The abruptness of the empty nest season can make you feel a little like you are back in middle school and overnight your best friend stops liking you and is now hanging out with a new set of friends while you sit at the lunch table alone, hoping someone, anyone, will set their lunch tray down at your table and slide in next to you.
With that said, I’m very proud of my grown and married kids, and they both tell me they are proud of me that I’m not a clingy mom. But I confess that I have clingy empty nest mom thoughts. I first became aware of this about a year ago, after my youngest had married and moved away. His sister had married two years before. Both of my kids are in love and creating lives of their own—just as their dad and I had hoped would happen for them one day. I am proud, but I was a little late in understanding completely that the long conversations my kids and I used to have would now take place between them and their spouses instead of with me.
As it should be.
But I have missed hearing my kids’ hearts; their concerns. I have missed hearing, “How are you doing, Mom?” The conversations filled my tank and if I’m being honest, I will always long for my kids’ hearts. But they belong to their spouses now.
As it should be.
But this is an essay about being a mom with clingy thoughts; so, I’m just being honest here.
Will this new season of life always feel like I’m waiting on the sidelines for my kids to connect with me? Is that how this empty nest works? Is this our DNA as moms? I watched a wild life show recently where a mother lion raised her cub to young adulthood and then left it in the wild to fend for itself. There was no waiting around for a weekly phone call to hear about work or friends or a drop by visit; no waiting around for her cub to ask her how she was doing. Aidios chica, said Mom and she walked away. But human moms want to stay connected for life with their young. The most talented of our species are skilled at luring their kids back home into the lair for conversation and quality time with promises of food, babysitting, family trips…whatever it takes.
But then I laugh at myself and wonder, Isn’t it normal for 20-somethings to not be interested in their parents, but abnormal for me as a 50-something mom to want so badly for them to be interested in me?
Even if these are just “clingy mom” thoughts, they probably can’t be healthy ones to hang on to for very long. A healthy, empty nest mom moves forward. What I think goes on during these early stages of empty nest is just another layer of grief in letting go. If my husband were still living, he and I would process this all together. He’d ask me if I’ve heard from the kids lately, and I’d say, “No, have you?”
“Those rotten kids,” we’d say. And then lament together about how much we missed them.
When I went back to full-time work years ago and was worried if I was making the right decision for my children, my mentor told me that our children really don’t care what job we do in life–whether we work full time in an office, or work full time in the home–they just want to know that as moms we are living a satisfying life of your own.
And so that’s my goal in this next phase—to build a satisfying life of my own and be pleasantly surprised when my kids call or drop by. To be able to say, in my best non-clingy empty nest mom voice, “Oh, hello. It’s you.”