I was thrilled when each of my three children were born. Each a joy and each with their own set of challenges while raising them. No two children are exactly alike and my three are each very different in many ways. They are all caring, intelligent, and am proud to be their mom, but as they have grown into adulthood, I sometimes find it hard to “parent” my adult children.
Do they still need me? Maybe “need” is the wrong word. Or, maybe not. Do they still want me to be a part of their lives? Yes, I can confidently say they do. But, they also need to be treated as the adults they have grown to be, with all that entails.
As each child “has left the nest”, I have been asked, by multiple people in fact, how I am “dealing with the empty nest.”
I learned early on that it is important to have something for yourself, even while raising your children. Be it a book club, group of friends you might only occasionally have a “kid free” lunch with, or a hobby you dabble in. Having something for yourself is important. You will not have to raise your kids forever. What will you do when that time is done, if you have nothing of interest for yourself? This was my saving grace. I learned it early and I implemented it from child one. And I can honestly say that although there was sadness at times, I did not fall into the depths of despair or depression, feeling as if I now had nothing to do. Ask my husband, I am never bored.
In all honesty, my nest is not actually empty. My youngest adult son is autistic. High functioning and at home, for the time being. He is doing fine, has a job and does hit his milestones, although a few years later than his older brother and sister did.
But with that said, when the other two left home, there was a bit of an empty feeling. Our routines changed, and new worries arose. Are they ok? Are they safe? Do I give advice? Do I wait to be asked? Do I check in on them, or leave them alone until they call me? In my opinion, all normal feelings.
They have made mistakes; made choices that I might have made differently. Although in many ways they have made much better choices than I ever did for my own life, as a young person. Isn’t that what we all want, for our children to succeed and even surpass us? I made many mistakes in my young adulthood, and I absolutely wanted greater success for my own children.
In the end, the two that have left the nest have both built lives, independent of us and yet including us, where appropriate. They have become individuals that I am very proud of! I was proud of them as children and teens of course. But it is a different kind of proud when looking at them as adults.
Worrying about adult children is very different than worrying about your toddler, or even your teen. When they call and tell me about what is going on in their lives, I often think to myself, do they want advice? Want me to help? Or simply want me to listen and say nothing. That is a skill that I have not quite mastered yet. Listening without trying to fix it. My daughter must remind me, from time to time, that I am “being too much of a Mom.” I understand what she is saying and realize that my “take care of it” hat needs to come off, and my “listening” hat needs to be on. My role is not to fix it all and make it better, not to tell them how to handle a situation, or to tell them that they are doing wrong. It is to listen and support and help, when asked. Also, to sometimes offer gentle advice, but listen for clues that my “MOM” hat is creeping back on. It can be tricky “parenting” adult children.
The best thing to remember, and I must remind myself of this often, is that my days of raising them are over. And that I did the best that I could in that role. I did it with love, mistakes and all. And I can trust that my “kids” will be ok.
When my husband and I see our adult children, thriving outside of our home, it generates a new sense of accomplishment, as parents. Hey, maybe we didn’t screw up as badly as it felt some days. We can feel confident that we gave them a good foundation, hopefully showing them that we love and trust them, within the boundaries of the rules we set in our home. We encouraged them to branch out and find their own way. And that is exactly what they did. And you know what? They still want us in their lives, flaws and all.
We have grandchildren now and look forward to seeing them grow. And to see our children nurture and help their own children to thrive, is wonderful. I tease that I earned my grandchildren but not “killing” my own. They know exactly what I mean by that and laugh along with me. It will be such a thrill to experience all the fun with our grandbabies, and then send them home to Mamma and Daddy, and go home and get some sleep. I’d say we earned that.
So, I strive every day to embrace my new role. And to be honest, I think I am doing ok in this new role, overall. I am not perfect in it, but am enjoying it, and hope to simply enjoy this time of my life.