If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Empty Nest: A Look Back

Over the years I’ve found different ways to take stock of myself and my life. Recently I found an old excel spreadsheet (yeah I’m that much of a nerd that I do my soul-searching on spreadsheets) where I listed all of the roles I perform and than kept track of what I was doing in each role and how I felt about it. I kept this up from Oct 2006 (shortly after we moved to SouthLite) until May 2008. There are 7 entries total.

The roles I chose were: Physical Body, Mother, Wife, Researcher, Teacher, Mentor, Citizen at Work, Citizen of the World, Pet Owner, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Learner. Reading through the Mother Role entries made me realize just how long this empty nest process really has been.

October 2006
What I’m Doing
Nagging Angel about homework. Getting him up in the morning. Taking him on school tours. Trying to stay on top of applications. Trying to be there to talk to him about life, politics, relationships and school stress. Trying to enjoy him. Mostly trying to let him go.
How I’m Feeling
Conflicted. Proud of him, exasperated, exhausted with the process. I want him to go to college and I don’t want him to leave. But I also want a life that is free of daily childcare.

December 2006
What I’m Doing
Mostly focused on getting applications out. Talking to Angel about writing a lot, also about poetry, which is cool. Issues with his dad keep coming up and I try to let them happen when he wants them to but not to harp on them. Trying to reassure him that he’s worth us spending money on (i.e. his birthday).
How I’m Feeling
I am still looking forward to his leaving and dreading it. Some days I think it is never going to happen. Feel like I’m getting caught in the middle between him and b and don’t like it at all.

February 2007
What I’m Doing
Finished with applications for Angel, now I need to concentrate on financial aid. Talking and joking with him. Trying to let him know he’s ready to go.
How I’m Feeling
Good. Enjoying him. I’ve very relived that he’s been accepted to TeenyTinyExpensiveU. A little worried about his math grade but not overly. Worried about paying for college but I know I’ll figure it out.

March 2007
What I’m Doing
Trying to figure out how to pay for college and/or tell Angel that he can’t go to TeenyTinyExpensiveU. He’s off to Delaware and I’m glad he took that independent step. I nagged him to call his dad last week.
How I’m Feeling
Feel bad about forcing him to call his dad but also feel bad that he doesn’t. Feel horrible about not having the money for college and really horrible that his dad is being such a @%$. I hate to disappoint Angel and I know ultimately that he’ll be ok but I really want him to have this college experience and its not looking like I can do it for him. I feel like I’ve built up his dreams only to crush them.

August 2007
What I’m Doing
Helping Angel to get a job and prepare for independence; being supportive and available for discussions; nagging a bit; trying to get him out of the house and involved in activities and people.
How I’m Feeling
Feeling more positive. I think I’ve resolved a lot of the ambivalence around his deferment. Trying not to get exasperated with his manner of looking for work and his sleeping late. Trying to see all the positives he does and is. Striving for balance in terms of boundaries and roles.

November 2007
What I’m Doing
Mostly staying out of his way. Letting him set his work schedule, encouraging him to take on more responsibilities like his own banking. Not saying anything when he makes plans to go to HomeTown for his 18th birthday.
How I’m Feeling
Sad. Thinking a lot about motherhood because of project analysis. Anticipating how hard it will be when he goes to college next year. Missing little boy Angel. Fantasizing about being a grandmother one day. But also proud of him and enjoying him for the man he has become.

May 2008
What I’m Doing
Trying to plan a trip to Hometown with Angel and a trip to the beach. Talking with him and giving advice, when he wants it, on school and life. Trying to enjoy him but also be comfortable with him leaving. We go on walks together and hang out in the kitchen mostly. We go out to eat quite a bit too. I’ve allowed him to keep beer in the house and we’re trying to teach him how to drink responsibly.
How I’m Feeling
Very mixed. I’m proud of him for the hard work he’s doing and how well he does at work. I’m happy that he wants to go to college but I still worry that it will be hard for him and he’ll get discouraged. I got used to him being busy and unavailable all the time and now he wants to hang more. It seems like he’ll be around a lot this summer which I’ll enjoy but then it will make it harder to let him go. Overall I trust him and I know he’ll be fine but I also know when he comes back it won’t be the same.

I’m writing this from my bedroom, which is now the room that used to be his. Across the hall, our old bedroom has become my study. These 7 entries represent two full years of pre-empty nest emotion. I don’t need to read old posts to remember the extreme pain I went through when he finally did go away. It is only just now, two years into his college education, that I’m beginning to enjoy the child-free life I imagined back then.

The two years prior to him leaving and the two years since he’s been gone have been a nonstop balancing act. I have balanced my desire to hold on with his need to leave; I’ve balanced being there when he needs me with evaporating when he doesn’t; and I have balanced teaching and pushing him with letting him figure things out his own way and in his own time. It has not been easy. It has not been fun. And I know it is not yet over, but it is better.


Drax said...

What a trip, and that's just 7 entries from the "just mother" manifestation. You're lucky you have those cobwebby spreadsheets; so's Angel.

Julie said...

I love it, so I must be a big nerd, too:) One thing that really interests me about the entries is the "up and down" of it all. One day you feel confident, and the next day, you're sad. That is true to life and empty nest syndrome.

It also makes me think about how each mother goes through the process in different ways. My empty nest syndrome didn't begin until my daughter's second year of college (I tend to be the queen of denial). I think your way is much healthier. You began dealing with it before Angel left, and now you're much further ahead emotionally. That's great.

And in the middle of all the emotions, we have to deal with things like finances, applications, etc. This is a very good summary. You could turn it into an article for a mothering magazine.

Annie said...

Hi Brigindo,
Thank you for sharing this. In two days, my son turns sixteen, and I was just looking at next year's high school schedule recommended for him: five Advanced Placement classes (including calculus and two sciences), plus band, plus a foreign language- and I know I can't let that happen. When I tell the guidance counselor we'd like to work in the third computer course in an engineering sequence, her solution is to take his foreign language online, adding yet another class. Maybe I should start a spreadsheet (actually, a journal would do for me)- what we need to do, what I'd like to see happen for him, what he'd like to see happen, and how I feel about it all- as we plan for college, and I move from day to day parenting into something else. Right now, I just want to figure out how to help him stay organized, and, enjoy his life.

sandra said...

i love the headers on the excel sheet: 'what i'm doing' and 'how i'm feeing'. what a great idea! never having had kids (yet?) i do not know what it feels like when a child leaves. reading your post, though, made me think what my mom MAY have felt when i left. and i left rather 'suddenly/last minute'. she didn't really have time to prep the way you and other may have had. it wasn't negative; i just had an opportunity to move and took it before it was too late. :) but i never really thought about how she or my dad might feel about me leaving. of course, i was only 19. who really cared at that age? heheee.

Maggie May said...

This is so awesome. I love how wonderfully unique and interesting you are. I'd like to add this characteristic to my main girl in my novel. The " Spread sheet soul search "