When our children leave home for the first time it can be difficult to adjust, especially for mothers. Whether your child is starting college, moving into their first apartment, or joining the military, you are suddenly left with considerably more free time on your hands and a home that can, at times, seem eerily quiet and clean. In today’s episode, we discuss some of the feelings that may come up over this time, how best to prepare for it, and why in many ways you are grieving the end of a chapter in your life. Kelly shares how she experienced her children leaving home for the first time, and we hear from Megan on how children leaving for kindergarten is in many ways a mini version of that experience. We discuss some helpful steps you can take when your children are in their teens to prepare you for this stage in your life, like trying out new hobbies or venturing into new social activities outside of parenting, like joining a book club. Kelly shares some of the positive changes she was able to make in her life after finding she had much more free time on her hands. She also expands on the difficulty of not being a part of her children’s daily lives and reflects on the importance of allowing them the time and space to grow into independent adults. We spend some time discussing how children leaving home can affect your marriage, as well as why it’s important to not make any big life changes during this time. Whether you’re a mom who works, a stay-at-home-mom, or somewhere in between, there is no doubt that children leaving home can be a difficult transition period. Join us today for a frank and compassionate discussion on this time of grief, transition, and metamorphosis!
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Key Points From This Episode:
Introducing today’s topic: how to readjust to your life after your children leave home.
Why your children leaving home is like the end of a chapter in your life.
The different experiences that working moms and stay-at-home moms might have when their kids leave home for the first time.
How moms may need to rediscover how they want to use their time when their children leave home.
Why it’s good to prepare for when your kids leave by trying out new hobbies and interests in their early teen years.
How Kelly could shop for food and cook in a way that aligned with her values and incorporate more movement into her routine after her daughter left home.
The feelings of grief that can come with the end of this chapter in your life.
How the COVID 19 pandemic derailed Kelly and her husband’s plans to travel after their kids had left home.
How Kelly found a sense of community and compassion on Facebook, with women who were going through the same experiences.
Why you need to give your children space to learn, grow, and establish themselves when they go to college.
How Kelly uses Snapchat to feel more connected to her kids.
How kids leaving home can often reveal problems within a marriage.
Why you need to give yourself time to process your empty nest before making any major life decisions.
Why Kelly recommends that parents start finding hobbies and activities to do together a few years before their kids leave for college.
How volunteering can be a very fulfilling way to spend your time.
How you have an opportunity to rediscover your taste in music, books, and television after your children leave.
How children leaving the home can free up your finances.
Why it’s important to remember that your children want you to be a happy and whole individual.
The joy that comes with rediscovering yourself and pursuing your interests.
“I think this hits everybody hard. It hits everybody differently. But it is important to take a look at your habits and routines and figure out how much of those are items of convenience because you were strapped for time.” — Megan Block [0:07:24]
“I would highly recommend anybody whose kids are 14, 15, 16, or even 17 to start looking for hobbies and interests, things that speak to you, and you’ve always been interested in but never had the time to pursue.” — Kelly Castillo [0:08:55]
“You’re grieving a whole phase of your life because it’s ended, and that is a very final feeling.” — Kelly Castillo [0:20:26]
“The bigger part of college is to give you that four-year buffer to grow up and to figure things out on your own. It’s a little bit supervised, so you’re not completely alone in the world. ” — Kelly Castillo [0:26:42]
“You are going through something. You are grieving something. So don’t make rash decisions based on it at a time when you’re overly emotional and sensitive. Give yourself time to process the emptiness transition before you start making major life decisions.” — Kelly Castillo [0:36:16]
“Be your child’s strongest cheerleader. You have to believe in them even more than they believe in themselves that they can do this. They can go and they can have an independent life from you, and they can thrive, and you have to tell them that.” — Kelly Castillo [0:54:26]
“I’ve had two of my kids transfer schools after freshman year because they realized when they got there, they had made a mistake, and giving your child the grace to correct their mistakes is a very important lesson.” — Kelly Castillo [0:54:46]
“Them breaking off from you to be their own independent person is you having done a great job. You have succeeded. Now, your child is an independent adult. That’s all you want.” — Kelly Castillo [0:56:43]
“It can be really cool to rediscover yourself. You can find interests that you didn’t even really know you had and become like this whole metamorphosis of a new person. That is very positive if you look at it that way.” — Kelly Castillo [01:00:21]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
[00:00:02] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to She’s A Full On Monet, a digital lifestyle magazine for women. Every week, our editor-in-chief, Kelly Castillo, along with Megan Block and special guests, participate in a deep dive discussion about recent articles and topics we have covered. We invite you to become part of our community where everyone’s welcome.
[00:00:27] KC: Well, welcome back to She’s A Full On Monet. I am your host, Kelly. I have with me, as always, Megan.
[00:00:32] MB: Hello, hello.
[00:00:34] KC: And I believe we are on episode – Is this 16 or 17?
[00:00:38] MB: I was going to say 17 but I mean –
[00:00:39] KC: I think you’re right. I think you’re right. Yeah. Our topic today is a topic that I think is probably something that a lot of women are going through. This time of year, it tends to be the time for it. So we are talking about transitioning to an empty nest, and that is something that I did last year for the first time. So I am by no means an expert but I have been through this. Megan has a little bit of time. She’s –
[00:01:02] MB: Yeah. I’m like you are very much in it. I feel like you’ve been through it. I mean, how many times do you have to go through it to be an expert? I feel like one time feels like – The first time is the big one. So, yeah, probably each time gets easier. Not easier but it gets more of a process that you’re used to.
[00:01:22] KC: Yeah.
[00:01:22] MB: But, I mean, you’re completely empty because sometimes they come back. I literally just left my in-laws like 15 – You know what I mean? They leave and tend to come back at weird times, especially because of this pandemic. So I think you’re more of an expert than me and I still have some time left, for sure. But I was on the opposite side where we – I was an adult living in a house with some of these parents.
[00:01:47] KC: Right, yeah. I mean, what they call boomerang children is a real thing. It’s a real thing. In this kind of economy and with house prices being the way that they are, I think more and more people are seeing that. But, I mean, I’ve gone through it a few times. I think you kind of go through it in a mini version when your youngest child starts kindergarten, and all your kids are suddenly in school because you do suddenly have like a block of your day that you didn’t have before. If you don’t have other work, interests, or hobbies or things to fill that time, that can also be a little bit feeling a little unanchored. But one thing –
[00:02:21] MB: I didn’t go through that either, by the way, because as soon as my first one went to kindergarten, I was pregnant with my other one. So it’s like – You were laughing at me like, “What are you doing? You had the time to nap, and look at you now.” I’m like, “Well.” Yeah, I didn’t time that perfectly, so I’ve never really had like an empty-ish, you know what I mean, since I’ve been with a kid or whatever.
[00:02:42] KC: But like next year when Kenzi goes to kindergarten and Emma goes to what? Is she in fourth grade next year?
[00:02:48] MB: She’s in fourth grade this year, so she’ll be fifth grade.
[00:02:49] KC: So fifth grade.
[00:02:50] MB: Heaven forbid, I stay completely without child, then, yes, I will be. I mean, even when you’re pregnant, I guess you can still enjoy the emptiness but yeah. It’ll be – She’ll be in kindergarten not this year that we’re coming up to. But the following, she’ll be in kindergarten.
