Letting Go of Adult Children: 13 Things Holding You Back From Enjoying Your (Almost) Empty Nest

Letting Go of Adult Children: 13 Things Holding You Back From Enjoying Your (Almost) Empty Nest

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Mom with an almost empty nest learning to let go of adult children as she looks onto a beautiful ocean view with her arms around her teenage daughter.
Letting Go of Adult Children

So this is really happening.

Maybe the kids have already flown the coop and are off at college, in jobs, or serving in  the military. No one said that letting go of adult children was going to be easy. You think you are slowly preparing yourself during those (almost) empty nest years, but is any parent ever really prepared? 

Your high school student is actually going to graduate soon (if not already graduated) and, for the first time IN A VERY LONG TIME, you will not be trolling the aisles for discounted back-to-school supplies next Fall.

On a Saturday night, you find yourself wondering what they are doing, hoping and praying that they are making good choices. I mean, they’re young, you want them to have fun, just not TOO much fun😊.

Being a mom swallows you up heart and soul and takes you out to sea on one wild ride. Just when you are finally getting the hang of it, you get plopped back on the shore.

Your services are no longer required. 

You can’t help thinking- What am I supposed to do now?  Like it or not, you are are now a card carrying member of the empty nester club.

Life used to be in color and now everything seems a bit blurry.

Part of the angst is due to all of those thoughts swimming around in your head. So let’s talk about it and process what’s really going on here.

You can’t deal with your feelings unless you name them, claim them, and sift through them.

What is holding you back from enjoying your (almost) empty nest?  

Illustration of teenage daughter with her back turned to her mom. Mom is experiencing empty nest grief.
Empty Nest Grief

13 Things Holding You Back From Enjoying Your (Almost) Empty Nest

1.  “My kids are my life.” Sigh. I know this is going to get me in trouble, but here goes………..no, they are not and that’s a heavy burden to place on a kid!

 The average life expectancy in developed countries is about 80 years old. Most of us are going to spend 20-25 years raising kids. That means there is a lot of living to be done before and after motherhood.

More importantly, can we just imagine for a minute what it is like to be the kid of THAT mom?  

It takes a lot of energy for a young adult to define their goals, take the required action steps, and begin to soar so they can take off and launch themselves! It’s a terrible burden to carry your mother’s life along with you.

Mom demonstrating, "My Kids are my life" as mom dips her tones in the ocean holding the hand of her toddler while they look on at sunset.
My Kids are My Life

Your Social Circle is Changing

2.  “Now I know how my mom must have felt.” Your mom let you go. She might even have some pointers on letting go of adult children. Now it’s your turn.

Enough said.

3. You just realized that most of your friends aren’t really YOUR friends. 

What?  This one requires an explanation.

During the childrearing years, we seem to establish friendships of convenience. 

Slowly, but surely we spend most of our free time at children’s activities and the other parents become our social circle. You meet on the soccer field. Or at the scout camping trip. 

You might have logged many miles together for travel ball. You’ve attended more pizza nights and dance recitals than you care to remember. 

Here’s the problem. When you take the shared children’s activity out of the equation, do you still have something to say to these people?  Sometimes the answer is yes, but sometimes it’s no. 

A lot depends on whether or not those activities were YOUR interests or your kid’s interests. It’s okay to admit you don’t like baseball and you just went to those games because YOUR kid was playing.

It’s highly likely that, along the way, you did make some wonderful friendships. During this transitory phase, it’s not lost on you that you aren’t the only one going through a difficult transition.

Someone once told me that we make friends for a reason, a season, or for a lifetime and you have to figure out which is which.

The friends for a reason are the people you connect with through a shared interest. For instance, you have a group that regularly attends the games of a certain sports team or you are in the same book club.

College friends represent friends for a season. Often, you were so close because together you experienced an important stage in life. The same can be said of the friends you meet while you are raising your kids together.

Our friendships can begin for a reason or for a season and turn into lifetime friendships. It’s just that sometimes they don’t.

Some of our empty nest grief can certainly be attributed to the fact that our social circle might be changing, as well. 

Group of women with their hands stacked one over the other.
Friends Forever?

4. You need to make some new friends and you forgot how it’s done. How do you make friends when you are no longer located in a school setting, dorm hall, workplace, or mommy group conveniently packed with people your age (or in the same stage of life)?

