Its All About to Change and Its Breaking My Heart.

Updated on February 18, 2014
S.D. asks from Saint Paul, MN
21 answers

My younger daughter is in the final stages of choosing her college. She is very excited, we all are. She will be in our city as least for the first year. She is so ready to move forward, get out of high school and start the next chapter of her life. She is very mature, highly driven and has very high standards not only for herself but for who she surrounds herself with. We couldn't be more proud of her. She is a girl that will take the world by storm, I know she will be very successful at whatever she does and she is not afraid of what her future holds, she's excited. We raised her to be this way. II know that when she leaves home, life will never be the same. She is a lot like her dad who grew up in South America. After high school he moved to the U.S. and never returned home again except for visits every few years.

The thought of dropping her off at a college dorm and driving away just overwhelms me. I know she's ready, I am so happy for her - but how do you walk away from her on that day and hold it all together. she does not know that I struggle with this.

My older daughter (22) lives at home- is just finishing up a degree from the community college and has just landed her first "real job". here in our city. So very proud of her! She has worked very hard, managed to live here at home (not her first choice), but paid off all college debt and is also ready to go out into the world. She and long time boyfriend (3 years) are planning on moving in together when he is done with school this spring. We adore him like a son and we know they will be married sometime.

I know we raised two beautiful, smart, wonderful girls and did a great job, for that I am very proud, but I am grieving the changes that are about to take place at my home. We are a very close family and it breaks my heart to watch it all change - I know this is what you do when you have children, but how really, do you adjust when you have been a family together in one house for 22 years and its all about to change- very quickly. I am grieving my family life as I know it and realize that I only have 6 more months together under one roof.

I do not share this with my girls, I do not want them to hesitate as they look towards their new lives, My husband feels it too, but seems to be handling it much better than I am.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your kind and wise words, it really helps to hear how other people handle this. Just after I wrote this and was feeling so low, we found out that my husbands company is going to lay off a whole lot of people in the next few month. NOW THAT IS A SCARE! All of a sudden, the thought of NOT being able to bring my daughter to college was worse! I think it was Gods way of telling me to snap out of it already. I am happy to say that the job is safe, plans are still on for my daughters and I am sad, but more peaceful overall. I did finally tell my girls that I am having a hard time letting them go and they were very good about it. So, forward march! Things can always be much worse!

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answers from Los Angeles on

This is the hardest, and it is shared universally by mothers. You put your heart and soul into raising them, and it is lots of work when they are young, and then they grow into your best friends and define your family, and suddenly they are off and you wonder what you were doing before they came on the scene, and somehow it holds little interest for you, now that you've been a mother.

For myself, I tired to "get a life". Not that I didn't have one, but I tried to come up with some things that greatly interested me that were not centered on my kids. I remember my own mother went back to college for a few classes, and joined a floral arranging guild. I put more effort into my small business I started, and I began to ask friends to lunch--something I'd always done with my daughters instead.

My own mother would cancel a friend's lunch if I came over on the spur of the moment. She said she preferred my company to any friend. Which was sweet, but it made me realize that the love of a mother towards her child exceeds the love of a daughter to her mother...mostly because the daughter just has not yet experienced that strong mother emotion and bond yet. And by the time she does, it will be for her own daughter. So basically, the mother is the one who is eventually going to feel pain at separation. Husbands/fathers seem to be less connected and feel less pain about their daughters growing up and moving on. They expected it. We mothers are sort of surprised by it.

I realized that mothers with families still around them are the "Queens" of this planet. Sought out and loved by their family and dedicated to loving their familiy. Heart of the home. Once their daughters grow up and move on, then the daughters become the Queens, starting their own families, and we move out on the circle a step away from center, and become less vital. It is hard to face, but it is so. Their husband and their children become pre-eminent. Even our advice is not sought often...seems outdated to them, even though we just went through raising them!

