Many of us as mothers take the departure of our children away from home very hard. Whether we are full time homemakers or have a job, career or profession in addition to being a mom, when it is time for our children to leave the nest, it is intolerable for us. Why is that?
After all, we have been teaching our children to become self-sufficient all their lives. Logically speaking we should feel happy and satisfied that we have done our best in raising them thus far and now they can practice what they have imbibed from us. Now that our children have grown up and left home and we have more time on our hands, shouldn’t we carry out all the things on our wish list – learn Spanish or music, go to Zumba class, volunteer at the Food Bank, start a book club, go on the Mediterranean cruise? But we can’t seem to let go when they leave.
Instead, we worry endlessly that they should be okay away from us – eat on time, sleep enough, make good new friends, party less, not have allergy attacks, blah, blah, blah. We start planning for when they would be back home on vacation and we can cook all the dishes they like. Our lives are in suspension until the telephone rings for that often unsatisfactorily short call with our children, after which we continue our worrying about their welfare. We consult our friends on how they fared when their children left home and are consoled that they felt the same way. A part of our heart has gone with the children and what remains feels heavy.
While it is very normal and totally understandable to miss our children whom we have cared for in close proximity for eighteen plus years, for some of us it is very traumatic to come to terms with children moving out. We feel listless, suffer from a loss of identity and even become depressed. We don’t know what to do with our lives and ourselves anymore. This is when our inability to relinquish our worries becomes unhealthy. But why are some of us unable to get on with the next phase of our lives?
From my experience as a mother and as a coach, there are three common reasons why it is so difficult for some mothers to come to terms with children moving out.
- “Once a mother, always one”: In our culture, we are ingrained to think that once a parent, always a parent, aka, “We have the right to worry about you all your life.” So we are conditioned to think that we have to constantly attend to our children, whether they are young or old enough, whether they are children or adults. If we moved on with other things to do, then we would not be ‘true’, and ‘good’ mothers by our cultural norms.
- Buried desires and forgotten self-purpose: For over eighteen years, we had a noble purpose – that of raising our children. Our presence in their lives was very important to take care of all their physical and emotional needs. Now, that goal is complete and no longer on our radar, but there is nothing else to replace that hugely important objective. We had subjugated our own desires and wishes to the higher priority of caring for them. Now it is difficult for us to think of ourselves, for ourselves. We have forgotten what we want.
- A 20-year old habit is hard to break: For eighteen plus years, we have lived caring for our children, enjoying them, thinking for them, deciding for them, and planning for them. The habit is so entrenched in us that we continue to live with it. Much like brushing our teeth, which we do for ourselves, we had also programed ourselves to give that wake up call to our children in the morning to get ready for school, remind them about taking their lunch and so on. When the children leave, our brains now continue to do it from afar, which takes the form of worry for all the little things that they should do for themselves.
If you are someone having a hard time with letting go of your children for any of the above reasons, and if you want to know how you can transition smoothly from being a perpetual full-time mother in your mind, to a pretty relieved parent looking forward to the next phase in her life, watch out for my next blog and new practices to adopt.
(The author lives in southern California and helps single moms recreate their lives as breadwinners and beyond, through her practice Possibilities N U LLC. For a free copy of her book, email her – Janaki@frombtobbook.com.)