[00:03:10] KC: That’s one big change. But I think when they leave your home, whether they are going to college or the military or moving out to their first apartment, when they leave your home, and you really, for the first time, in 18 or more years have a house with no children in it, and it is an emotional experience for most women. A lot of women have a really hard time dealing with it. It is a huge transition and it feels very much like the end of something, the end of a whole phase of your life. So people deal with it differently. But we want to talk about that today because I know we are in the college season. A lot of kids are leaving for school right now, and most schools are back to an in-person learning environment.
So last year, I mean, when I did this, my daughter was – She did leave for school but she didn’t have to. Her school was remote. So it is a very strange and kind of off-putting time. So we want to talk about that. We want to talk about what you can do to kind of ease your transition, and what are some of the things that I know hit me the hardest, and probably hit other people the hardest, and kind of how to fill up your time because it’s kind of strange not to be mothering all day.
[00:04:17] MB: Especially, I mean, yeah, teenagers need – I mean, correct me if I’m wrong but I feel like teenagers need less of your time all the time. It’s more hands on when they’re younger. But when you have like six hours consecutively seven days a week all of a sudden to just like do you, it’s kind of like it sounds exciting. Then two days later, you’re like, “Well, I’ve done me. Now, what do I –” Because it’s such a consuming thing for so long, for 18 years that you’ve done day in and day out that you’re like, “I don’t even know who that person is anymore.” You have to learn what you’re about. To some people, that can be scary, I’m sure. So it’s a personal journey, as well as that emotional aspect that you spoke on where you’re having to say goodbye to a huge chapter, and you’re having to say goodbye to certain sounds and like things that will remind you of those moments, ever those little moments every day that added up to 18 plus years or whatever.
So, yeah, I’m not looking forward to it. I don’t like – I’m very emotional already. I cried because Emma went back to school, because she had been with me for over two years every single day because of this pandemic, and she’s been by my side. So the fact that she’s going back to school, and she’s now gone for six hours, it’s like I was really upset about that. I’m like it’s not necessarily emptiness because she’s coming back to something. But at the same time, it was like I was so used to seeing her all the time. Then all of a sudden, there’s the shift. Now, all of a sudden, I have to figure out, not how to fill my time. But like the fact that it’s just a change, and sometimes people are resistant to that.
I know a lot of moms out there that their kids aren’t even there yet, and I’m like, “Oh, man. The minute they leave for college, you’re screwed because they’re so –” It’s a good thing. They just love it so much. But it’s so all they do and all they talk about and all they are that it’s like what are you going to do?
[00:06:17] KC: I think in some ways, this hits stay-at-home moms harder because we are used to a daily routine of driving our kids to a bunch of practices and after school activities and after school jobs. Even when they get their own driver’s license, our routine tends to center around packing lunches and making dinners and cleaning up after them and just being available if they want to talk and homework help and all that stuff. Then suddenly, it shifts, and we don’t have any of that. Literally, you have none.
Women who work outside of the home on a full-time basis, I think the thing that probably – I mean, I’m assuming because I didn’t work in an office at the time that my kids left the house. But coming home to a quiet and empty house is probably very disconcerting and I know is a little bit like you don’t need to have that feeling that you need to rush home because you don’t need to rush home to make your kids dinner and to get some time with them before they go to bed and help them with their homework. You go home to a house that’s quiet and weirdly clean.
[00:07:18] MB: Weirdly clean. So true.
[00:07:20] KC: That’s going to be very strange. So I think this hits everybody hard. It hits everybody differently. But it is important to kind of take a look at your habits and routines and figure out how much of those are items of convenience because you were strapped for time before or you were trying to feed a big family or you were all the things that you did because you didn’t feel like you had time or opportunity to do things differently. But this is the time to really like kind of go over those routines and see what still fits with your lifestyle and needs and what you can kind of toss aside.
[00:07:58] MB: I also think there’s something too, and this is kind of an odd idea, but maybe you’re not there but you have kids. You know it’s inevitable, right? It’s going to happen at some point. Start to just be mindful of the things that you may want to do when that time hits. Like for me, I’m not there yet but I am very much looking forward to the concept like you speak of, like really sitting down and taking time to cook a really great meal. I know I haven’t done that in a while. Even when your kids are older, you still kind of eat all together. So sometimes, you’re still kind of rushing things together. There’s something beautiful about cooking a meal for two that takes a while that, I mean, you’re not going to do unless you really have just a crazy amount of time. You know what I mean?
[00:08:41] KC: Yeah.
[00:08:41] MB: So like it is good to do that. Maybe you’re not there yet. But, I mean, hearing what we’re saying, and maybe you’re not there yet, but you will be there at some point, just I’m one to not wait until you get there to think about those things. You know what I mean?
[00:08:54] KC: Yeah. I would highly recommend anybody whose kids are 14, 15, 16, or even 17 to start kind of looking for hobbies and interests, things that kind of speak to you, and you’ve always been interested in but never had the time to pursue. Now is the time to put that kind of structure in place because if you already have an outlet for your time and your social life and something that you enjoy, it won’t be so jarring. Trying to find those things when you’re in a bad emotional place, everything sounds horrible. So if you do it before, it helps a lot. I did that. I started to think about the extra time that I was going to have and put things into place that would interest me like the website and other things that I was working on to kind of do that transition an easier way for me.
[00:09:45] MB: How about gathering some sort of social circle? Because, yeah, you can read books. You can cook and stuff like that. But you really should have a group of a few people that you hang out with on a regular basis when you have an empty nest to fill your time up. Did you start to – I mean, you’ve already been relatively social, but there are people out there that like their entire day from morning until they go to bed revolves around their children, their family, the errands, the cooking, the cleaning, that they’ve isolated themselves, so to speak from –
[00:10:18] KC: Yeah. My problem for me was that my biggest social circle and my kind of everyday communication circle was a group of moms. Our kids had been in school together since kindergarten. So we would talk daily. We would do carpools together. We had moms’ nights. We had mommy-daughter nights. We had all kinds of events planned all the time. We would meet every month to go out for cocktails and talk about what’s going on with our kids and our families. So I still stay in touch with those people. But the fact that our kids scattered to the wind, and they’re all different parts of the country, and we no longer have – We can update each other. It takes about five minutes. But we’re no longer talking about, “Oh, there was drama between this kid and that kid, and there was –”
[00:11:01] MB: They remain that weak tie friendship that –
[00:11:03] KC: Right. It was like, “What do you think about the new coach? What do you think about the new principal? What about this? What about that?” Well, we like don’t have that in common anymore. I still value those friendships, but they’re not as relevant to my every day. So I did need to go out and kind of find new connections, and it’s something that – I mean, it’s been a year. Because of COVID, it wasn’t possible for me last year to do those things that I wanted to do. But it’s still a work in progress. I’m still working on it. So that’s a huge thing.
But, yeah, I also had my youngest child, who was the last to leave for school and truly made me an empty nester, didn’t drive. So I was driving her. I added it up. It added up to more than three hours a day I was driving her. She commuted to a school that was half an hour from our house, so back and forth in the morning, back and forth in the afternoon. Sometimes, a third time if she had afterschool activities. Plus she had a volunteer position that was every day, so I would drive her to that. I mean, and she has health issues, pretty serious health issues. So there were doctor’s appointments always. There was that kind of concerning stuff and shuttling her back and forth. So I was way more involved than probably an average mom of a senior in high school would be because I had to drag her everywhere she went, and I had to take her to doctor’s appointments, and take her everywhere. So we spent a lot of time together.
When she left, that was a huge chunk of my every day that wasn’t needed anymore. So I did need to learn to fill up that time. But there are things I did before. I started the website, which is takes a lot of my time. It’s kind of my new baby. I started a garden, a vegetable and herb garden. I started – We adopted another dog a couple of years before. So I have things that are enriching.
