care of the menagerie at my house.
Parents NEED to have activities of their own that don't involve the kids.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

What was your relationship like with your mom growing up? Were you "rewarded" for being a helpful and "good" girl?

These feelings are valid and they are coming from somewhere (perhaps very deep in your heart). You might be mis-attributing them to your daughters. The situation with your one daughter is a trigger possibly.

I'd do some major self-reflection and life work that you perhaps put off while raising your family. A good counselor might be able to help. Sometimes you can do this on your own though.

I wish you luck, and joy. You have done what you were supposed to do. You have finished the race and you should enjoy that fact. It's time to look to new horizons. <<hugs>>

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Try to keep yourself busy with other things--volunteer at your church nursery, at a homeless shelter, at a home for troubled teens, etc.

My mom has 5 kids--us three older kids are out of the nest, my youngest brother has left and come back a few times, and is currently back in the nest, and my 28 year old brother will never be able to live independently. My mom would much rather be dealing with having to construct new boundaries and communication lines with those of us who have flown the coop than to have to deal with her failure to launch kids.



answers from Amarillo on

When we are young and first mothers we put so much of ourselves into caring for our children that we forget who we are. Our identity becomes "that's so and so's mother." You do not have a first name and you are tied to the activities that your children do. The teen years become the battle ground where the child is trying to find it(their) wings so that they can leave the nest. Mom is still in full mother mode and has not thought about the upcoming leaving of the nest. Once a child completes their high school years, mom should be thinking about the child leaving the home and that she has prepared that child for the launch into the world.

You did great by having a job to fill in some of the void. You need to find new friends who will understand you as your old friends "ran away" at a time when you really needed them. Right now you are wondering what do I do now? The world is not over just seek them out through a college class, hobby or book club.

What is my purpose in life? Foster care maybe a way to feel needed.

Life is a journey and there are many twists and turns along the way as you are finding out. Just make a to do list and do them. When you do one add another to the bottom of the list to keep you going.

Oh, please do get the kitten to keep you going. This is your time to find the you you put aside when you had kids.

the other S.

PS I have been there done that. My son told me he was going in the Army on a certain day so I prepared myself for him leaving the home. He at the last minute did not want to go but I told him that he was going out of the house that day. He didn't have to go into the Army but he had to leave. My daughter informed me a year later that I put him out. I was tired of his antics and was ready for him to on his own. He now thanks me for what I did 20 years ago. It was painful but it was peaceful once he left the house. We keep in touch monthly and laugh about many things.

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