Almost Empty Nest: Thoughts for Moms Preparing to Launch their Not So Little Birds

I hate that term- empty nest. It conjures up this image of washed-up mama and papa birds sitting there alone doing nothing but pining for their children. I refuse to pine. Will I miss my children? Of course! Will I rejoice each and every time they are home? Absolutely! Will I sit around and be sad every moment because my existence as I knew it has permanently changed? No way!

When I drop my youngest off at college this Fall, I recognize that will be a life-altering moment. I have spent the last twenty years primarily being a mom. As a single parent for most of that time, I rarely felt like I had time for myself. I would often put off the things I wanted to do until “someday.”

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With the kids off on their own, I remembered that I am an ambitious person and have things to do with no time to waste. So instead of sitting around my house on the couch crying into my dog with remote in hand, I plan to catch up on all my “someday” things. Someday, I could take a job like that. Someday I may have time to focus on the book I want to write. Someday I may choose not to cook dinner or do laundry right away. Someday, I will find time to visit my friend on the East Coast, get to the dermatologist and take that cooking class. Someday. In between my sadness and pride, watching my birds launch into the world, I realized that my someday is almost here. I will not be pining. I will be doing all my somedays.

Allow Your Feelings

When I dropped my oldest off at college two years ago, the emotions were overwhelming. I was so proud and completely devastated at the same time. Although I knew I would feel this whirlwind of emotions, there was nothing I could do to prepare for the actual moment when I walked away. Another mom told me to wear big sunglasses, which was the best advice I received. They allowed me to tear up and cry as I walked away without feeling like a blubbering mess. I kept it together during the hug goodbye and waved with a smile, but as soon as I turned to walk away, I felt the tears springing from my eyes and rolling down my cheeks.

In that moment of walking away and the days that followed, I shared how I felt with friends and family. They listened as I cried and laughed and processed the whirlwind of emotions that ensued. As I spoke to my daughter over the next few weeks and listened to her stories of settling in, I could hear the excitement and happiness in her voice. With every conversation, I cried a little less. I started to feel relief and pride. She was okay, even happy. I had raised an independent, confident young woman and launched her into the world. It felt like I had achieved the greatest promotion of my life!

I realized that I would always miss her, but I was also so proud of myself for showing up every single day as the best mom I could be and although I will continue to show up for her, I acknowledged that it would be different moving forward. Remember, you’re not alone in feeling a mix of joy and sadness as you anticipate this significant life shift. Now with my youngest leaving in a matter of months, I am steeling myself for that walk away moment and all that follows, but this time I also have a long list of somedays to start marking off my list.

Rediscover Yourself

Now is the time to revisit your passions and rediscover the interests that may have taken a backseat during the bustling parent years. Whether it’s reigniting a hobby, pursuing a long-postponed dream, or exploring new avenues, the empty nest stage offers a unique opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. For me, this means working on the book I have put off for decades and pushing my career to heights I didn’t have time or energy for before now. It means breathing life back into myself in ways I didn’t allow before.

Cultivate Connections

While the physical presence of your children will decrease, your need for connection remains vital. Strengthen relationships with your partner, friends, and other family members. Schedule regular outings, plan weekend getaways, and relish the support and camaraderie that your social circle can provide. Be honest with others about feelings. If the empty nest stage is hitting hard and you need to spend six months crying on someone’s shoulder, then by all means find friends who will allow you that space to grieve a phase of life gone by. I celebrate all moms in all phases with all emotions. There is no right way to do this and no “better” or “worse” way to feel. Just feel it, embrace it and lean on friends and family to help.

The minute you exit the other side, however. the world opens up. You are no longer responsible for the daily goings on of any kids. Yes, of course we still need to show up at our jobs and make that money to pay for college or support our kids’ fledging efforts in their adult life, but we have earned the right and privilege to do whatever the heck we want on the weekends! Sleep in. Eat brunch all day. Go on that weekend trip with friends. Read shamelessly for hours. Do. Be. Live.  Your freedom has returned and it’s yours to fly with.

Embrace New Adventures

The empty nest phase is an invitation to embark on new adventures. Plan trips, explore different cuisines, or take up a physical activity you’ve always wanted to try. By embracing fresh experiences, you not only create cherished memories but also foster a sense of excitement about the future. Not only will your kids have tons of stories to tell during their visit home, but so will you.

Becoming an empty nester is not the end of a chapter but the beginning of a new one filled with opportunities for self-discovery, personal growth, and exciting adventures. Embrace the journey with an open heart, celebrate the successes of your children, and savor the beauty of this evolving chapter in your life. Your “somedays” are today!

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Tamara Nowlin
Tamara was born and raised in Southern California. She obtained her B.A. in Political Science & Sociology from Pepperdine and after undergrad attended Southern Methodist University Law School in Dallas, Texas. Tamara has resided in Ventura County for the last 14 years where she lives with her two teenage children. In her career she has enjoyed many roles from attorney to school admissions to marketing & legal communications. She is the founder of a local writing services business called Yellow Daisy Writers. She offers writing help for small businesses and job seekers as well as special event writing for weddings and other milestones. Tamara loves to travel, write, go to the beach, eat at fun restaurants, and hang out with her kids. On an average day you will find her with her nose in a book or doing yoga. Tamara is excited to join Ventura Mom’s Collective and contribute to her community in a new way!


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