[00:12:47] MB: Time fillers that are also passion driven.
[00:12:54] KC: I had really examined the things that I was doing because I had four kids, which is a lot, and I was examining the things that I had gotten into the habit of doing out of convenience only. That’s like prepackaged meals, meal delivery services, things like that. That I was really like, “This isn’t really aligned with my values.” I prefer to cook. I prefer to shop locally. I always said, if I had the time, I would go to the farmers markets and the farther away market that’s health food market. I would go to Whole Foods, I would go here and there, and I would really shop for the best source for each thing. So I no longer had to excuse about all the time. So then I could really do that. Then my husband has health issues, so I try to cook healthy for him. We try to eat very plant forward. I mean, between my garden and shopping more locally and paying more attention to where I was sourcing the ingredients that I was – Plus I was only cooking for two, instead of, at one time, six, right? That’s a lot.
[00:13:49] MB: It all sounds very therapeutic too. It all sounds like you were putting your time, your energy, your thoughts into something that was producing something good and healthy and enriching versus just waiting for life to happen. You know what I mean?
[00:14:03] KC: Yeah. I think a lot of moms, they get really busy with momming and they don’t take as good care of themselves as they would if they didn’t have the other responsibilities. When your kids are –
[00:14:12] MB: It still takes the same amount of passion and time. You just shifted it into a different form. You still like – I mean, I know gardening takes a lot of energy. Going to the farmers market takes a lot of energy. Researching, doing all that takes a lot of energy. You just shifted your energy to a different source.
[00:14:27] KC: Right. Yeah, totally. I started incorporating more movement into my everyday routine. I would walk the dogs in the morning. Now, I’m walking them twice a day. We got a Pilates reformer. I started using my peloton more frequently. I don’t have the excuse of I don’t have time. So if I want to prioritize myself, my health, and be as good as I can be in nurturing myself, especially when you’re going through something, which I was, I really committed to taking better care of my body and I have. Then that really I think made a huge difference for me, those two things in combination, because I felt better. When you feel better and plus like Elle Woods taught us. Exercise is endorphins.
[00:15:11] MB: No, it’s true. It’s true. It really is. It’s just if you put your energy towards things that will help you, it’ll help you in other ways you’re not even aware of because you were just like, “Oh, I’m doing it from –”But like exercising and moving your body and taking care of your dog is naturally just balancing your hormones out, which will make you naturally just more of a balanced person. That’s not maybe the reason you were doing it to begin with, but it’s also happening. You know what I mean?
[00:15:36] KC: Right, yeah.
[00:15:37] MB: Just like if you sit down and eat potato chips all day and sit on the couch and watch TV all day. Then your body will start to deteriorate. That might not have been on your plan either but that’s going to happen also.
[00:15:49] KC: Yeah. There are a lot of days when I was driving so much that I would just go through a drive thru or stop and have nothing but a Starbucks that day or something. It wasn’t good for me but it was what I had to do because I was busy. Cooking for my family in the evening, even if it was just my partner and I and my daughter, she has a ton of food allergies. I mean, the girl is literally allergic to everything. So I had to mold our meals around what can she eat, not what do my partner and I really enjoy eating and what do I find exciting to cook. Those are two different things. So I’ve really been –
[00:16:21] MB: So many moms have gotten rid of so many things for so many years because of either allergies or preferences. It’s like, “Hi, you can have peanuts again. Go big.”
[00:16:30] KC: But pushing that grocery cart around when I don’t have to take into consideration everyone’s certain preferences, likes, dislikes, allergies, whatever, sensitivities.
[00:16:38] MB: [inaudible 00:16:38] experience, and it’s not for a large family, like you said. It’s not for six. It’s for two, which really you can just be specific with your health.
[00:16:47] KC: Yeah. I had never signed up for those like meal cooking kits because my family was big. I would have to get like four of them. It makes no sense. They’re for two. They’re for two people. So one of the ones that I – I signed up for several and I wasn’t a fan of a lot of them. But there was one that I really liked. It’s called Green Chef and their quality of everything’s organic. My husband is super picky. The quality of their meat was really, really good, where a lot of the other ones I would find I would have to substitute the meat for something I could get in the store that was better quality. So I started to do –
[00:17:18] MB: What I really liked is One Potato. I’ve tried – I don’t know if you’ve heard of them.
[00:17:22] KC: I have heard about it but I haven’t tried it.
[00:17:24] MB: I’ve tried them. They’re the only one I have tried, but I know that all their ingredients are like it’s grass-fed beef, really organic, really well. It’s perfect ingredients. It was delicious. I tried it for one week. It was delicious. But at the same time, I’m like this isn’t long-term for me. Just because I like going to the grocery store and picking meals out, and I like the process of going to like – Man, you put me in a Gelson’s. Like I just –
[00:17:48] KC: Right? Or Bristol Farms. Hello. They’re all day.
[00:17:51] MB: Especially during like a holiday season, like you won’t see me forever again. I just really like it. So the idea being delivered to me and being pre-planned, even though it makes sense, even though I might be saving money, like that, to me, takes a joy out of a part of life I really like. Trader Joe’s, oh, no.
[00:18:07] KC: I love Trader Joe’s.
[00:18:09] MB: I can’t just not go grocery shopping. But I also feel like I do waste food sometimes. Now, we’re getting off topic but –
[00:18:17] KC: No. I tried the Green Chef program primarily so that I could refigure out what we like to eat and try different recipes. I wouldn’t – I had my go-tos that I knew everyone kind of liked enough that they would eat it in my house when the kids were home. I would cycle through everybody’s favorites or whatever. But I hadn’t really thought about what do my partner and I want to eat, like what do we actually like. So that helped me.
[00:18:39] MB: Unless you’re at a restaurant and then you’re ordering. You’re telling someone else, and they’re making it. That’s not the same. Sometimes you don’t really get to take into account what you want, personally.
[00:18:48] KC: But I needed to find some new recipes that we enjoyed, and then I recreate them from my own shopping now. I don’t do it anymore. Yeah. But it was a good transition thing for me to figure it out and figure out also had a portion for two people because I had always cooked for a big family. So using the Green Chef helped me figure out what size I should be buying and how much I should portion for the right amount for just the two of us. That helped tremendously. I would recommend it as a short-term solution, while you figure it out.
[00:19:16] MB: A lot of people might be rolling their eyes going, “I hate cooking.” Okay, then like go back to that episode that we talked about like taking time for yourself. Find out what your version of cooking is because the inevitable part is you will have a lot of free time when this happens. You should fill it with stuff you’re passionate about and you like and you have fun with. If you like to golf, if you want to – Whatever that is. But I wouldn’t wait until the nest is empty to figure it out because then you’re more on an emotional state than you know. That you know it’s going to be emotional, right? But you really don’t truly know the impact of that moment until you’re there.
Then I’m sure there’s going to be moments of these trickling feelings as you roll into what will be your new normal, that you’re not hearing these sounds and doing these routines. You know what I mean? That it’s going to – It’s not a one-time feeling. It’s like a reoccurring feeling I’m assuming. I haven’t been there.
[00:20:11] KC: Yeah. No, it is.
[00:20:11] MB: [inaudible 00:20:11] if I’m wrong.
[00:20:13] KC: It hits you at different times, a lot of times when you’re not expecting it.
[00:20:18] MB: It’s almost similar to a death. I mean, you can call them or email them.
[00:20:20] KC: It’s a – You’re grieving. But you are grieving.
[00:20:22] MB: [inaudible 00:20:22] a big piece of your life.
