Wide Awake: Unparenting
A not-so-great stage in the empty nest
By Marianne Aleardi

Next week, one of my daughters is having a minor outpatient procedure. I know that because she told me. Not because I was with her at her doctor’s appointment. Not because I got approval from the insurance company, and not because I scheduled the procedure. She told me. On the phone. A few days later.

My youngest, Marirose, traveled to Memphis for business and spent 5 days there. We texted a bit and talked a little about it when she came back. And then Klein is going to 3 weddings this summer, and I don’t know any of the brides. A few months ago, Maura ran out of gas on a highway. She briefly mentioned it in passing last week.

It seems these 3 adult daughters go out and do all this stuff, and then they go back to their apartments and do stuff there. All the time, day after day. They have full lives. And I hear about it – some of it – later.

Maura was recently here for the weekend and when she left, I posted on Instagram a picture of her slippers laying under a bench in the kitchen. I wrote: “Every time @mauraaleardi comes home for the weekend she leaves her slippers somewhere on the first floor. Don’t know if she just falls into old habits or she knows after she leaves, I’ll smile every time I see them.” Someone commented: “awwww. so hard to UN parent”

I had never heard that phrase before, but oh yes, that is exactly what’s been happening. Just when I had adjusted to empty nesting, along comes this new phase. It’s the one where your kids have lives that you don’t get to live in, at least not the way you did before. You just make guest appearances, every now and then.

It’s a very odd feeling. Because on the one hand, I always considered myself a somewhat hands-off mom.

When the girls were younger, there were many times I stood in a circle of moms who were talking about all the math homework last night or the tough prep for the science test – and I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn’t help with homework unless asked. I considered my kids’ schoolwork to be their responsibility.

And when the girls were in high school, they went to their orthodontist appointments by themselves because it was a short walk from their school. They even scheduled their follow-up appointment before they left.

I always thought them being independent was a good thing. And I was right. But now, here we are.

So that leads me to the other hand…For years I was the one who created the schedules, made the decisions, set the rules and just made sure everyone was doing what they needed to do. Honestly, it was exhausting, and while part of me doesn’t mind giving that up, there’s a part of me that feels the loss. I had this well-defined role that came with important responsibility and beautiful rewards, and now it’s gone. Or at least, it’s very, very different.

I guess that’s the hardest part right now: trying to figure out my new role. I’m not even sure the girls could describe it, because this is different for them too. The 4 of us have never all been adults at the same time, so this relationship is new. And sometimes, I just miss the not-adult daughters.

You may have noticed that at the beginning of this column I didn’t name the daughter having the medical procedure. I did in my first draft, but when I showed it to her she asked that I leave out her name. She felt it was her personal business. And of course, she’s absolutely right. But if you’ve been reading my column for years, you know I’ve written about the girls again and again. When I did, I would always show them before it was published, just to be sure it was ok. It always was – because they were kids. But now these daughters are adults. So things change.

It’s like we’re at a train station and the girls keep getting on and off all these great trains, but Joe and I can’t leave the station. Before, we would all be on the train together, really excited about where we were going. Now they’ve each found a different train, and Joe and I just keep waving hello and goodbye. I think I liked it better before, but that doesn’t matter. We’re already at the station. Our job now is to hug them hello and chat for a bit. But then, we kiss them goodbye. And they go on their way.

July 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