The empty nest. The time when our nurtured children leave home and continue to grow without our daily input. Many parents, mothers especially, feel as if they are in mourning. That they are no longer needed. That they have no purpose. The empty nest represents different things to different people.
New mothers immediately fall in love with our babies and put aside all thoughts about ourselves. We live to improve the lives of our little ones. When a mother begins to focus more than normal amounts of time on raising her kids, she may be approaching the Lawnmower Parent or Momma Addict level of care.
Sometimes, as our children demand increasing amounts of our time, we mourn the loss of our identity. We wonder: what did I do before I had kids? I would love to read, go to the movies, and sleep in on Saturdays. But, alas, our time now belongs to our children.
This mourning period lasts for varying amounts of time for each person. But eventually, most of us accept that we have a greater calling other than simply focusing on our own desires. We find a way to fulfill the needs of our children, and every now and then, sneak in some ME time!
I love the new movement with young moms encouraging self-care at an earlier stage. Many of us have forgotten what it is like to plan our week or month without checking our kids schedules!
I deeply enjoyed and cherished my time raising my young girls. As they grew, their needs grew. And I grew as a mother to meet these needs. I did not realize that slowly my personality and identity changed to fit their needs. I learned to adapt to whatever fit the needs of the moment.
Driving to preschool could be chaotic trying to keep them calm in the car. Of course, there was the need to play a Barney tape cassette. Yes, I mean a cassette! It was the 90s! I became so accustomed to singing along with Barney that I often did not realize I continued to listen to that tape driving to work. Yup. After the kids were no longer in the car! I felt no shame.
Barney served me well. I quoted him whenever my girls did not want to follow my instructions. They would jump at the chance to clean up or hold my hand crossing the road because Barney said it was the right thing to do.
I also found myself continuing to watch their favorite cartoons and movies after my girls had fallen asleep. Comfortable on the couch, I found no need to focus on the actual show because I happily enjoyed the time to rest. It did not occur to me to change the channel and watch a movie of my choosing. At this stage of my life, I did not get many chances to choose.
The empty nest actually begins gradually as your high school student starts spending more time away from you. Driving when and where they pleased. Choosing schools to apply for college. But I do not believe the full empty nest occurs until your child is out of college or is working full-time and no longer is a student.
During college, we remain ready to assist and guide and support our children. Most college kids continue to be financially connected to parents; therefore, we remain ready to participate whenever we can. We arrive ready to show our love and support for our young adult kids.
I have recently discovered one particular aspect of my identity that I am extremely proud to reclaim. I did not realize the impact the loss had on my life, but apparently it was significant! Great joy has returned simply by regaining a piece of the old me.
The return of my favorite personal identity trait!
My favorite color is red. Red has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even my college sorority color is red (OOO-OOP!). I have owned countless red shoes, purses, belts, scarves, jewelry…the only thing I never owned in red was a car.
Imagine my shock when I arrived onto my daughter’s college campus when she was a freshman. Prepared to take on my supportive mom role while attending a parent program, I made sure my daughter had all her supplies and college gear. No one told me that college parenting also involved getting our own college gear ready!
Standing with other parents, I immediately realized that I had made a huge Momma error.
My daughter’s school colors are white and gold. The rival college campus has school colors of red and black. Apparently, everyone except me knew that it is frowned upon to wear red at official school events! Oops.
Hey, I was a freshman mom. That did not change my embarrassment at standing among a sea of muted whites and golds…blazing in my red jacket and red leather purse! I hung my head in mommy failure.
A huge shopping trip fixed my mistake as I rebounded with a complete wardrobe of muted gold and tans paired with black and navy. These are not colors I would have personally chosen, but they were chosen for my daughter.
I also remembered to store extra clothes and a gold purse in my car trunk to change before going on campus!
Now, as a full-fledged empty nester, I wear red all day, every day! My red shoes are worn regularly and I own 4 sizes of leather red purses . Red belts, hats, gloves are treasured accessories. My husband even bought me a red leather briefcase, which gets compliments in the parking lot every time a new person sees it! Red makes me happy.
So, prepare to embrace the empty nest and regain parts of your identity you may not realize you missed!
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