If you’ve been reading my column over the years, you may know that this pretty much explains my experience as an empty nester: This is devastating. You know, maybe this isn’t so bad. Wow, this is awesome!

But I’ve now entered a new phase. It’s part sadness/ part acceptance/part appreciation/part more sadness. I haven’t reached the awesomeness of this stage yet. Hoping it will come, but it hasn’t yet.

It started a few years ago when the girls would come home for a long weekend or the holidays. At first, Joe and I would feel a jolt because suddenly there were jackets on the back of chairs and people were voicing their opinions on what we should have for dinner. It took some getting used to, but it became comfortable rather quickly. And then we were fully immersed in having other people living with us again. The liveliness, the fun, the noise – even the mess – it was all so lovely.

But then Sunday afternoon would come, and they would leave.

It happened again and again, and each time was like the first day they left for college. I felt the heartache. I re-visited what seemed like such a loss. And I became keenly aware of how much change was happening all around me. At lightning speed.

Then we had lockdown, and 2 of our 3 daughters lived with us for about 3 months. It became normal again to have extra people at home. And we made the best of it – cooking special meals, bingeing everything we could, creating multiple workspaces. While awful things happened in the world around us, we were safe and happy inside our home. I knew we were lucky to have them with us.

And then it was time for them to move out. Again.

Recently, though, I’ve become aware of another part to this phase. It’s natural and normal, I know, it’s simply part of everyone aging. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

We can see how their lives – their own separate lives – are developing more and more. They are busy at work, so we FaceTime less often. Something significant happens in their life, like they run out of gas while driving or they bump into a friend from high school, and we hear the story days later. (If those examples seem oddly specific, yes, that all happened.) Sometimes we can’t all get together for a birthday dinner. And as foolish as this may sound: There used to be days when we would be inundated with TikTok videos in the family text group. I rolled my eyes often. But those texts now come through less and less. And I am amazed by how much I miss TikTok videos.

We are watching our daughters do exactly what they are supposed to do: Grow up. Build a wonderful, full life. Getting to watch this happen in real time is thrilling and so satisfying. I absolutely know this is what is supposed to happen.

But there are times when all of those natural and normal things come crashing down, and it can be crushing. Because I think back to these 3 little people who we really, really liked. Our days and our thoughts were consumed by them. Slowly, that is fading away.

Just the other day, I was on the phone with my youngest daughter Marirose, and she was telling me she wasn’t feeling great and it seemed like a million things were going wrong. I gave her a great solution: “Well you could come home and live here with us forever and ever.” She laughed.

I know she can’t. In fact, I don’t want her to. I want her and her sisters to have many incredible adventures, challenging and satisfying careers and truly loyal friends. Joe and I both do. We want them to have interesting conversations with remarkable people, to enjoy fabulous meals in beautiful settings. And we want them to find their soulmate who will share their life with them.

We want our daughters to create their own wonderful lives. It’s what we started preparing them to do on the day they were born. We just never knew we would have so much fun and feel so much love along the way. So now it’s hard to let them go. Again.


February 2022
Related Articles

Comments are closed.


Get SJ Mag in Your Inbox

Subscribe for the latest on South Jersey dining, weekend entertainment, the Shore and much more - sent directly to your inbox.

* indicates required
Email Format
WATCH NOW: Millennials looking for Mentors