Staying busy is key. Find a hobby, read, join a club, garden, find friends, etc. No, none of it seems as desirable or important as the job (mothering) you were doing, and it is not, but you've just been retired from that job, and you have to re-invent your life and stay happy. I found I finally had time to give my husband some attention, do some of the things that I'd put off while raising kids, scrapbooks, family history, exercise, etc. Not that any of it was as great as being a mom, but it does take up your time. If you find a good cause that you can support, now is a good time to do it.

You can still be a part of your daughters' lives, but it is going to be on a far less frequent basis. I have one daughter who comes and visits me once a week and occasionally I think it is a chore for her that she has assigned herself in order to be a good daughter. The other daughter calls or connects more frequently, but she doesn't want advice and doesn't want to talk about my challenges. Wants it light and breezy. It just isn't the same after they move out....empty nest isn't easy for anyone.

I sure empathize with you. It does take a huge adjustment and it is challenging to go through. —D.K.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

It's so nice to read positive things about a family here! Usually it's all about families at war some way or other.

You're suffering from what is called (or used to be called) empty nest syndrome. You've been very involved in raising your children, which is a good thing! The situation now is that you have so identified yourself with this job that you don't see any future now that the job has almost ended (not quite - your younger daughter will be at home off and on!). It's not that you're not a mama any longer, but you've begun to change to working in an advisory capacity - and only when advice is asked. That may not be often.

When my children were growing up, I saw this so many, many times. I even knew good mothers who literally slid into a depressed state when their children became adults. They just didn't know who they were. Maybe life was over for them.

I didn't want that to happen to me. So I started thinking of what I would do when (boo-hoo!) all the children left the nest.

I first thought I would probably get a job somewhere, because most of the women I knew did that. But I didn't have a passion for anything that paid; my interests were in the fields where the money *wasn't*. So I looked around for productive work for which nobody had to give me a paycheck.

It happened that I ended up with dogs. I started raising a puppy for Canine Companions for Independence. After a while that puppy captured my husband's heart, so now we raise the pups together. You could say I have four-footed kids now - and, indeed, taking a 12-month-old service-dog-in-training to the grocery store is like taking a toddler. (Although you can put a leash on a pup!)

I revived my interests in theater and in music, and I also started learning to do some things I never had a chance to do before. In addition, I made the kids' rooms into guest rooms.

Amazingly, it IS a life! Remember the saying, "When God closes a door, He opens a window"? Where's your window? Do you see an open one somewhere? If you don't now, you will. Look for it. Your daughters' paths are going off from yours, but the paths are still connected. Enjoy keeping track of theirs. Meanwhile, even though they won't be as interested in your path, make it a good one. You'll do fine!

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I remember my mom the day they drove me to college. We loaded up the van and started the 2 hour drive. After about 20 minutes I asked them to turn around and drive me back home, I was so nervous, scared, overwhelmed. My mom said, "Oh no. We already paid for your first semester, and you're going." I had no idea how hard that was for her.

Years later I learned that after they helped me unload everything and said their goodbyes, my mom looked out the window the whole way back and didn't talk to anyone. It took her awhile to get used to the fact that her oldest had left the nest.

My mom gave me an amazing gift. She never let me see how much this was hurting her. She knew I needed to do this, and she knew I needed her support. She hid her pain from me, and it wasn't until after she left that she really let herself grieve.

I think you have to try to stop grieving. She isn't gone yet. You have to enjoy this time with her right now. When she does leave you might need to grieve. But don't lose out on the time you have now by grieving because you know she'll be gone soon.

My dad will be 77 soon. Recently my son said, "Papa is really old. I'm going to miss him when he dies." A part of me wanted to cry and say, "You and me both, kid." But I didn't, because that's not what my son needed to hear. Instead I reminded him that we all are going to die someday and that when Papa dies we are really going to miss him and probably be really sad for awhile. But he's here now! The last thing we want to do is waste the time we have with him now by thinking about how much we're going to miss him when he's gone.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

As one phase finishes you now are free to do other things.
What were you doing the year before you had your first child?
You were something and not yet a mother.
You'll always be a mother but it's only a part of you and there are many more pieces to you and you are not complete yet.
Get ready to go out and find your next piece!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You will be fine. This is an exciting time for you and your family. You have done a great job raising your daughters and now you are facing empty nest. It is ok and it will be ok.

