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The Last One to Leave the Nest

Tomorrow, when the last one goes to college, I will leave the dorm room when she tells me it's time and I will kiss her glowing face goodbye, and then my husband and I will go home to the dog. And then, I'm absolutely sure, I will cry for a while.
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I'm out of a job.

For 20 years my main job has been to be a stay-at-home mom to my two children. But tomorrow my last child leaves for college and with her, all of the job responsibilities I've hated, endured, complained about, and loved every minute of will also disappear.

When the first one arrived 20 years ago, I went from TINK (Two Incomes No Kids) to OINK (One Income New Kid) in the time it takes for the obstetrician to yell, "PUSH!" OK, it was actually 36 hours, but it was the final push that made me a mother and started my new career as a stay at home mom.

Number two came two years later and the job got harder, but by then I was pretty good at it, even when they teamed up on me and had double tantrums, and double mud fights because I also got twice the laughs and twice the love and hugs.

It felt like they would always be little. We would always be finding cheesy Goldfish crumbs in the back of the car, pushing strollers, fighting over homework, and hanging handprint turkey paintings in the window at Thanksgiving.

Time seemed to stand still for eternity. And then it didn't. Somewhere around middle school it started to pick up speed. By the time they got into high school, they were both taller than me, smarter than me (at least in math) and definitely hungrier than me. I cooked endless meals for them and their friends but then, suddenly my job as both cook AND chauffeur was over. They would go out to eat and drive themselves there. Hours after we went to bed there would be a knock on the door. "I'm home," a voice would say through the bedroom door, and then I could go to sleep. In a blink they had become self-sufficient young adults and my job was whittled down to laundry lady and food shopper.

All of this was meant to prepare me for the inevitable. But it didn't.

When the first one left for college, I was stunned, When the second one leaves tomorrow, I will be empty.

Becoming an empty nester is a double-edged sword. While on the one hand I now have the time to write the third book I've been putting off because I was always busy with the kids, and I will have the time to reconnect with my husband whom I love tremendously, and travel with him at the drop of a hat, I will also have this hole in my life where I used to play games with my kids, take them to school, fool around in the pool, and travel as a family.

It is not just a hole in my life. It is a hole in my heart.

I know almost every other parent on the planet goes through this. Some kick up their heels and book their first flight to Rome before their kid has even unpacked his dorm room. Some hover around the dorm room until the final announcement that the parents have to leave, and even then, they stay another hour even though their child has been ready for them to leave eight hours sooner. There are the Empty Nesters who jump right into their new life with complete abandon and others who sit home and cry for a while.

I have no doubt that I will make this transition well and I will love having the time to do the things I haven't been able to do easily for 20 years. I will love hearing from my kids and seeing them at holidays and for school breaks and I will complain when they are at home about the mess and the amount of laundry and the amount of food they eat and how late they are staying out but I will actually love every minute of it. I will straddle these two new worlds for six years (at least) until they are out of college and fully on their own.

But tomorrow, when the last one goes to college, I will leave the dorm room when she tells me it's time and I will kiss her glowing face goodbye, and then my husband and I will go home to the dog.

And then, I'm absolutely sure, I will cry for a while.

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