My First Week As An Empty Nester


Honestly, I thought it was going to be worse. The first day we moved our daughter, Anna, onto her college campus–before we’d even said the final goodbye–I burst into sobs as we walked way from her dorm. Two university employees riding in a golf cart happened to cross our path. “Don’t worry,” they said in unison. “We’ll take good care of her.” I just cried harder.

And the next evening, when we hugged goodbye and Anna whispered “I’m really going to miss you” in my ear, I nearly lost it again. “Not as much as I’ll miss you,” I told her.

I cried most of the six-hour car drive (when I wasn’t squabbling with my husband, that is). Anything could trigger the tears on that long ride home: The idea of cleaning her room and catching a glimpse at the nearly empty closet; the family vacation we’d been forced to skip this summer (super-busy schedules, a sluggish cash-flow, and looming college expenses aren’t a good mix); memories of Anna at any age, even the teen years.

Once I was home, though, I became way less emotional. Call it radical acceptance, but my suddenly childless state was my new reality and I had to deal. I straightened out Anna’s room without tearing up–and it was cathartic. I went to the farmer’s market and loaded up on veggies my daughter had shunned (hello, eggplant dishes!).

Of course, it’s helped that I have a brand-new job to focus on. And I’ve front-loaded my social life for this first week and weekend. But still…so far so good.

That doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t leap every time I get a text or call from her. And while I know those texts and calls are going to diminish over the next few weeks as she settles in and turns to her new friends to share her news, good and bad, I also know that our bond and love will just continue to get stronger, no matter how many miles separate us.

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