I’ve got a secret to share with you. For a while, I thought I was a terrible mother.
It’s true. I want you to know that I was honest when I said I would miss my daughter when she went off to college. I truly do miss her. It was out-and-out heart-break when we dropped her off. That wasn’t a lie. Nor was it a lie when I said life would change dramatically when she was away and we were left behind. But that dramatic change? I’m not going to lie, a partially empty nest hasn’t been all that bad.
Let me first say that I miss my college freshman. I truly do. Her (freshly cleaned) room waits for her return. While the dogs keep going in there looking for her, the cat’s enjoying having the bed all to herself. I know my girl will be home soon enough, and I will always look forward to having her back under our roof. But truth be told: it’s kind of nice having less laundry, more hot water, and lower utility bills now that she’s off at school.
Seriously, my water bill when she was at home averaged anywhere from $160-$180 per month. The first two bills we received after she left for college were $91 and $93 respectively. That doesn’t suck.
You know what else doesn’t suck? The lack of bickering between my kids. 18 was home from college two weekends ago and we went as a family to a concert in Pennsylvania. 16 wasn’t feeling all that great and she climbed into the way back seat of the car to lie down, and apparently, she accidentally kicked or brushed 18 with her foot in the process of climbing back there. 18 was so aggravated at this blatant assault that she complained for a full 15 minutes. I tell you no lie when I say all I thought about for those 15 minutes was “God I really don’t miss this one bit!”
18 also came home last weekend to see her sister perform in a local marching band competition. It was cold weather and 16 was wearing a pair of black athletic leggings under her marching band uniform. 18 was certain that those were HER leggings and made a point to nag 16 about it for what seemed like an hour. It was probably much less than that but the constant bitching made time stand still. Holy crap I didn’t miss that one bit!
There are far fewer dirty dishes in the sink, far fewer science experiments doubling as uneaten lunches found in 18’s bedroom, far fewer dirty clothes to be sorted through and far less gas being consumed with only having one teenager to drive around as opposed to two. It really doesn’t suck!
I was feeling guilty even THINKING about writing this piece because of how hard the letting go process was for me. The days and weeks leading up to her departure were truly difficult, and we spent as much time together in preparation for the separation. When we dropped her off, I thought I’d never feel right or whole again. I felt as if a piece of myself was missing when we returned home. But after some time and some thought, that piece of myself isn’t really missing. It’s just relocated. Don’t get me wrong, our house is not whole without her being home. But change is inevitable and we all must face that life moves forward. Things won’t stay the same, our children grow and change. Nothing lasts forever.
But change can be good. I shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying this new reality. She’s where she’s supposed to be, and I’ve accepted that. And in the process, I’ve learned to enjoy our new reality. I’ve let go of the guilt and realized that the partially empty nest isn’t actually so bad after all.
Teri Biebel is a working mom of two teenage daughters. She is a writer, a ranter, a fan-girl and has a huge crush on Mike Rowe. Her work can be found in The New York Times Bestselling book I Just Want to Pee Alone, and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Snarkfest.