Five days before my youngest daughter left for college, I woke up with a pit in my stomach. I knew that my solo empty nest was imminent. This pit was all too familiar to me even though I had not felt it in quite a while. It was the feeling that I woke up with almost every day for years after my husband died. This pit that had pretty much gone away when I took control of my life and learned to move forward.
There it was again – that feeling of dread.
My baby was leaving for her freshman year of college a plane ride away. Her older sister had recently moved into an apartment in Manhattan, where she is beginning her junior year of college. She is thankfully only 45 minutes from our suburban New Jersey home, but she still no longer lives with me.
I had been feeling pretty good about my daughters both being away. This is what I want for them, what the three of us have all worked so hard for over the past eight years. My goal when their dad died was to raise two happy, healthy, successful people despite our tragic loss. At times, this has been an extremely tough road. All three of us have had obstacles in our paths that have challenged us beyond belief.
Right now, I believe that my girls are where they belong. They are happy and that makes me a very happy mom. Plus, I honestly need some time alone. Being a solo working parent is exhausting and I need to finally breathe a little.
I had been working for this, I was ready for this…or so I thought.
I woke up on that Sunday morning and my first thought was, “This is the last weekend morning she will be down the hall from me”. Ugh there it was – that pit in my stomach.
I know I am not the only one. Every parent goes through this. But what makes me, and others like me, unique is that there is no one beside me to say, “OK we are alone now. What should we do?”
I don’t just have an empty nest, I have a solo empty nest.
That was what faced me that morning. In five days I would not be waking up to a quiet house, I would be waking up to a silent house.
These girls of mine have been my world for eight years. Ok more like 20 years, but mine alone for eight. Every step I took, every decision I made, was for them. This is not to say I never made a mistake, I made plenty, but I always tried my best. Our loss and our getting through it together has bonded us in a special way. They saved me just as much as I saved them.
And now they are off. I am so proud of them and the women they are becoming. They are very special girls.
I did my job, and I know that job is not now or will ever be over. I will always be their mom and we will always need each other. But it will be different now.
Five days after that morning pit in my stomach, I moved my youngest into her dorm. This is her dream and I love that it is happening for her. Her sister as well.
Now I am home. And my house is silent.
I am definitely struggling a bit but, at the same time, I am enjoying it. For the most part, I don’t mind being alone. I don’t have to make dinner when they are hungry, I don’t have to drive anyone, and my house is clean. It is peaceful.
More importantly, I am realizing that while my girls were my absolute top priority over these eight years, I was also somehow able to create a life for myself. I have a wonderful boyfriend who means the world to me, I have a lovely “day job”. I have found my passion in writing and the creation of Living the Second Act with my partner Mimi. I am thankful to have the best friends in the world, both near and far. I also have my yoga practice, which helps keep me sane and I truly love. And I cannot forget my dog, who makes my solo empty nest house not so empty.
I have always had a hard time with change, and this is a big one. I am easing into it trying to remember that it is best to look forward.
I am also finding that these girls of mine still need their mom. “Mom, can you pick up my contacts and send them to me?”, “Mom, can you bring my necklace in to be fixed?”, and “Mom, can you send me pictures of the dog?” are just a few of the requests I have gotten this week.
That pit in my stomach gets a little better each day. The three of us are survivors and we always have each other, even if we are not in the same house.
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Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.