Adjusting To An Empty Nest Brings Grief, But Also Freedom
When you're facing a major life change, it helps to talk to someone who has already been through it.All Things Consideredis connecting people on either side of a shared experience, and they're letting us eavesdrop on their conversations in our seriesBeen There.
For Crystal Joyce this school year is a series of lasts: her son's last picture day, his last marching band halftime show, their last Boy Scout troop meeting together
It's all building toward next fall, when her son, her youngest child, leaves for college, leaving just Crystal and her husband at home in Winston-Salem, N.C. It will be the beginning of a transition to, "maybe not being needed as much as a mom," Crystal says.
After 21 years of parenting, between her son and her older daughter, Crystal, 52, is bracing for a difficult adjustment. "I'm feeling that little bit of grief there," Crystal says, "wondering how I'm going to get through that."
Ana Machado's three sons have all left home and graduated college. Now 55, she says she enjoys the freedom, but still remembers how sad she felt preparing for them to move out. She says she would walk by their empty bedrooms at her home in Andover, Mass., sit down on the stairs and cry. "It was really, really hard," she says.
Ana tells Crystal to focus on the positive. "Think about all the good things you did — how great your kids are because of you," Ana says. "Those are not little things."
Advice from Ana Machado
On filling time that was spent on kids' activities
I started doing things that were out of my comfort zone. Because when we are moms, we are kind of behind them, even to make friends. We go to school. We make friends there. Everything that we do is based on their lives. Try to remember things that you liked to do before, and try to do them. Start little by little. It's not going to be easy. It hurts in the beginning. It really hurts. I think the pain is even physical.
On the surprising things you miss about your kids
I even miss things that I hated. I used to come home with all my papers from work, books. I was not seeing anything in front of me, and I would trip over their backpacks and shoes. So, now they're not there anymore, and I miss that. I miss tripping when I got home. So, you miss everything.
On keeping in touch
I call them as much as I want, but I tend to call them two or three times a week. But that becomes a great moment in your day, in your week, when you talk to them, and you see they are doing fine. Or even when they're not doing fine, they need you. It's reassuring when they come to you and they're still looking for our input, our help.
On how her relationship with her husband changed
It became different, but different good, after the boys were out. Like, one day we went to Boston, just to go to a restaurant and to walk around. And all of a sudden I said, "Oh my God, we have to go home." And he says to me, "Why?" We had no reason to hurry up and to go home. It's weird in the beginning, but you get used to your new freedom, and it's really good.
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