My daughter was going through this last year. We ended up buying her a condo about 20 minutes from our house and 15 minutes from her college. She had planned to be in the dorm but due to shortage of rooms and her close proximity to school, those students did not get the dorm opportunity.

She is thriving on her own, making great grades and I am SO very proud of her. Our relationship has moved to a higher level now and we get along better than we ever have and we never had any very bad times with each other.

When my daughter started K, I volunteered at her school a lot and ended up becoming a substitute teacher which I still do now 13 yrs later. Involve yourself in something that make you happy.

My daughter and I text all the time. I text her before class and wish her well for the day. Sometimes, she is texting me at 2am with concerns but that is ok.... I love her so much and I am never too busy to talk to her.

Embrace this and move forward happily. You have a lot going on with 2 daughters. Trust that you have done a great job up to this point as for being their mom and now see what you have grown. It is wonderful to see how your babies are doing on their own and be proud of them.

Best wishes to you.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You can let your daughters see your shed a tear or two when you drop them off for those exciting moments. There's nothing wrong with that, because it's joy mixed with wistfulness. (p.s. Reading Mickey's answer --- a few tears is one thing, breaking down would not be good. So yeah, don't break down on them when they leave.)

How do you adjust? Time. When my daughter moved out over a year ago, most of the fun and energy went out with her. Her bustling, joyful presence was the best thing in the house. Suddenly our home was kind of tomb-like. It's taken a while, but I'm adjusting. I still love it when she comes home, because there's life in the house again.

But I'm getting used to it, and there are other things in my/our future. It just takes time.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Been there and have the t-shirt!

When we took our oldest, she was so excited and I was excited and sad. We took her stuff to her dorm, set up the printer and computer. I made up her bed and explained for the umpteenth that she should change her sheets once a week! =) I know!! So after a couple of hours, she just looked at us and said "okay you can go now". I knew we were delaying the leaving but I just wasn't ready until she said what she did. I'm so glad she did! I cried on the way home. It was about an hour drive. By the time I got home, I was okay. Just quiet. My life had changed. It is amazing how powerful that little pink bundle of joy was after 18 years!

Now, 4 years later, the boy was leaving. It started with boot camp. Oh, I boo hooed for a couple of days! We weren't able to talk to him for the first 8 weeks, I think it was. OMG that was the hardest thing. When he called, it was like hearing music from heaven! When he came back from boot camp he had about a month before he started college. By the end of the month, we were all ready for him to go!!! We drove him to Kentucky and went up to the dorm room. Made his bed, told him to change his sheets once a week! =) Then left. I cried! Yep, sure did.

Now, I LOVE the empty nest! Our daughter moved back in after graduating from university. She saved her money for nine months and then moved completely out! We were painting her room as she moved out. Yep, tacky of us I know but we were so happy she was moving out.

Change is hard. But you raised two awesome girls who are ready to take the world my storm. Own that! You and your husband did that for your daughters! How amazing!

Now, my husband and I are having the time of our lives! We don't have to worry about kids being home alone when we travel, we can walk around the house naked if we want to. We did tell our daughter to call ahead if she plans to visit! Don't know what she might come home too!!!

My kids know we love them and miss them but life is pretty darn terrific right now!!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Oh S., they know when we are sad. Maybe if you open up and talk to them you will all handle this better.

I just lost my niece last week. I am trying to pick up my pieces and take care of my family, but sometimes I see or hear something that makes me cry. I guess I am a bit touchy. My sweet eight year old asks, "Why are you crying". I say, "I'm not" as I turn and try to find something to do that will change my spirits. She says, "Yes you are, I know you better than anyone".