[00:20:26] KC: You’re grieving a whole phase of your life because it’s ended, and that is a very final feeling thing. Yeah.
[00:20:30] MB: It’s a death of a part of your life. Yeah.
[00:20:33] KC: Right. I mean, my husband and I had planned a lot of travel. We had thought we were going to drop our kid off at her first year of college, the last one, and then we were going to travel the world and we’re going to do all these things. COVID was not cooperating with that plan at all, so we canceled. We had a European trip planned. We had a South American. We canceled everything. Then we were just home with each other. So one thing I did that it helped me, although I wasn’t active about it, but I did join a Facebook group that is for empty nesters. While I didn’t comment or post very often, it helped me to read that other people felt the same way that I did and were going through the same thing that I was going through. It helped me also to read their questions and the advice that other people gave them. Because I realized very quickly that most men, and I’m not meaning to generalize, but most men are not at the same level of involvement with their kids emotionally as women are. Part of that is probably that we make them with our own bodies, right?
[00:21:32] MB: Yeah. I think it’s, I mean –
[00:21:34] KC: It’s biological.
[00:21:35] MB: They all want to say like that they were like just a part as much part of the process, but no. No way. So, yeah, I feel like they were a part of inside of us that we always feel just like that’s like more –
[00:21:48] KC: Yeah. I say it’s like if I let my arm walk around outside of my body on its own, like that level of attachment. So I realized very quickly that if I was only venting my emotions to my partner, what I was saying and what he was hearing are different. I was saying I really miss the kids. I missed the time when they were small. The house feels empty. What he was hearing was you’re not enough, and I need more than just you can provide for me. So he felt very inadequate and very at a loss of how to help me because he was dealing with very different feelings. He wasn’t like relieved to have them away. He was sad too. But it wasn’t the same.
So I realized I needed another place to vent for that or another place to hear that other people felt the same as me. I did find that in a Facebook discussion group. I know that’s not for everybody, but it helped me. So that’s another tip that I would give.
[00:22:39] MB: I think it’s good to have a place where you can read someone’s experience and feel – We all don’t want to feel alone in our feelings, right? Whether it’s empty nest syndrome or something like losing a parent or miscarriage, like sometimes it’s just good to find a group of people that like literally know exactly what you’re going through.
[00:22:58] KC: Yeah. And then that you don’t feel –
[00:22:58] MB: And aren’t going to be affected or offended by it. Because you really can’t talk to your spouse because they’re like, “Well, hey. Now, it’s our turn.” You’re like, “Yeah, but I’m not.” Like, “Yeah, I’m excited but I’m still grieving.” You should be able to grieve in however long that you need to grieve, right?
[00:23:15] KC: I didn’t want – I needed someone to tell me that I wasn’t overreacting, and that my feelings were normal and valid, and that it would be okay. So a lot of people on that forum were talking about how it had been a year or two since their kids left the nest and that they were in such a great place now. So that’s what I needed to hear that it was a temporary thing, and I would feel differently a year from now. I do. It has been a year, and I do feel differently. So that was important for me. I also –
[00:23:42] MB: Is there any problem or a flaw too if they’re local, like visiting your kids a lot? I know people like they leave the nest. But then I see a lot of parents like overly involved still in their kids’ lives, but from like they drive on campus a lot or they visit their kids a lot or they try to send packages a lot. You know what I mean? It’s kind of –
[00:24:02] KC: This is something that I really wanted to address because my kids went away to school, first of all, except for Sam. She did the first few years in LA. But my kids had as hard of a time as I did. They were doing their own grieving and they were doing their own homesickness. If I had inserted myself at that level, it would have made it worse, I think. But this was the hardest thing for me, and I think only most other moms will understand this. My kids’ whole life, I knew everything about them. I knew what they had for breakfast that morning. I knew who their best friend was and who his parents were and who they dated and who their parents were. I knew everything. I knew. Like that level of knowledge of someone who’s actively involved in their child’s life is really healthy I think for one and important. But when they go away to school, it very abruptly ends.
[00:24:55] MB: You’re making me cry, just thinking about the fact that this is going to happen.
[00:24:58] KC: You know nothing. You have no knowledge of if they’re eating, what they’re eating. They send you pictures, and you’re like, “Who the fuck is that girl?” Or they’re like, “I’m going for the weekend with Grace.” You’re like, “Who is Grace?” They’re like, “Oh. Well, she’s my new friend from the dorm, and her parents live an hour away, so we’re going to their house for the weekend.” I’m like, “I haven’t met her parents. I don’t know who they are. They could be crazy.” When my kids were little, I would get to know their friends’ parents. I would make sure their house was safe for my kids to visit. I did all the things you’re supposed to do. Even in their senior year of high school, you still have to sign permission slips. You still have to give them – You have to okay everything that happens. Then suddenly, abruptly, you are no longer relevant, like you get no say in anything. I didn’t know what time they came in that night, if they finished their homework. Is their professor nice? Are they okay? Is their roommate treating them that? Unless they communicate that and they choose to share that with you, you literally know nothing, and it is the hardest part. For me, it was the hardest part.
[00:24:58] MB: They were physically away. But if there’s a parent out there that could drive, say, like how do you resist the temptation to insert yourself in? Because like you said, they’re grieving. But they also need that time just like you do to get used to that new normal. If you’re inserting yourself constantly in that new normal for them, you’re not letting them also move on and grow.
[00:26:23] KC: That’s the thing that I’ve learned through – Now, I have kids who have graduated college. What I’ve learned is that four – I mean, my son took five years, but that’s beside the point. The four years of college is not so much about becoming educated in your field of study. That’s important, yes. But the bigger part of college is to give you that four-year buffer to grow up and to figure things out on your own. It’s a little bit supervised, so you’re not completely alone in the world. There’s someone. There’s a resident, whatever they call like a resident assistant or something that lives on your floor in the dorm, and there’s counselors, and there’s a peer review board. There’s a lot of things that help you if you need help, so you’re not just shoved out into the world.
But it is that time to figure out how to adult and how – You gradually live farther and farther on your own, like inn a dorm the first one or two years, then usually an apartment with roommates, and then maybe an apartment by yourself. So you transition slow, because they’re not ready at 17 or 18 to be shoved down to the world. They’re not.
[00:27:24] MB: No. That’s transition.
[00:27:26] KC: Yeah. Even if they go into the military or something like that, there are people telling them what to do, make sure that they eat, telling them time to go to bed. I mean their structure. So college offers a little bit of structure so that they can figure out who they are and what they want and how their life is going to be. You have to hope that you’ve built such a good relationship with them that they’re going to want to include you in that. I found that I needed to meet my kids where they were because if they were homesick, and I was calling a lot, it made it worse. But I did want to know. I wanted to know what was going on with their day, so I did little things. Wherever my kids live in the country, I have like the weather app for that city on my phone. So, I mean, it’s silly, but it helps me feel – I’ll look at their weather that day and I’ll be like, “Oh, they’re having a rainy day,” and it makes me feel a little bit closer to them.
I don’t use Snapchat as a social media platform but I do have a Snapchat account and only my kids on it. So they prefer that communication method. That’s the age that they are. That’s how they communicate with their friends. So they send me Snapchats throughout the day of like little snippets of their day, like what they have for breakfast, something –
[00:28:37] MB: It makes you feel connected personally without anyone else. It’s not like Instagram where everyone got to see what they ate for breakfast kind of thing.
[00:28:44] KC: Right. It’s not like, “Oh, I’ve got to call my mom, and it’s going to be a 45-minute conversation.” It’s literally two seconds.
