No one can accurately prepare you for children… For the birthing experience or the change in your relationship with yourself and your partner after that baby has entered your life.  However, you do grow with it… It is a change that is suddenly there and cannot be avoided once it’s happened and most of us just go with the flow and try and work it out as we go along.  We get into a rhythm that is comforting if not always full of sleep or very many peaceful moments.  Life with children is both rewarding and challenging!

At each stage of our children’s growth we think to ourselves, if only this stage wasn’t so hard …

If only this baby would let me sleep a bit longer…

If only I had more hands, time, help and space to myself…

If only I could have a night off to go out and party like I use to or not want to go to sleep the moment I do get a night off…

If only they would just eat what I gave them!

If only they would stop growing so fast out of their clothes/shoes…

If only they didn’t tell the teacher off or hit that little girl in the play ground…

If only they didn’t grow up so fast!… How can it be time for high school?!

If only they’d listen to me and avoided that friend… disappointing score…bad school report…

If only they would try instead of giving up…

If only they didn’t want to give up on their music lessons… drama class… soccer team… that I put them in to help develop them..

If only they didn’t hang around that mean kid…

If only they thought better of themselves that they didn’t do xyz ….

If only I didn’t have to drive them around everywhere…

If only they would slow down in our driving lessons!

If only they didn’t stress too much/too little about that exam…

If only they didn’t work so little/so hard!

There are so many “if only” moments even for children that seem to relatively breeze through life.  However, all of these pale in comparison to the single most painful and unprepared moment in your child’s life…

If only they didn’t grow up and leave home.  If there wasn’t such a thing as “empty nest”!

This is what I am experiencing at the moment… the painful realisation that she’s all grown up and now off at university.

Where did all that time go?

While I know I will always be a mother to my children and I am so excited for them to go out into the world and become the kind, compassionate, thoughtful people they are… I cannot express the hole in my heart that is left when they leave the home.

My daughter has just moved on campus at a university that is 4.5 hours away and I am left with this great big gaping hole in my heart and my home is now an empty nest.  Both myself and my husband are a bit lost with the idea that her room is no longer her room… She has been launched into life with a bucket load of excitement, enthusiasm and confidence (in her direction) and plans for the next 3-4 years.

I know many people have said what a wonderful job we have done with her… how confident and self assured and clear headed she is… and yet that seems little consolation at this point. I just miss her terribly.

I miss her hugs

I miss her sleepy “good mornings”

I miss her wit

I miss being able to cook for her

I miss chatting with her over a cup of tea or dinner or breakfast

I miss going to yoga with her.. or dropping into an op shop and finding a treasure with her

The house seems so different without her here.

I am faced with the loss and the weird sense that one of my most important roles in life, parenting, is now done for her… or at least is done from a far and I am faced with the one thing that nothing as prepared me for..

How to be a parent when your children no longer live with you.

It took me 4 years to get over my son growing up and moving out… I would cry buckets whenever he’d visit and then drive back to his home town.  Now they both have flown the coop into life and I need to take the time to regather myself and decide how my new reality will work for me.  To sit with the painful experience of being an empty nester for the time being…

It seems my job is done.

The best way to deal with an empty nest is to…

Remind yourself that parenting is not the only thing that defines you (even fro someone who makes it her life’s passion!).  You are more than that or any other label we apply to ourselves.

Parenting is the most important role we can have in our lives and when we do it well, we have done a service to the community/world at large.

It is our role to grow good people who do good things in the world… and if you have done that, well give yourself a pat on the back!

From the moment I heard of these words from Kalhil Gilbran, I knew it to be true and I’ve never tried to make mini me’s… but delighted in the people that were growing before me while trying my best to be that stable safe, reliable, “tell anything to” kind of parent… It seems that is the role that has now ended and their tomorrow’s have bloomed before me and go on without me.

Once more, to remind myself…

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kalhil Gilbran

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