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My oldest left for college this past August. I have to be honest, I found it very exciting! They only stay with us a certain amount of years. They are supposed to move on. Sure, it felt odd to do certain things together for the last time as a family, but it's time.

I may have found it more exciting than others because I had cancer when the kids were little. Other friends from my support group didn't see their kids grow up. I got to see my oldest accomplish so many things, then graduate from HS on her 18th birthday, then go off to her first choice of college where she continues to do new and amazing things.

Yes, she's four hours away. Yes, I go a couple of months without seeing her. But I love the new relationship. I love getting to just pay attention to my 14 year old. The house is less messy. I have full access to my car again. My kiddult is happy and therefore, I am happy. I am busy - with work, friends, volunteering, hobbies, my younger teen. I can go to yoga after work on Tuesdays because teen doesn't need my car to get to work. I go to $5 day at the movie theater once a week with friends. I have a list of things that I plan to start doing when HE leaves for college!

Hugs and good luck. Enjoy seeing your daughter through all of the special moments of senior year.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Find something new to keep your attention while you all adjust to new norms. It was sad to drop my SD off at college, but it was time for her to do her own thing. Remember that it's not an end. Just a different path. There will still be family dinners, holidays, events, random Thursdays, etc. Then hopefully there will be weddings and babies and new celebrations. My DH has told SS that he would like to do a regular dinner once a month once he officially moves out. Just to keep in touch. SS liked that idea.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Oh honey, I am so sorry you are feeling this way. I completely understand
Two things I immediately think of:
1) Don't let her see how sad you are gettting to be
2) Spend all your free time with her now

-Make a list of things you want to do when you have the chance/freedom
-Keep busy so you don't dwell on it. This will be key when she actually
does leave
-Plan/make a list of things you want to take to her dorm room when you
drive her down (little things she may not think of sewing kit, laundry
basket etc)
-Make a list of little things you want to mail to her as surprises when she's
finally at the college dorm
-Research things to do in her area (make a list for her)
-make a special "from home box" fill with pictures, favorite candy bars, easy recipes she can make in her dorm if she has a kitchen or hot plate
-research 2 new hobbies you will take up when she starts her new
chapter in life
-when she moves, keep super busy
-plan something nice for yourself the day you drive her down to her dorm
-Repeat to yourself "Everything will be okay" when you get anxious
-Know that you did a great job parenting!
-Really enjoy the next 6 months. Do not let it feel like a countdown to
doomdom. Try to look at it as an exciting time for everyone. Keep telling
yourself that.
-make a list of all the things you want to do to spruce up your house (not
necessarily turning her room into an office or anything just little spruces)
-I'm glad you're not sharing this with your girls (my mom broke down when I moved out at 18 & it was very hard on me)
-try not to grieve your "family life" yet. You still have 6 months & then it
turns into another stage of "family life"
-lastly be glad you raised independent girls as they will be able to take
care of themselves in the big world. Job well done mama!
-when they do move out, try to get together with friends
-plan something neat you can do with your hubby (take golf lessons etc)
-She probably won't move far away & hardly ever return. That happens more often to boys (not to worry the moms out there w/boys).

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Grieve and grieve again. It is indeed hard and sad and lonely when we are supposed to let go.The proverbial let go is different for everyone. I am still letting go and my older son is twenty nine, moved several states away is married and left many years back to be in the Navy.Sometimes I am fine and sometimes I so wish he would have found a girl who lived around here so he would be here and I could live out my fantasies of spending time with him and my daughter in law. They chose to live near her family. So, although I still have those fantasies I cry alone sometimes. I try to think about how I will visit them.My husband is from Mexico. He only recently saw his family because his father passed away.I try to encourage him to go see them. It all doesn't seem really fair, but little by little we all carve out lives where it is bearable.Now my other son lives with us. He too feels the emptiness of not having his brother around but he keeps active and busy. Ouch Mama we feel your pain but it does get easier as time goes on. And when it isn't please write us.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Isn't this what you always wanted for them? Rejoice in their independence.
Think of this as a new beginning for you and your husband. Trust me, you will enjoy it. There are a lot of perks. Be proud of the girls you have raised
And move on. It's time for you now.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Been there, felt that. You devote yourself to raising your children and then it seems like in the blink of an eye they are grown and out the door. So sad for what you don't have but so exciting to see the people you nurtured become responsible adults in the world. It's change and change is usually a mixed bag of emotions.

