College Daughters and Mom Falling In and Out of Love

When her college daughters came home for a break from school, this mom grew weary of the vacation. Her daughters had a bone to pick, too.

I heard Alicia Keye’s song, Fallin’ on the radio:

I keep on fallin’
In and out of love
with you
Sometimes I love ya
Sometimes you make me blue
Sometimes I feel good
At times I feel used
Lovin’ you darlin’
Makes me so confused

During the last vacation from school, all I could think about was my daughters and how ready I was for them to go back to college. Yet every post on Facebook I see is of smiling families enjoying their time together on winter break, taking mom and daughter selfies. Why do I feel differently? What is wrong with me? I REALLY want them to head back to school.

Don’t get me wrong I LOVE my high school and college daughters, but I also don’t love them at times. One moment I’m posting my mommy pride on social media, and the next I’m retreating to my bedroom to escape their company. One minute I’m searching Pinterest for that special recipe to eagerly whip up and show my love for them. The next I’m dismissively telling them to have a bowl of soup for dinner, exclaiming “Do I look like your personal chef?”

College daughters and mom on winter break

And the laundry. Oh, did I mention the laundry? How many towels do they have to use in one day. Really, how many? I didn’t even realize we had 63 towels! Yes, I counted. We have 63 damp towels in hampers, on bedroom floors, and tossed in my bathtub as if it too was a giant hamper. So, doing the math I have three daughters; if each one took one shower a day and used one towel for their hair, one for their body and, being generous, I add a washcloth into the mix for makeup removal. 3×3=9 towels a day times seven days a week, that’s 63 towels. Bam! And I didn’t even plan out that math. We just happen to have exactly 63 towels! I should get some kind of AP exam credit for that!

[More about helping your college kid assume control of the practicalities of adult life, including laundry, here.]

Speaking of credit, I can count on one hand and have a few fingers left over the number of times I have been given credit this week for a nice home cooked meal, clean, fabric softener smelling clothes, a well-stocked refrigerator full of berries, yogurt and Pom Tea. That’s right…I deserve some freaking credit. So to my college daughters, I say this:

“Ladies. Let’s give it up for MOM. Toss me a high-five now and again, or a “thank you” or even a smile. I’m serving it up to you. Granted I served them up more frequently on December 20 when you arrived home from the fall semester ready for the holidays – broke, exhausted and needing TLC. I felt bad for you, and actually missed you a lot. Now, however, you have become increasingly annoying and a lot of work. So your time is up! Time to give you back your wings and may a strong wind always be at your back. May the road rise up to meet you. Oh yes, and may you get good grades, I will be happy to see you again in the spring.”
Love, Mom

(And just like that they’re gone.) The next morning, their beds are empty, and the energy is gone and I’m immediately back in love with them again…I miss them terribly.

My college daughter’s perspective:

Not having been home since August, I was anxious to finally come home from school. I couldn’t wait to see my family, friends, and, especially, my dogs. I longed to sleep in my own bed and the thought of ANY cooking other than cafeteria food had me salivating. But after only a short while, I realized that being home is kind of boring…

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. But unlike my college friends, they aren’t down to order Chinese food and play scrabble until two in the morning. There’s always something to do at school no matter what time it is. When you have something to tell your friend you can just go knock on their door instead of texting them and waiting for a reply.

One of the biggest struggles is going from having complete autonomy to having chores and a curfew. Sleeping in my own bed just wasn’t as special when I was suddenly expected to be in it by a certain hour. At school, it was my choice to clean my room or make my bed. When I’m home it’s expected and I’m admonished if it’s not done correctly.

Can’t you see that I’m an adult now!? I take the subway and call to make reservations and file for tax returns for goodness sake! Being home from school is like taking a time machine back to childhood. I’m expected to take responsibility and make adult decisions but also be in bed by 11. It’s maddening.

I do understand where my parents are coming from. They’re “in charge” as long as I’m under their roof. Hell, as long as they’re paying for school they’re in charge there too. And maybe I have been taking advantage of not having to do my own laundry or dishes every day but after a whole semester of living in what one could describe as a cramped, jail cell-like cube and studying my ass off 24/7, giving any bit of comfort is like a throwing a life-preserver to a drowning man. We might not immediately thank you for it but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

[More about “my house, my rules.” Is this your approach with your college kids?]

What I would like my parents to understand is that I’m not the same person who left home five months ago. My life, the way I see the world and myself, have completely shifted. And while nothing has changed at home, I have changed. I don’t want to be coddled or monitored; I want to be treated as an adult. Ask me my opinion about the news. Offer me a glass of wine at dinner (and don’t kid yourselves…you know I drink at school.) Don’t speak in that weird “half-whisper” when you’re gossiping about the neighbors, I’m not going to go knock on their door and tell them.

I’m sure I’ll miss them as soon as my flight takes off, and again when I burn my eggs, and again when my laundry is still damp after drying. But I’m excited to continue on my voyage into adulthood in the hopes that next break, my curfew might be extended to 11:30.

Related:

Home (Bitter) Sweet Home: a College Student’s Perspective

Clean is Sexy and 58 Other Bits of Advice for Sons

Megan Murphy, mother of three, is Certified Professional Coach (CPC), Energy Leadership-Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) and Score certified mentor earning her coaching certifications through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).  She is founder of The Kindness Rocks Project and Vice President of Flower Angels USA, a nonprofit located on Cape Cod where she resides with her husband, three teenage daughters and two giant dogs. She thanks her daughter, Maggie Murphy, Freshman, class of 2019 at American University (International Relations) for her input on this post.

Check out her website or look for her on Instagram and Facebook.

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