Empty Nest, Full Heart

Aack! I woke up on August 1st and faced the reality that for the first time in 23 years, I won’t have any children living at home beginning September 15th.

My “baby” graduated from high school June 2017, so come back-to-school season, there will be no breakfasts to make, no lunches to pack, no sporting events to attend, no teacher conferences to schedule, no band concerts to buy tickets to, no cookie dough to sell…

What’s a mom to do?!?

Nothing, actually.

That’s the aim of parenting. Our job is to get them ready to leave; to help create launchable people. So I’m proud.

I’m fortunate in that things have gone more or less according to plan, with all three of my kids doing what they want to be doing. My oldest just moved to another city to start his first job. My middle one will head back to college. My youngest will set off on his gap year. And I will have an empty nest.

No first day of school for this mom. Starting very soon, I will be waking up for me alone. I will still be a parent, but a different type of parent, one who is much less hands-on.

I have been thoughtful about positioning myself – and them – for this moment. When I transitioned to high school mom, I stopped being their alarm clock. They got themselves to and from school. They scheduled their own haircuts and made their own plans. When I transitioned to gap year and college mom, I didn’t always know where they were. They booked their own travel, chose their own classes, managed their own time. That was intentional.

I also made sure I built a full life for myself– as more than a mom. But truth is, my favorite job is this mom gig. I relished each phase of their development, and I never guessed (or didn’t let myself think) it would be over so soon.

I realize I’m not the only parent facing this. If you have been a stay-at-home-mom or dad, how do you redefine your life when your purpose has been taking care of children? Take some advice from this mom…plan ahead. It may seem like it is way in the future, but it will feel like it arrives as quickly as tomorrow.

Step back. Allow your kids more autonomy and more responsibility. Build your life: volunteer, consider a new career, get engaged in your community, become an activist. Our world needs more amazing people like you!

Get ready, folks. They will leave. But that’s the goal.

It’s still really hard to see them go. So while my nest may be empty September 2017 –I’ll have a full heart forever.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.