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October 20, 2005



Ellen, I can in all honesty say that I know exactly how you feel. I am a 54 year old mother of 5. The oldest is 37 and the youngest is 19 and a freshman in college this year. When my daughter was in college she emailed with more frequency than her two younger brothers and now that she's a young working professional we talk or email about once a week. But her life is now so much more private. She is careful with what she shares about her feelings or problems with co-workers, I guess because she doesn't want me to help her problem solve. I have finally figured out for me at least that I have to just listen and let her vent. There's a line there somewhere between being friends with your adult children and being "Mom". I try to remember how I felt when I was in their place. I certainly didn't share anything with my mother, but then I was rebellious and in college in the late 60's and early 70's when there was really nothing I could share that wouldn't have given her a stroke. I feel like I'm way more 'hip' than my mother but I guess to my children I'm still their parent and there's stuff they want to keep to themselves. I try not to take the distancing personally because I know it's not about me but about them having their own life. When my son was just home for fall break I could tell he was ready to go back to his world after he'd been home about 48 hours. I remember that feeling, that my life, my world was no longer with my parents but away at school with my friends where I was defined by me not by my family.

You'd think with 5 children that I would have this figured out by now. But there is a huge gap in age between the first two and the three youngest.When the first two left home the youngest was just born. I was so busy with the 3 little ones that I didn't have as much time to miss the older two.

Our next to youngest will call with questions about recipes, or laundry or whatever (he's moved off campus this year) but if I call him it's always at an inconvenient time for him no matter what the day or time - he's always busy with something or someone. It's hard not to be offended sometimes. I just try to remember that this too will pass!

I don't have any answers but share the journey.



I am sorry.
maybe I should just write this post to my own mother, but reading your article/post just made me cry. Of course I am 9 months preggers with girlie # three and weepy anyway, but I know that I disappeared when I turned 18 and never really resurfaced till I was 27. At least your daughter sounds grounded and ok, not the horrifying mess that I was during that time. I feel sad because of what a treasure my mom is, that I wasted that time I could have had her as part of my life. Instead I kept her at arms length.

I guess that I'm saying that this distance is only temporary. There will come a time again when the first person she wants to call when something great/sad/tragic/mundane happens will be her mom. Promise!


My son's only 7 months old, but I actually think you're perfectly normal. That's pretty much the way I expect to feel when he (and other kids we may have) leave home. One mom I know who's going through exactly the same thing you are (her youngest just went off to college too) said that she finally called her daughter and said she was a little lonely and wanted to hear from her a little more often, so now her daughter calls every other day and she feels much much better. Maybe that'll work for you too? And since I can still remember when I went off to college, I'll add that to me it sounds like you're being a great mom!

Robin P

My friend Kristy went through this a few years ago when her oldest son finished college and moved from Massachusetts to California and her younger son joined the Air Force and was stationed in England. They both left at the same time.

She had a full life,lots of friends and was constantly busy,yet there was a huge gaping hole where her mothering heart used to be. She didn't know who she was since her "babies" didn't seem to need her and they were gone. It was hard to watch her go through this since I had met her when her boys were 10 and 11 and I adored them. I didn't want them to leave either.

Even though she had been divorced from their dad and the boys lived with her ex,Kristy lived in the same town and saw her boys all the time. As they grew to be teens,they drove to see her every day and their friends hung out there too. She was everyone's mom. She loved them all. Then they all grew up and went away.

Finally,I said to her,"Look,your kids know you love them and they in turn adore you. You have given them all the skills and confidence they need to make it on their own. You did your job well. There is no need to cry unless they want to live with you forever,they won't work and you need to give them an allowance when they are 40. Then you're in serious trouble.
Be happy and proud that they are functioning members of society,have great jobs,loving friends and that they are truly happy."

She still missed them of course but that did make her feel a bit better.
Her youngest son moved to Arizona for a couple of years after he left England,now he lives in my apartment complex which is 4 minutes from Kristy's house! We are all happy about this. He is a wonderful person.