[00:28:49] MB: True, true, true.
[00:28:51] KC: I did explain that to them. I said, “I don’t want to be intrusive, but it makes me feel like I’m still a part of your everyday life, like just to see little bits of it. Show me your classroom. I’m just curious. It’s a mom thing.”
[00:29:03] MB: That way, I don’t have to –
[00:29:05] KC: I don’t want to stalk you but like I also don’t want to feel like I don’t know anything about what’s going on in your day. So they do that and they do it regularly, which thank gosh because it helps me to feel connected. I know this is a controversial subject but I do track their locations on Find My Friends. I know a lot of people feel that’s intrusive but –
[00:29:25] MB: Why?
[00:29:26] KC: I don’t know but anytime I –
[00:29:26] MB: [inaudible 00:29:26] to be telling me if it’s intrusive because I think that’s great.
[00:29:30] KC: Anytime I’ve told people – Anytime I’ve told people that, they’re like, “Your kids let you do that. That’s such an invasion of privacy.” Okay, well, I pay for their cell phone plans. So since I own that phone, I deserve to know where it is located. That’s my thought process.
[00:29:44] MB: Yes. I will be that mom too.
[00:29:47] KC: Before I go to bed at night, I’d like to check their locations and make sure they’re usually in their houses, and they’re probably tucked into their beds. That’s what I like to believe. If they’re out, then I just like to know where they were last. I mean –
[00:30:00] MB: You’re doing these things on the side that are harmless that they’re like on board with because then that gives you peace of mind, which they care about. Also, they’re not going to be bombarded, and it gives them privacy, believe it or not. It gives them some separation.
[00:30:14] KC: It does. It gives them privacy. I’m not calling them constantly saying, “What are you doing tonight? Where are you going?”
[00:30:20] MB: You’re not using their location against them. It’s just hi. I just want to know that they’re okay. We’ve watched enough Forensic Files to – You know what I mean? Like I’ve just watched enough True Crime, and now I got to have it on all the time now until I die. That’s just how it is. Even If I’m not paying for their phone, I just got to know. No, I don’t think that’s an invasion of privacy and I think the opposite. I think that you’re doing those things so that your mind doesn’t have to create scenarios that aren’t real. Because as parents, we go to the worst-case scenario when something is what we feel amiss and we get that gut feeling and we don’t want to think the worst.
[00:31:00] KC: No. I tell my kids all the time. I said, “I promise I won’t call you incessantly. But when I do call, try to answer if you can or shoot me quick text and say, ‘I’m in class. Call you soon.’ Because when you don’t answer your phone, I imagined that you’re lying in a ditch and that your car is wrecked and you –”
[00:31:13] MB: You’re not weird. It’s every parent.
[00:31:16] KC: Yes. It’s where my brain goes. That’s where – My brain doesn’t go, “Oh, she’s at work or she’s in class.” That’s the other thing too. When I check my kids’ location, if I see that they’re at work or they’re in a school building or they’re driving, I don’t bother them.
[00:31:28] MB: You know what’s up. You are already aware. Yeah.
[00:31:32] KC: I’m not going to call them if I check her location, and she’s in a nail salon because she can’t talk to me.
[00:31:36] MB: This works for them and not against them, actually.
[00:31:39] KC: That’s how I see it. Thankfully, they agree and they’re fine with sharing their location. I don’t abuse the privilege. I mean, I don’t call them and say, “Why are you at this address? What are you doing? It’s 12 o’clock at night.” They can go wherever they want. They are adult people but –
[00:31:51] MB: Well, because you’ve always given them a certain level of respect since they were younger of privacy and of like there’s a line that you don’t cross. You know what I mean? They always respected you for it and been open to whatever because they know that you’re never going to cross that line in a bad way. So it works. You start that younger so that they’re okay with it.
[00:32:13] KC: Exactly. Anyway, that was the hardest part for me. I will say one of the biggest blessings of empty nesting, which I kind of thought would happen but I wasn’t sure, is my partner and I, this is our second marriage, second relationship, whatever, for both of us. So when I met him, his youngest child was a senior in high school. My kids were all small, very small. So we have never had a relationship that didn’t have children under our feet. We’ve never just had our own adult time. I mean, we did date like without involving the kids for a considerable period of time, and we took trips without the kids and things like that, but we’ve never just been the two of us. I’ve had kids my entire adult life. I literally have never adulated without children. So we took that kind of time to figure out, like just kind of get to know each other on that level, just as two adults without talking about kids’ stuff. That was a really nice thing. I was hoping that that would be the case, and it was, and that was really nice. I know for some people, and I know some people personally who this has been the case, when the kids leave the house, the kids have been the buffer for a –
[00:33:26] MB: I was literally just going to say that. I feel like a lot of people fear empty nest because they know that it’s like going to bring up things that they have been successfully avoiding for years. You know what I mean?
[00:33:37] KC: Yeah. A lot of people have a difficult relationship with their partner, and the thing that keeps it together is that they talk mostly about the kids. They interact with the kids as a family and almost never just the two of them. So I’ve seen marriages break up at this point. It’s a very common time to get divorced, and I’ve seen a lot of relationships get even stronger. I mean, thankfully, I was in a stronger category, but it could – You never know. You really don’t.
[00:34:03] MB: You might have a feeling. If you went on a date, and the only thing you talked about was the kids because you felt like you had to go on a date because you haven’t been on a date in forever, and you’re finally together alone, and all you talk about was work and the kids, well, that’s like a trailer to what like empty nest will be like because it’s like what are you going to do. Are you just going to be those two people that pass by each other in the wind and like don’t ever talk because there’s nothing connecting you anymore? It’s sad but it’s true. I mean, a lot of it has to do with the imbalance of things of like being too involved in one side and not enough. I’m not like – I’m not. I’m just saying like when you’re all one thing and you don’t pay attention to other parts of your life, when that one thing leaves, then you’re still left with those other parts. You just have to kind of like now actually come to terms with where you are with those things.
[00:34:57] KC: Yeah. I’ve seen relationships where the husband had plenty of hobbies and interests and spent a lot of time with his guy friends; fishing, hiking, camping for the weekend, whatever. The mom was mostly about the kids. Then when the kids leave, she’s alone when he does those things.
[00:35:13] MB: It wasn’t a problem for him finding that –
[00:35:16] KC: Right. So she wants to either tag along with him, which he’s like, “Whoa, that’s never been this – This is not the deal.” Or she has a hard time finding things to fill up her own time, and that creates a major resentment. Or I’ve seen where the two people had grown apart during the marriage and really, like you said, had nothing to talk about other than the kids. Then once the kids are out of the house, they realize they don’t have any reason to stay together at all. I mean, if it’s possible, and you both are agreeable to it, I would recommend trying to find a hobby that you guys could do together when you’re transitioning to this emptiness phase, if there’s –
[00:35:52] MB: Or even before.
[00:35:53] KC: Or before to get it going while you’re in the teenage years. Take –
[00:35:57] MB: Or if you feel like you might be heading that way, maybe counseling is a good idea. Or to bring up the subject because you certainly don’t want to wait until it’s there. Because it doesn’t necessarily mean it had to go that way or it’s not salvageable.
[00:36:10] KC: But also understand that, like we said, this is an emotional time. You are going through something. You are grieving something. So don’t make rash decisions based on it at a time when you’re overly emotional and sensitive. Give yourself time to process the emptiness transition before you start making major life decisions because you might just be reacting to the emotional trauma of your kids leaving. I mean, a relationship of that long, where you have children together and are a family and you will remain a family no matter what, it deserves at least counseling or some thought and time. Because I also know people who have just like, “That’s it. I’m out.” Then they regret it later because it was impulsive.