This is going to take some effort.

More on that later.

5. If you hear one more person tell you to enjoy all that free time and find some new interests, you are going to hurt them! What if you can’t even REMEMBER what it is that YOU like to do?

After all, for the past umpteen years you’ve done a spectacular job of facilitating fun for EVERYONE else!

It’s perfectly okay to go on a journey to rediscover your old interests and even find some new ones like starting a book club.

6. Hobbies are wonderful and you know you should get some, but hobbies are just NOT your jam! 

Maybe you just never had time for hobbies before.

A new day is dawning. It might be time to explore some hobbies. 

7. “The best years of my life are over.” Gasp! I know you’ve been thinking it.

You’re right.

If you think the best years of your life are over, they are. The only way to change that is to do something about it.

Nothing changes unless you change it. 

The best way to change it is to get busy creating a life you want to live.

8. “I’m too old to start anything new.” No, you are not! Plenty of women achieved their dreams well past the age of 40. If you need some inspiration, check out this story of an actress that began at age 40

9. You are just plain bored and restless. Yes, this really is a thing. 

The only way to overcome a feeling of boredom is to stop being boring.

It’s time to get out there and do some stuff. 

We’ll be talking A LOT about finding new activities to engage in………..you need to get busy!

It’s a project and we’re on it.

Mother and daughter at the canadian cascades walking by the waterfall. Mother is carefully watching her daughter climb through the rocks.

What if One of the Kids Needs Me?

10. “I must keep my schedule open-what if one of the kids needs me for something?”

I see you. 

You could have plans next weekend, but you are afraid to commit because you might get a text from one of your kids.  And YOU drop everything for your kids!

Stop doing that!

There’s something about knowing someone is sitting around waiting for you that just plain repels people. 

It’s kind of like that advice your mom probably gave you about dating a million years ago. Never sit around waiting for anyone. Go get busy doing your own thing and then people are magnetically drawn to you. 

11. “I cannot figure out my new normal. What is my purpose?”

You have to give this to the mommy years- they come included with a purpose, no extra charges apply. 

Admitting that you don’t know your new purpose is the first step in finding it.

There’s LOTS to say on that topic. More to follow. Stay tuned.

12. “I am so lonely I could die.”

Loneliness is such an uncomfortable emotion. Sometimes it’s as if we’re supposed to feel guilty for even feeling lonely. 

The only way to combat loneliness is to explore new ways to make and maintain deep connections. 

Teenage girl made it to the top of a mountain and climbed onto the deck railing, putting up her arms in triumph.
Ready to Take on the World

13. “Did I do everything I could do?” 

Ahh….sadness has arrived.

Letting Go of Adult Children

Motherhood is so intense. You are on 24/7, up and running each and every day………..until you’re not.

I used to wish that we could spread out child rearing.

Can’t the mommy job come with weekends and two weeks annual vacation so we can spread it out across more years? 

I don’t know about you, but back then I could have really used a break every once in a while.

You didn’t need to run that race only to get to the finish line and it all just stopped. What was the hurry?

Did you remember to teach them everything?

Do you think, “I forgot to talk about what to do when your first love breaks your heart.”

Did you remind them enough that raising them was the best thing you’ve ever done?

They know you love them, but do they really FEEL it in the marrow of their bones?

Will they have the courage to do the right thing when confronted by the unscrupulous twits who seem to be multiplying like ants?

Did you do “enough?”

Is this thought haunting you-”Will they ever come back home and be “mine” again?”

There it is………the cause of the sadness. 

On some deep level, we know they will come home again, but it will be different.

Not worse, not better, just different.

A natural bird's nest with four blue eggs in it.
The Nest

We worked hard to create that nest and feather it. 

They take flight because that is what is required to soar like an eagle and go find their own nest. Would you really want it any other way?

The fact that they have the confidence to step out of the nest means you did “enough.” 

Now it’s time to model the most important life lesson-how to live a life filled with joy.

They are watching YOU to see how it’s done. 

Sounds like a purpose to me.

You survived colic, toilet training, toddler tantrums, and the teen years. Consider letting go of adult children the next major transition in your parenting journey. You finally get to see the results of all that hard labor!

Which one of these thoughts holds you back from enjoying the (almost) empty nest?  

What would help you the most in overcoming these thoughts?  Please share in the comments. 

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