What to Expect When Your First Child Leaves Home

What to Expect When Your First Child Leaves Home

I remember when my daughter was born, she was colicky and I would stay up all night trying to comfort her. I couldn’t understand why people would tell me, “Enjoy this moment because in a blink of an eye they are all grown up”. Were you kidding me! I couldn’t get through this stage fast enough and get a good nights sleep! Now, my colicky baby girl is about to turn 20 years old and has just moved to literally the other side of the world, to Israel. I sure do understand that statement now, as I would give anything to turn back the hands of time and rock her back to sleep.

There are two times when parenting is the most difficult. When the baby first arrives at home, and when the adult first leaves the home.

Jennifer Quinn

No one prepared me for what it would like when she grew up and moved away from home. Saying goodbye to her is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The night before, she sat in my bed and I tearfully told her how much I loved her and how I would always be there for her. She looked at me and said, “You know mom, I’m not dying, just moving out”. So, I admit I have a flair for the dramatic, but the sorrow was real. It was gut wrenching for me to think that I wouldn’t be taking walks with her, staying up all night laughing, and driving in her car with her blasting rap songs.

In Jerusalem, Israel

It’s been 6 weeks now and I am finally able to write this blog without wiping tears from my eyes. So, I would like to give some advice to other parents getting ready to send their kids to college or are leaving the home.

Allow Yourself Time to Grieve

Having your first child leave home can cause a sense of loss. As a single mother, it was always my children and I against the world. We did everything together. I miss the three of us binging on a Netflix series or getting our Sunday donuts for breakfast. It’s hard letting go of that security and sending your child off to a place where they are going to find new things they love to do, that no longer involve you. Don’t beat yourself up for taking time to grieve. People will probably tell you not to be sad, that this is just how life works. That doesn’t make it any easier.

Don’t Take it Personally if You Do Not Hear From Them Often

When my daughter first got to Israel, she texted and face timed me a lot. But the longer she has been gone the less I hear from her. I had to remind myself that her not needing to talk to me as much does not mean that she loves me any less. She is just busy doing new things, making new friends, traveling and embracing her experience. She still loves and cares about me, even if she stops calling and texting me like she used to. Remember, “no news is good news!” It is good news! This is what I had wished for her. I wished for her happiness and she is finding it.

Have Faith That it Will Get Easier

I didn’t believe anyone who told me that. But it’s true. As time passes it becomes easier to accept your new reality. Yes, things are different, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be a good thing. I am learning to be alright with having “me time”. It’s not so bad enjoying the moments of silence and getting to read that book that’s been covered in dust on your book shelf. I am finally able to enjoy long hot showers again, as she is not using up all of the hot water with her nightly 45 minute showers. I also have more time to spend with my son one on one, and I cherish that time.

When You Do Hear From Your Child Focus on the Wonderful Things They Are Experiencing, Instead of How Much You Miss Them

When I do get the rare phone call or text, I give my full attention to her stories and I tell her how proud of her I am. Now that I am not so emotional, I feel proud much more often than I feel sad. How wonderful is it that she had the courage to move to the other side of the world? She is meeting people from all over and traveling as often as she can. She loves being in Israel and is immersing herself in the culture and traditions of the Israeli people. She is living her life to the fullest and that makes me happy. I focus on that and it really helps

No Matter How Old They Get or Far Away They Are, They Will Always Need Their Family

My daughter may no longer need me to take care of her, she still needs to know that she can always count on me and rely on me to be there for her. Knowing that I was always going be there for her made going away easier on her. It was very scary for her at first and she was lonely. Knowing that she can could call me at anytime of the day or night helped give her the confidence to branch out and try new things.

I am now at a point where I can think about her and be excited for her instead of sad that she is gone. I treasure our facetimes and hearing about her new life. I have such respect and admiration for her and can take pride in knowing that I raised such a strong and independent girl. She is free spirit and has finally found a place where she can fly, and I am honored to watch her soar.

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years working in Community mental Health. I currently Supervise the Behavioral Health Benefit for an insurance company. I speak publicly on issues that affect mental health in the workplace.

11 Comments

  • Colette Secord

    You have no idea how much this blog means to me right now. I would love to say that it goes away when the second moves out but it really does not get any better. In fact, it is worse I feel because now I am really close to being an empty nester and that thought is absolutely mortifying. My youngest just moved away for the summer and the empty feeling inside is horrific. I struggled when my middle baby moved out but I still had my youngest. The oldest is a boy and although it would be sad I feel like as a mother I would handle his move more simply because although we are close, he is not my shopping partner, he didn’t share his crushes and whatnot growing up and we did not watch the same girly shows together. It is different with girls for sure. I have not stopped crying both inside and on the outside because it is just a void, a blank empty feeling. I know it will pass but for right now it is absolutely horrible.

    • Functional Randi

      I appreciate you sharing your story with me. I can totally relate. My youngest will be a senior next year and I imagine that goodbye will most certainly be harder, because I will be an empty nester. I can’t even think about it without crying. So, I am trying to be pro active and figure out who I am when I’m not a mom, but I imagine that will be a difficult journey. That is actually what motivated me to start my blog!

  • Allison

    Love this! Next year I will be facing this for the first time. My heart broke for you when she first left. I imagined me in your place. Now, with your sharing, I see it is not only survivable but all can be happy and thrive.

  • Sandra Riguzzi

    Oh yes – my daughter is in Germany and traveling all over Europe and I hear from her once a week. I am grateful to have facetime, because that is way better than a phone call. They will be home before you know it.

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