So, yeah, I would definitely recommend the last years your kids are in high school, start doing things together. Start golfing together, playing tennis, or going on hikes. Or if you’re not outdoorsy, it could be finding – My husband and I for the last year of COVID, we never were TV watchers. We just aren’t. But we do have like a really cool theater room in our house. So we’ve decided to start watching some of the series that were popular back when I was busy with the kids, and he was working frantically. We never watched The Sopranos. So we started watching it from the beginning.
[00:37:25] MB: Yeah. You’re watching it for the first time.
[00:37:28] KC: Right. He like – Those kind of shows that we knew we missed it but we can now with cool technology.
[00:37:33] MB: Isn’t it good? You can like binge it forever, instead of having to wait. I fully love that.
[00:37:39] KC: Yes. So we’re doing it together, and neither one of us had seen it before. I mean, there were several shows like that over the COVID period that we watched from beginning to end. So I would cook dinner, and we would eat together at the table, and then we’d be so excited. We’d be like, “Let’s go. We’re going to watch TV.”
[00:37:52] MB: Totally. Dan and I had the same thing going on. It’s like what you had, but it was something that connected you. You could talk about the show, and it wasn’t about work or the kids. It was something to talk about.
[00:38:05] KC: When we’re lying in bed afterwards, we’re talking about can you believe that happened. Why do you think he did that? We’ve learned a lot about him and his life growing up from stories he shared with me that like he saw a little bit of himself in some pieces of the show. So he would tell me, “You know, that reminds me of this that I had when I was growing up.” It’s very interesting to me.
[00:38:25] MB: That’s cool. That’s really cool. I like that too.
[00:38:27] KC: So we have learned a lot about each other in the last year that it’s just been the two of us. I think it’s really strengthened our relationship, so I would recommend that. I mean, one thing for me too, all the years my kids were in school, and I was busy with them, we always donate a lot of money to charity. But I couldn’t be involved in the way that I wanted to be because I didn’t have time and I didn’t want to make a commitment that I couldn’t fulfill. Because if I say I’m going to do something I do it. It’s one of my big values. So I really took a look at some of the charities that I thought were doing the best work and that I could really help. I started actually volunteering my time and not just writing checks. It has been incredibly rewarding. It’s something that I would definitely recommend to people. It could be anything. I mean, you could volunteer at an animal shelter of animals or your thing. You could volunteer at a senior home if that touched you.
[00:39:14] MB: Yeah. If time is an issue to fill, there’s always wonderful places that you can go and fill that time with things that are going to fill your cup and their cup with – There’s always places you can go and donate your time to –
[00:39:29] KC: Honestly, working in a volunteer capacity, whether you’re volunteering at an animal shelter or packing food boxes for a food bank or something like that, you will meet people. So if you are feeling lonely and isolated, that’s one of my biggest recommendations because you will meet people who are like-minded, who also want to help, and you have something in common with. Those are great contacts where you can just say, “Hey, you know what? When we’re done here, do you want to get a coffee?” Suddenly, you have a new friend. So I think –
[00:39:57] MB: I think it all starts with just like the self-awareness of what’s going on and the willingness because, I’m sorry, I’m not going to throw him under the bus but I am going to because it’s a great example, my dad. When we all kind of grew and left, he didn’t really do the greatest job of staying in contact and keeping up with his passions. Now, he just kind of let life happen to him, rather than going out and grasping it. Now, his kids are like, “Why don’t you call so-and-so? Why don’t you go do this?” His face lights up, like he knows he likes it, but it takes you wanting to make that move. You know what I mean?
Because just simply knowing it isn’t enough because I see my dad knows it, and he knows that he could be having like a much better quality of life if you just called some buddies and went and played golf. But instead, he sits and things disintegrate and he misses a great day after day after day after day because he waited too long to be aware of that situation to know that, “Okay, this is – I’m heading towards this. How am I going to strengthen these friendships or create friendships or join these clubs so that when this actually happens, I’m not left with this feeling of like I got to pick myself up off the ground?”
[00:41:07] KC: I would say that this issue happens a lot to people who are in the workforce because they don’t have to deal with the emotional stuff right away because they’re busy at work. But eventually, you will retire, and it’s usually not that long after your kids leave the house. Then you’re going to have it all at once.
[00:41:23] MB: Yeah, very true.
[00:41:24] KC: One of the biggest things for me as being such an active mom was that when the kids left the house, I struggled with how am I relevant. What purpose do I have now?
[00:41:34] MB: What is my purpose on this planet now? Like what –
[00:41:36] KC: Yeah. Because I would get to the point where I would introduce myself as, “Oh, hi. I’m so-and-so’s mom.” I’m like I have a name and I am a whole person.
[00:41:45] MB: But at this point, it’s easier just to get straight to the point and go, “I’m so-and-so’s mom,” because that’s what we’re here for. It’s a birthday party, right?
[00:41:51] KC: Right. Exactly, exactly.
[00:41:53] MB: I get it.
[00:41:55] KC: So for me, volunteering and doing things like that helped me feel needed and helped me feel like I still had value to add. Plus that was while I was in the deep emotional part. Now that I’m past that deep emotional part, I realized that my kids still need me just as much as they always did. They still call me all the time and ask me for help with things. It could be something like, “Mom, do I like halibut?” I’m like, “You’re 24 years old. You don’t know? But, yes, you like halibut.” Or they’ll call me and they’ll be like, “I accidentally put something red in with the whites, and how do I fix it?” They call me all the time for help, and I love it because it makes me feel like they’re still my babies. They still need me. It hasn’t – I mean, even as they’ve gotten older, they don’t need that day to day like asking questions help as much, but they still need their mom, and I think they always well.
That made me feel like, okay, geographically, we don’t live in the same house anymore. But I still have such an important role to play in their lives. Once I got to that place, I was fine. It was pretty smooth sailing after that. It was just that rough patch right afterwards, where I suddenly didn’t know anything about their lives. I didn’t feel relevant. I was like, “Why do I even exist anymore? I’m a mom. What am I besides that?” This is a perfect example because when my youngest started going to preschool, and I was working in a job where I commuted, I suddenly had no kids in the car with me for the first time in, I don’t know, 10 years or something, right? So I was driving 30 minutes back and forth to work every day. For the first like week, I had the radio on to Radio Disney without even realizing it. When I was driving home, and I was like, “Wait, I don’t have to listen to Radio Disney. My kids are not in the car with me. I can listen to whatever I want.” I think we’ve talked about this before. I realized I didn’t even know what music station I liked. I’ve been so long since I’ve turned it on my own preferences that I didn’t even know.
So it’s the same concept but in a bigger scale. You have to figure out like, “What do I like to do if – Now that I have choices, what do I actually enjoy doing? Now that I’m not spending my weekends in the soccer fields or driving to wrestling tournaments or cheer competitions, what do I actually want to do?” The only way to know is to try a lot of different things and figure out what sparks your joy and just hang on to that thing. You’ll meet people in the process, and it’ll get easier, and it’ll get more and more easier as time goes by, and you’ll have this full, rich amazing life. But it does help if you start early, yeah.
