What's next for a mom after her only child leaves for college?

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Answered by: Peggy, An Expert in the Empty Nest Syndrome Category
It is now seventeen years following my only daughter's birth and time for me to prepare for her to move on to college. What's next for a mom after her only child leaves for college? Some days when I have asked my daughter to pick up her belongings, or help with household chores and find myself continuously ignored, I complain, "I cannot wait until she moves out!" However, not more than five minutes later, reality sets in and I realize how difficult the change will be. I then find myself almost feeling resentful that my only child is leaving me and is happy about it.

There are so many emotions going on inside a mother when her only child is preparing to leave the nest. In addition to the expense involved while applying to colleges and senior class activities, there is the constant thought process of "what will I do after she has gone?”. If the mother is still married, she can only hope her relationship with her husband will somehow fill the void. For those mothers involved in strained marriages, she may anticipate that the relationship will improve once the child leaves. If the marriage has already been suffering for a while, the thought of no longer having a buffer around may increase her concern.

Various strategies come to mind to ease the thought of abandonment. One strategy includes hunting high and low for a new career that will occupy a good deal of time once the house is empty. Getting in some traveling would be great. However, with a daughter in college and a depressed economy, traveling may not be a possibility. Getting back into an old hobby may also create a helpful distraction. Life is already full of changes for women as they progress in age. Once a mother realizes her 24/7 duty of parenting is about to end, in addition to noticing new wrinkles and the extra 25 pounds she has put on within the last few years, she may tend to feel vulnerable and depressed.

I was in my early twenties when I gave birth to my daughter. Most of my current friendships involve women who started having their kids later in life, or have multiple children (guaranteeing them the position for years to come). These women are always busy. Therefore, my friends and I no longer have compatible schedules and they have no idea what it's like when your only child is going to college. Again, I am forced to strategize to deal with an unexpected change of events, leaving me no choice but to find new friends.

So, I asked myself, "what's next for a mom after her only child leaves for college? As I was interviewing for a job earlier today, I realized my current situation is not too much different than when I first finished high school myself. It is now time to re-evaluate myself and determine what else I would like to do with my life. As an older and wiser woman, surely I have plenty to offer. My qualifications have only increased and in many ways opportunities will also intensify. I will no longer have to worry about rushing out of the office on time to pick up a child from school. The promotions I had to pass up in the past due to other “obligations” are no longer out of reach. I will continue to inventory ways to view this life changing circumstance optimistically.

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