While everyone has been making new year’s resolutions, I have been trying not to fall. Having a child go to college is like losing the leg of a favorite chair and balancing with the remaining three. My son’s departure this past September has changed the foundation of my family and my sense of identity as a mother. Although I talked in a previous post about the need to let go, it is very hard to do.

It wasn’t easy saying goodbye to my son returning to college after winter break, even though he goes to school near by and we will see him occasionally. Tears ran down my face and my stomach clenched into a knot as I watched my 18-year-old drive away. Even though it will be a relief not to worry about him coming and going at all hours like he did over the holidays, I will miss him terribly. He is on his own and doesn’t need me as much anymore.

Grown and Flown

Right now, I am still holding on but he has flown the nest. My reality looks very much like this cartoon that my friend sent me recently.

first day of college cartoon

I know all things change, as does motherhood. My familiar routines have disappeared: shopping almost daily for groceries to feed a growing boy, fixing up dinners for four, and planning for family time on weekends. There are no more spontaneous late-night talks with my son – the only time of day he seemed open to conversation. My 16-year-old daughter is still at home, but she got her driver’s license this fall and our relationship has changed too. With her, I miss the time we spent driving to and from school and her activities, where I would sometimes get glimpses into the inner thoughts of a teenage girl.

I should be happy that my son has found his wings and is asserting his independence. But inside I feel a loss so deep that it swallows me whole. It hurts even more when I think my daughter will also be leaving in a few short years. It’s normal for kids to leave home, but I had no idea how much it would knock me off my feet.

To better understand this phase of parenting, I subscribe to a blog called Grown & Flown. This site focuses on issues specific to teenagers and young adults in the 15-25 age group, such as social media, college admissions and coming home. It is filled with helpful advice for parents, and it is reassuring to knholiday-card-2016-1ow others are going through the same things I am with my children.

It will take me a while to get used to this half-empty nest. This year, I will be reinventing motherhood. It will look very different than it did before, like the flashback photos I used on our holiday card showing our children as toddlers, and now as a teenager and an adult.

Our children will prefer hanging out with their friends rather than us. They will find interests that will consume much of their time away from the family. My kids are drifting away from me and that makes me sad. On the other hand, it is nice to see them more confident in themselves, and being closer than they ever have to each other. Parenting this age group is truly bittersweet.

Rediscovering Myself

If I make one new year’s resolution, it would be to find a balance between my needs and my family’s needs. I know happiness starts with me, so I will evaluate my personal time and prioritize the activities I value most. Reading, writing, planning outings with my husband, and volunteering in the community would be high on my list. I want to rediscover the part of myself that extends beyond being a mom.

I will be more grateful for time spent with my children. The importance of this struck me recently at the memorial service of a friend who had lost her eight-year battle against breast cancer. Her son, who is my son’s age, spoke about how his mother had told him that time is the one thing we cannot control. She said we must make the best of our time and never take it for granted.

My friend’s life was cut short, but she left a lasting legacy to her son to respect time and live every day to the fullest. I’m not sure if I will achieve all my goals this year, but I plan to honor the smallest moments of time with my children.

How will you find balance in your life this year?