[00:44:32] MB: To be aware that there is — If you think this is the podcast to find out how to avoid the icky feeling of emptiness syndrome, it is. This is not the one because it’s going to suck. The beginning is going to suck in a way where it’s like, yes, you have your free time back. To some people, like they might already be like renovating their kid’s room into a gym. But really, like it’s emotional and it hits you and you just – The more transparent you are with yourself about going through that process I’m assuming, the better it will be. Because if you delay it and push it back, it’s still going to happen, and it’ll creep up randomly like a death. You won’t hear the voices anymore at the breakfast table or you won’t like have to go drive them to – Whatever it is, like there will be a weird transition for a while. Be open to it. Be mindful that it’s going to happen. Don’t try and push your feelings down. Join groups, like Facebook groups that are also people that are either going through it or have gone through it that can help you through that process.
But the more open you are to the fact that it’s going to happen and just to let yourself feel those feelings, then you can get to that process of like where you are now where you’re – I wouldn’t say I don’t know. I mean, I’m assuming it’s a really great balance of still feeling like mom but still feeling like you have your independent life again that we all had before kids forever ago. Now, it’s a beautiful balance. But before, it was kind of ugly for a minute, right?
[00:45:58] KC: Yeah. I’m getting to figure out what kind of woman I want to be without being mom first all the time. Again, I had kids when I was 18. I’ve never not had kids. I’ve never been an adult person and not had children. So, I mean, my son who lives locally comes for dinner once a week. That makes me really happy that he maintains that connection. I think it’s as important to him as it is to me. I mean, all my kids I talk to every single day. Every single day, I talk to them and I don’t think it’s overkill because it doesn’t necessarily mean a phone call. It could be, like I said, a Snapchat, a text message, a FaceTime, whatever it is. Beyond that, I’m becoming my my own person, not just someone’s mom. I’m also Kelly and I have my own interests and I feel more whole than I probably ever have. I actually think I’m healthier now, mentally and physically than I have been the whole time that they were growing up.
Obviously, you don’t need a lot of the same things you needed when the kids were small. I grocery shop less because I buy less. I have to clean less. I have more time. I have more time to spend on myself. I have more money because kids are little money suckers, right? We know that. I’m no longer paying for daycare and nannies and diapers and sports and all this stuff. So now, I can actually think about doing investments or doing things just for myself and not feeling bad. Before, when my kids were small, if I bought something expensive for myself, I actually felt bad, even if I could afford it.
[00:47:29] MB: I’ve been wanting a rattan egg chair for the last four years. I’m not going to spend $300 on a cute chair for Instagram photos because they’re going to buy diapers and pull ups and like food for the next 15 years of these suckers. I can’t wait to go pass something and go, “I want that,” and get it and not be like trying to balance it all. Even if money is not an issue, I mean, you still have to think about so much when it comes to money. For kids, like sports, high school –
[00:47:55] KC: Yeah, braces.
[00:47:56] MB: Braces. Oh, my gosh. So much.
[00:47:58] KC: Driver’s lessons.
[00:48:00] MB: The emergency trips to the doctor’s offices were not in the plan but are now in the plan. You know what I mean?
[00:48:06] KC: Right.
[00:48:06] MB: Yeah. All of a sudden –
[00:48:06] KC: They need driver’s [inaudible 00:48:06]. Now, they’re saving for a car, and then your insurance goes up.
[00:48:09] MB: [inaudible 00:48:09]. They’re still money suckers, and it still hurts. So, yeah, I could totally see how all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, shoot. I could buy a latte every day this week, and it’s not going to be like the end of the world.” You know what I mean?
[00:48:22] KC: Exactly.
[00:48:23] MB: Okay. I can live now with that.
[00:48:25] KC: If your partner works outside of the home and you don’t, now is a wonderful time to ask them what are some of the things that have been on their plate while the kids were at home that now maybe you can take on and take a little bit off of them. I mean, I did that with a lot of our finances. I took over investment management for all of our investments and all of my – Even my husband’s office finances I took over because it was something that I could do and I was contributing to our household in that way. I had the time to do it suddenly, where before he was paying a bookkeeper. He was paying his office manager to handle some of it. I was like, “This is my world, and it involves me, so I should be more involved.”
So now that I have the time, I’m actually spending time helping him out in that way, and it makes me feel also, since I’m not the breadwinner of the house, that I’m contributing to the family’s finances and our future. So, I mean, little things like that, or if there’s stuff around the house that your partner has always traditionally done. It’s something that you could offer to take over. Just maybe childcare was your main focus before. But now, you can kind of split the load a little differently. Something to think about. I mean, there’s a lot that you could do. You don’t have to sit at home and just feel awful.
[00:49:41] MB: Yeah. If you really open yourself and open your mind up, your time will be filled faster than you know it. It doesn’t have to be completely filled, but you can open yourself up to a volunteer opportunity or a book club or trying to lessen the load of a spouse or a loved one. Go travel. Go take that road trip that you’ve always wanted to take. Now’s the time to do those things. You just – It’s all about mindset, right? It’s all about how you look at it. You can’t completely try and be like positive Polly all the time and be like, “Yeah, it’s all going to be great,” because then I feel like that is pushing those feelings down.
But you do have to also look at the glass half full too and be like, “Well, now is the time for me to do this and this.” Now, like you said, I’ll get a little money back since kids are money suckers. Things that you have become so much part of your normal routine that now are going to shift, and you weren’t aware of it. Just thinking about those things can kind of get your mind in the right place to be healthy about it because we kind of touched on it. The kids want to know that the parents are okay with them leaving too because they’re worried that mom, because mom has been to every dance recital and every PTA meeting and every this and every that, they’re worried that mom is going to not have –
Kids are smart. They’re adults now. They’re aware that their mom or dad may not have any identity outside of being mom or dad. They might also be worried about them too, and they want to know that mom and dad is going to be okay. So it’s not like you have to put on a fake face, but you do have to do your best to think about the things that we’re saying and be open to them and apply them because your kids deserve a healthy, happy, whole parent too.
[00:51:19] KC: That’s very important. I will say I know in my experience this tends to come from boys to mothers more than daughters necessarily. But I think it’s personality probably more than gender. But I know for me, my son specifically had a really hard first year of college, and I tried when I was dropping him off at college to be super stoic, very unemotional, just telling him he’s going to do great, getting his room decorated, whatever. He drove me to the airport and was crying and that – Like I lost it.
[00:51:50] MB: Yeah. I’ve seen – There was like a Real Housewives episode where one of the kids left and like they had to pretend like things were like all aces. Then they lost it afterwards because you have to put on a brave face for your kid because they’re looking to you for cues.
[00:52:04] KC: I mean, to see your 18-year-old son who’s usually like super strong and silent type cry, it’s just heart wrenching. But that whole year, even when he came home for a break and said, “I don’t want to go back. I’m homesick,” I tried to encourage him and told him, “Just stick it out for one year. If you don’t like it, you can transfer,” and he did. He transferred. He ended up at a school he loved. It all worked out. But if he had called home, and every time he called home I was crying or telling him how much I missed him and how hard it was for me, I really believe that our burdens as parents are not meant to be put on our kids and we have to – Our job is to be their cheerleaders and tell them they’re doing great and they can do it and they’re stronger than they think and all that stuff. Not to put our own emotional burdens on them.
I know that’s hard when you feel isolated. You don’t have, I mean, anyone to talk to. Maybe you’re even single and you’re coming home to a totally empty house. It’s really hard. I get it. But it’s not their burden, and they’re dealing with their own stuff.
[00:53:01] MB: They can hear it and feel it and see it. If you don’t allow that, then they can’t grow, and they’re going to come home, and they’re not – Maybe they’re also scared, like you said, and wanting to – Like any sign that it’s not cool, they’ll run home.