Don't forget to give yourself a good pat on the back for a job well done.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

heh. right there with ya, sister. i bawled and waved my hankie as my boys drove down the driveway, each in turn. i still sniffle when they leave after coming home for a visit.
i've been lucky in that my empty-nesting has turned out to have lots of blessings. i really love the free time i have now to putter, and read, and noodle around on mamapedia, and work part-time. (i had silly illusions that i'd finally get around to becoming a great housekeeper. ha!) my kids are in baltimore, so less than 2 hours away, and we check in on FB and text and stay in touch, maybe not daily but almost. and the dh and i are definitely in second honeymoon mode. it's nice to have my BF back after decades of co-parenting.
i'm glad you're not clutching your girls, and that you're allowing them to experience fully the excitement of their impending emancipation (and it IS an emancipation- however terrific we've made their childhoods, becoming an independent adult is intoxicating and scary and wonderful.) don't expect that you won't mourn, but do make sure you are simultaneously briskly putting yourself to work on projects you've sidestepped for all the child-raising years. treat yourself just as you would one of your own kids- sympathy, but no wallowing.
you'll be okay, mama!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

Call, text, set up a weekly lunch dates. Find a hobby. Neddle for grandchildren?

I kid.

I honestly think you need to tell your girls. Be honest about how happy and sad you are feeling. Tell them you want them to go, but you're mommy heart is breaking. I tell my daughter how excited I am seeing her grow up, but that I have a hard time remembering she's not a tiny baby. She's 7 now. It's hard getting your mind around the "changes", you just want to hit rewind and pause so badly at times. They're your babies and they always will be, but I think honesty, regular lunch dates will help.

I had to live away from my family at 16. I still live too far away to see my parents more then once every few years. You are very very lucky, they seem to be sticking close.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I cried the day we put my son and his stuff in the u-haul for our college drive. He saw me. I didn't try to hide. Hidden emotions are not good in my book. People need to see hurt and learn from it.

I kept and printed all of his email from year 1. When he fly home for Christmas, I met him with balloons at the airport.

Schedule weekly things for the 3 of you to do. Don't alienate the older daughter.

I'm so glad that I don't have to relive that!


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answers from Albany on

I think change is hard no matter when it takes place. I am no way near close to being an empty nester... my kids are 8, 6 and 2.5. But, I am going through the stage of mourning no more babies in the house. I hate it... I love the baby stage. But I also love my kids and watching them grow and develop. Motherhood is never easy... but it is always a blessing. You still have weddings and grandchildren to look forward to! It sounds like you have a great relationship with your girls, so they will always be a big part of your life. I have a great relationship with my mom too... she is a big part of mine and my children's lives. I can't speak from experience, but just enjoy each moment of your new stage of life!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

aaawww the dreaded empty nest syndrome-tuff nuff deal right there,went thru it twice myself.alone i mite add no hubbys shoulder to cry on or to keep me busy with xtra cooking or chores.its ok to tell your kids how you feel-in fact i encourage it,tell them how much your going to miss them etc-but also tell them your excited for them about your future.theres no cure for empty nest except for time...hubbys do better with it because they didnt get the joy of carrying baby for 9 just takes time-cry when you need to-its ok-keep busy,good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I am not there... yet. I am not ready.
I would hope that volunteering elsewhere, "adopting" a youth from church or starting a new hobby might help a little. Idle hands and all that..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You drive away the same way you walked away on her first day of kinder! With tears in your eyes and your heart swelling with pride!

Change is hard and scarey but I think you're going to find that you enjoy this new chapter in your life! Embrace it, mama!

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