It Took My Sons Leaving Home for Me to Realize I’d Lost Sight Of My Dreams

I’ll be honest right up front: I was never the Mom who martyred herself for her children. I never neglected myself or my needs when my kids were growing up — I’m definitely a “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” kind of gal. However, somewhere along the way as I was raising my family, I lost sight of my dreams.

Sure, I still had goals — I work in sales so it’s practically in my DNA but I’m not talking about goals (things I want to accomplish or achieve), I’m talking about dreams — my dreams for myself. As parents, when we’re raising our kids we have tons of dreams — for them and for our family and that was so fulfilling I didn’t even realize I’d quit dreaming my own dreams. I wanted them to be happy, content, sure of themselves, to do all the things they wanted to do, to be good people, to go far in life (whatever that means to them).

I wanted my marriage to thrive, for my husband to love me more than the day we met — I wanted big things for my children, my marriage, my family, my life but what did I really want for myself? What was my passion — outside of my family?

Tracy Hargen and family
It wasn’t until my teens left home that I began to examine my life. (Tracy Hargen)

I tried to imagine what was my “passion”

It’s not like I ignored this, it had been in the back of my mind for a long time but I’d never really found my true passion so I never dwelled on it. I figured it would come to me when the time was right.

I’d seen my husband’s passion in action. He loves coaching lacrosse — he loves working with young men teaching them the values of teamwork, sportsmanship, and life in general. His passion for it goes way beyond winning or losing a lacrosse game. He gets to share his love of the game and his love of coaching and mentoring.

His enthusiasm for working with his players is evident to all who have had a son on his team or seen him when he’s talking with them. He does all this in addition to his Day Job — he does it because he loves it. And it’s a beautiful thing to see someone living their dream!

man coaching lacrosse
My husband loves coaching lacrosse. (Tracy Hargen)

Me, I’ve never discovered “my thing.” I remember someone asking me what I thought about being when I was a little girl — what did I want to be when I grew up — that’s what I should pursue. Well, I wanted to be a vet because I loved animals. I have pets now but I don’t think that’s guiding me to my passion.

We’ve all heard sayings like — “Do what you love; love what you do,” “Your true passion is the thing you would do for free because you love it that much,” “Find your purpose”, etc. I bought into this — hook, line, and sinker! I also bought the books, attended the seminars, listened to the podcasts but still, it hit me one day that somewhere along the way — I don’t know when — all my dreams included other people.

I know when I was a girl I had dreams, then as a young woman just starting my career, as a new wife, a new Mom, etc but when did my dreams morph from what I wanted to what I wanted with those I love? Maybe this is part of being a Mom — you are no longer at the center. There are people you love more than yourself. People you would die for.

When my teens left home my perspective changed

Becoming an empty nester has changed my perspective — it’s been a time of reflection — what do I want to do with the rest of my life? Truthfully — it’s very exciting! One particular day I was missing my kids like crazy so I decided to write to them — about our lives and all the things we did. I know they have their own memories but I loved the book Lift by Kelly Corrigan which is a letter to her kids with her memories. I thought it was a great idea so I embarked on writing one of my own.

I wrote for hours — lost track of time — was so engrossed that I had pages and pages of topics that I still wanted to write about. I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of what I wanted to say and what I wanted them to know and remember. Writing about them brought up so many wonderful memories and it made them feel close to me — I think I’m onto something here!

As I was working on this new endeavor, I wrote a part about how their Dad and I had made a conscious choice early on to be friends with them. That part of the letter turned into this post that I submitted to Grown and Flown and that they published. That published post sparked something in me — something deep inside that had been dormant. I’ve always loved writing and even had a few pieces published (Well, only if you call the blog of the company I once worked for “published”) but this was different — this writing made me feel alive!

When I write about my family, our experiences, our lives, I feel so happy, it’s like I have adrenaline running through my veins. And because I’m writing for them and no one else, I feel free — free to say exactly what I want to say in the way I want to say it — honest and real! And when I write something that becomes a post, I’m writing it like I’m talking to my husband, my boys, or a favorite girlfriend.

And voila — I found my passion! I don’t think about “Where will this piece be published?” or “Will I make money at this?” or “Will this become my next career?” Although I usually plan and strategize for the next thing, the next goal, I don’t care where this goes — I’m just enjoying doing it — that sure sounds like passion to me.

And when I’m writing, I’m hoping that if it does get published it helps someone — someone who feels like they are alone or the only one who feels this way. I’m hoping to put things into the world that have inspiration and meaning — that certainly sounds like purpose. I literally dream about the next thing I’ll write — yes, I have dreams for myself again…

Empty nesting is a time for reflection and a wonderful opportunity to explore what you want for yourself and your life. It’s inside us all even if it’s been dormant for years and it’s worth the wait even if it takes time to find. Here’s to dreaming and here’s to finding your passion if you’re still searching — something we all deserve to discover!

More Great Reading?

Mom, Can We Talk? 





About Tracy Hargen

Through her writing and work as a mental health advocate, Tracy Hargen shows people the importance of talking openly about difficult issues and getting help. Her family’s very personal journey with depression can be found on CBS This Morning. Look for her work on Grown and Flown and in the book Grown and Flown: How To Support Your Teen, Stay Close As A Family and Raise Independent Adults.

Read more posts by Tracy

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.