It’s been almost a year since my daughter graduated high school. I can’t believe she will soon be done with her first year of college! These last few months have been a transition period for all of us. Luckily, her college is only 25 minutes away, so, for now, she is a commuter student. She attends classes five days a week and often stays after school to study. The house is not bustling with activity like it used to be. I tell myself this is just part of the empty nest transition.

A Midlife Realization

One thing I’ve realized over the last few months is I’m no longer my daughter’s Mom. My Mom cred is gone! My red card was pulled (former soccer Mom can you tell?), I’ve been ejected and summoned to the sidelines! For years my daughter’s friends called me Mom or Mamma Crystal. I enjoyed the connection that I shared with her friends, and they knew that I was always there when and if they needed me. We’d have the best conversations during carpool. Something about being exhausted from 3 hours of cheer practice will do that to you. The girls would open up to me about things that they’d never be able to talk about with their own moms.

Since my daughter is an only child, having these relationships gave me an extended family without having to birth additional kids, deal with new attitudes, or get grey hairs teaching kids how to drive. Her friends also appreciated the fact that I spoke honestly to them. I never sugarcoat situations and can be honest to a fault, but I knew I was getting through to them and they appreciated the advice. Since the traffic in my city sucks, we had plenty of time to converse. Of course, the majority of the talks would be about boys or complicated relationships with other girls. The basis of all my advice would be “Know Your Worth.” Funny, we can tell others that, but have trouble incorporating that in our own midlife lives (I’m saving that for a later blog post.)

I know all this may sound crazy but think about it. From the time our children are young, people refer to us as “Anthony’s Mom,” or “Christine’s Mom.” Hell, I didn’t know half of the mom’s real names in elementary school or junior high. Being your child’s mom is a part of your identity, that’s who you are to so many people. Even in high school, it was always “Hi Aryn’s Mom!” or “Aren’t you Aryn’s Mom?” Being identified this way brings you a sense of pride and purpose.

A College Freshman’s Realization

Since starting college, my daughter is trying to find her niche, which I assured her would take time. Being a commuter student has its pros and cons. On one hand she’s still surrounded by the comforts of home, and on the other hand, she feels as though she is “missing out” on the college experience because she IS a commuter student. Her school has special activities and events specifically for commuters that help integrate them with the student body. She has joined a few clubs to meet people, but she is shy.

Even if she makes new friends, the difference is I probably won’t see or get to know this new set of people in her life. Her college life will be somewhat separate from her home life. There are no more sports teams, cheer competitions, carpool pickups or booster clubs. Just like that, it’s all over. When her friends came home for the holidays, they hung out as much as time allowed. They are looking forward to Spring Break and are already working on their summer bucket lists. I’m excited for her, and also happy to be able to see all these kiddos who kept me feeling young! (For that I thank you!) I have to remember that this is a transition period for her as well. For the last 4 years she was with her friends daily, now she is on her own for the most part. Sometimes we forget that our kids are experiencing their own form of empty nest syndrome!

Where Does This Leave Me?

In truth, it makes me a little sad just how things have begun to change. Since I am no longer flexing my Mom Cred, I need to work on getting MY identity back — the identity that I had BEFORE I had my daughter. It has been so long, and I wonder if I can remember who I was before I was her Mom. When faced with this dilemma, do we decide to use midlife as a way of capturing who we were so many moons ago, or do we look ahead and use this time to ‘reinvent” who we are now? No one wants to admit that they have an identity crisis, but that is precisely what we are going through. The role that I have cherished for the last 19 years is changing whether I want it to or not.

I am looking forward to the next stage of our relationship. I have always believed that when raising children we should be their parents NOT their best friends. Now that my baby girl is an adult, we can become friends. I’m confident that I raised her well, and have guided her to become a responsible, well-adjusted adult. On the flip side, I am also looking forward to (although with apprehension) exploring and recapturing my second half identity. Let’s see how this goes…

Do you feel you’ve lost your Mom Cred?

Are you finding your identity?

Have you experienced these feelings?

How did you cope with your transition?

Please comment below to keep the conversation going.