[00:53:14] KC: They’ll run home to be there for you. Yeah. I will say the same for kids. If your relationship with your partner is not healthy, if you are in a toxic relationship, or the home environment hasn’t been good, your kids can be afraid to leave you there.
[00:53:32] MB: Yes, that’s true. You don’t want to go away for your sake and then –
[00:53:36] KC: Right. Because they know it’s not good, and they think I’m the only thing holding this family together. That’s – I mean, we talked about how often divorce has happened when the kids leave the house. But we didn’t talk about how the kids can end up blaming themselves for that because –
[00:53:50 MB: Because the timing of it is just too conveniently weird. It’s like all of a sudden that I leave for college, and you’re no longer with each other.
[00:53:56] KC: My family falls apart.
[00:53:58] MB: It’s my fault. If I had stayed and went to a local community college, maybe I could have kept them together kind of thing.
[00:54:03] KC: Yes. I know adults who stayed and lived at home while they went to college for that exact reason.
[00:54:08] MB: Oh, my gosh.
[00:54:08] KC: Because they were afraid their parents were going to either kill each other [inaudible 00:54:11] alone or that they would get divorced the minute they left. That is not the child’s responsibility. Your relationship is not your child’s responsibility. So, I mean, I don’t even have advice on how to communicate that, other than be your child’s strongest cheerleader. You have to believe in them even more than they believe in themselves that they can do this. They can go and they can have an independent life from you, and they can thrive, and you have to tell them that. Then you also have to give them the space to pivot if it’s a bad situation, and they’re not happy.
I’ve had two of my kids transfer schools after freshman year because they realized when they got there, they had made a mistake, and giving your child the grace to correct their mistakes is a very important lesson. But don’t do it. Don’t do it because you want them to come back home. If you think that they might be coming back home because of you, make sure you explore that with them, even if you need to do that in counseling or you need to just be really upfront with them. They need to think that you’re okay, even if you’re not necessarily.
[00:55:14] MB: Because I think once you had a really healthy outlook on this, and because I feel like – I mean, nothing’s perfect, but it sounds pretty dang perfect how you handled it. I feel like you probably still got to see them a lot, despite the fact that you may be distance and stuff like that. I feel like the less you push, the more you get. You know what I mean? If you give them and allow them space to thrive, and they’ll be home for holidays, you’re going to still see your kid. You’re going to still hear from them, like you said, all the time, maybe every day, every other day. But you just have to be okay with the fact that they’re not like this big anymore. You’re not taking them to soccer practice. You’re not feeding them mac and cheese for dinner. You just like – It’s okay.
You watch them go from baby to toddler to junior high to high school. You watch those stages. This is another stage. It’s just a little bit harder, but you just need to like allow it because it’s what you need, and it’s also what your kid needs because –
[00:56:07] KC: Yeah. The truth is –
[00:56:07] MB: [inaudible 00:56:07] was really hard to get to that school.
[00:56:10] KC: Exactly. The truth is this is how life is supposed to go. Birds don’t stay in the nest till adulthood. I mean, they fly away. If you do your job as a parent, your child will have all the tools in their toolbox to be able to be independent of you. So seeing them leave is hard but so seeing them walk into the kindergarten classroom for the first time, right? Seeing them leave home is hard, but it is the right step. It is the next step to being a productive member of society. Whether they’re going into the military, starting workforce, going to college, it doesn’t matter what it is. But them breaking off from you to be their own independent person is you having done a great job. You have succeeded. Now, your child is an independent adult. That’s all you want. I mean, that’s all we all want.
[00:56:55] MB: That’s what we’ve been working for, right, this moment?
[00:56:57] KC: Right. So you don’t want to sabotage it at the last moment because of your own conflicted feelings. Like this is what we worked so hard for for 18 years to get them to this point. Yeah. I mean, it’s the end of an era, but it’s the beginning of a new one because you can really – My kids are my best friends. They really are, and we transition that step from being kid parent to being more peer peer and more like friends. We’ve gotten to the point where they tell me a lot of things, and I don’t even offer advice because they’re just telling me. I mean, if they say, “Hey, Mom. What do you think,” then I’ll tell them. But a lot of times, they’re just venting or just telling you about stuff in their life, and we’ve moved past the point where I have to tell them all the time like whether they’re doing right or wrong. They’re adults. They know.
[00:57:45] MB: You’ve evolved with them evolving, and that’s what we need –
[00:57:49] KC: Yeah. It’s a really great and special relationship to have that kind of relationship with your –
[00:57:53] MB: Yeah. It’s a whole different thing but it’s still really great. It’s really great. Yeah. We can just enjoy each other’s company without everything they’re doing reflecting on me. Now, I have to be a parent. No, we just we just hang out, and its’ really special.
[00:58:05] MB: Just relax. Take a break. Enjoy yourself. We’re worked hard for this moment, basically, right?
[00:58:10] KC: Right. But this is the buffer that gets you to that point, like leaving the home.
[00:58:14] MB: I believe that if you’re really, really resistant to it, it’s probably not the kids leaving. It’s probably something else going on that you’re not ready to have to face. You know what I mean? When we don’t go to that doctor’s appointment because we don’t want to know the news, it’s kind of like for some people it’s not really the kids leaving. They they’re happy. They’re excited. They know it’s inevitable. It’s like, “Well, now I don’t have to be alone with so-and-so,” and these things are going to come out.
[00:58:36] KC: Or now I have to be alone with my own thoughts.
[00:58:38] MB: Myself or my thoughts are like this or that. It’s not really the kids and the parenting part. It’s really something much more.
[00:58:47] KC: Right. If your only identifier is being a mom, you may need to talk to someone because this is something where you’re needing to redefine yourself. That is hard. It’s always hard. So don’t be afraid to seek out help and counseling or someone to talk to that is a professional that can walk you through this. Because, yeah, it’s hard. It’s harder for some people than others. But I think it’s hard across the board.
[00:59:12] MB: Totally. Well, another heavy conversation. But, hey, you know what? Perfect timing because you’re right. School is starting people are leaving the nest, so to speak, so very relevant to the time. It’s something I’m not looking forward to, now that we talked about it. But I’m going to wait until the end or the emptiness to evaluate. I think that’s a big part of it because when you make emotional decisions, that’s when things get interesting.
[00:59:38] KC: Yeah. You may be feeling very impulsive during this period of time. But like we said, wait, this isn’t the time to make impulsive decisions with your relationship or downsize your house, quit your job, something really, really dramatic. It’s not the time for that, and maybe that is the right decision. But give yourself some time to figure it out rationally. Maybe you no longer need the giant house, now that the kids aren’t home. But don’t underestimate the grieving process that happens when you let go of the house that kids grew up in. At the same time, the kids are leaving. It’s really hard. So just keep that in mind. Don’t make rash decisions. Give yourself time. Give yourself some grace that this is difficult, and you’re not overreacting.
It can be a really positive – It can be really cool to rediscover yourself. You can find interests that you didn’t even really know you had and become like this whole metamorphosis of a new person. That is very positive if you look at it that way. It is a choice how you look at this. So you have a wonderful opportunity to get closer to your partner, to become a new person with new interests, new hobbies, meet new friends. Try to think of it positively.
[01:00:45] MB: Totally. Awesome.
[01:00:47] KC: Well, thank you guys for joining us again for another heavy topic, like Megan said. We really appreciate all of your support. You guys come back week after week, and we just could not thank you enough. It means a lot to both of us. We hope we’re providing guys value content. If we are, please subscribe, like, rate, and review, all the things you’re supposed to do. If you want to continue this discussion, you can on our Facebook discussion group. Other than that, we will see you next week. Bye.
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