My advice would be to continue to be supportive to your children,send cards if it moves you or emails or phone them.
When I first went to college which was 2 hours from home,I wanted to prove I could make it on my own so I would force myself to NOT call home. It killed me. I wanted to see if anyone would miss me. Mom never failed me. She always called. I guess I just wanted to make sure they didn't forget me,you know?

Don't give up. Kids,no matter how independent they think they are, still need to know that Mommy loves them and is thinking of them.


Oh, gosh, I feel for you, Elaine. I have two teenage stepdaughters who live with me 24-7 and a toddler of my own... And I'm already preparing myself for empty nest syndrome.

My mother was very clingy when I left home for college and I ended up dreading the times that we talked and got together. She and my stepfather would actually drive to my college town and go to the places I talked about in order to check up on me!!! I really distanced myself from her at that point, although we had always been close before I left home.

I think you have to do your best to continue being a loving, caring mom and trust that your children will come back to you eventually on their own terms. Let them know you're there for them, but let them find their independence from you right now, too.

This is an important transition time for you as well. How you respond to them as budding adults will determine your future relationship with them.

Good luck!!

rosemary grace

I can only speak from my experience as a 25 year old who left home permanently 5 years ago.

My sister went to university when I was 9 (she was 18) and pretty much disappeared, even when she visited she spent morst of her time out of the house. I was different, I visited regularly and wanted a fair bit of contact with my parents, so I didn't really leave home until I graduated uni and moved to the US.

Your daughter is probably so absorbed with her new life that she doesn't realize that to you she's disappeared. My mum would send me short notecards, just talking about the garden, or the cats, or what she and dad had been up to, and it made me feel still connected to home. I'm sure my mum would say she wished I'd sent HER similar cards!

I think sending her a little snail mail note every month or so will make her feel connected, and more likely to reconnect when she feels the need. How about also making sure to do a mother-daughter something or other in the holidays? Spend a whole day together. I'm afraid this doesn't help much with what you are going through, I suppose I'm trying to present the side of the fledgling who's just left the nest!


I also can't comment from personal experience as my kids are too small.

But I did notice that once I had children, I acquired a sense of daily "progress" in my life from watching them grow and progress.

Whereas before having children, I often felt like I was climbing up the down escalator and getting nowhere, since having my first child I've felt that even when everything in the rest of my life is going wrong or giving me trouble (work, finances, etc.), I am still "doing OK" because my kids are happy and growing.

It occurred to me that when my kids leave home, I will have to find another way to recreate that same feeling of daily progress -- that sense that everything is OK and I'm "doing well" overall and making progress overall.

I don't have quick or easy answers about how to do that. Going back to school occurs to me as a possibility, since it has a natural built-in sense of progress as one works toward a degree, but it seems a little stressful too. The nice thing for me is that I naturally enjoy parenting despite its many hardships, so I find it to be a "low stress" form of daily achievement. Maybe gardening or some other low-stress hobby where one sees progress over time is the answer.

Blessings and best wishes to you as you search for your own answers.

amy h

As the mother of two young children (4 and 1) I can tell you that I DO worry about where you're at...a lot! I think that even if our lives are filled with wonderful things (jobs, partners, hobbies) when we are mothers we are mothers first and foremost and that means that when that relationship changes we change and change often feels uncomfortable (and even hurts). Just like they say there is no real way to prepare for your first child (you don't REALLY know until you're in it)...I think the same could be said for letting your kids become adults. I look forward to reading how you are doing it so that I can store your valuable insights away for later.
Take care of yourself and thank you for your post.


I have three kids (13,11 and 8) and believe it or not, I already fear the "empty nest syndome" and I don't know how to prepare! I desperately want my kids to grow up to be independent, yet I desperately want them to remain attached to me! I don't want my kids to call me with complaints about their spouses, but I do want them to call me! When the time comes I hope my logical side wins out over my heart, even if it feels like my heart is breaking. Now, I see from your post, that it probably will break...I'm not looking forward to it! Keep your chin up!

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