I Need to Stop Anticipating My Empty Nest and Live In the Moment

My oldest son graduated last Spring and is rarely home even though he still keeps a bed here. Between his job, hobbies, and social life I might see him twice a week. We text several times throughout the day and I know he mostly responds to appease me–he knows I miss him terribly.

Since I had my three kids in three years, I feel like his graduation turned on a set of emotions I can’t turn off. It made me realize that in a few short years they will all be graduating and leaving me to start a life that’s all their own as they should.

In a few short years all three of my teens will be gone. (Katie Bingham Smith and son.)

I’m wasting time feeling sorry for myself

I’ve spent so much time this past year feeling sorry for myself, being nostalgic, and thinking about their younger years when it seemed like I had all the time in the world to spend with them, that I’ve forgotten the facts.

The truth is, my youngest just entered high school and my daughter is a junior. I still have a lot of time with them and just because their time at home is way more than half over (breathe and suck in the tears) doesn’t mean it should be wasted while I worry and think about what’s to come.

The other day as I was vacuuming the upstairs hallway I walked by my kids’ bedrooms where, of course, they all were on their beds on their phones. I realized that I’d spent the morning thinking about how I’d be taking them shopping for their last homecoming dances.

I’d woken up that morning with a plan to get a bunch of stuff done so we could go shopping then out to lunch because I had to soak this time up since it was about to pass me by. All that did was make me feel anxious, rushed and sad. Instead of enjoying a relaxing afternoon with my kids and letting it be what it was: a nice time with my children, I was trying too hard to make it perfect.

I discovered when they were younger that memories and moments could not be manufactured. I learned that the hard way after pouring over Pinterest projects and planning family outings that no one wanted to go on. I put so much pressure on myself to create moments that were magical and wonderful and unforgettable.

My kids had no interest in taking art supplies on a nature walk and drawing what they saw. They didn’t care about the fact I’d spent hours trying to turn our home into a snowglobe for the holidays or all day in the kitchen to make everything from scratch for Thanksgiving. 

They don’t remember those first birthdays when I felt like I had to have party favors that matched the cake that matched the decorations that matched their damn outfits.

Magical moments with your kids can’t be manufactured

Once I learned that, the second chapter of being a mother began for me.

And yet, here I am doing it again; trying to manufacture moments for them (but mostly for me) because I know we are now in the last years of living under one roof. Just like when they were younger, it might take me some time to adjust and realize I need to let go; to live in the moment; to stop anticipating a future I have no control over.

I knew when I had kids they would grow up and leave me. I certainly didn’t know it would happen so fast and hurt this much even before it officially happened. But I can at least try with all I have in me to be present and cherish the moments they are here. I can try to stop gripping on so tightly and feeling like every moment has to be perfect.

The time is going to pass anyway. It always does. It will be a lot less painful if I face it without having looming thoughts of them growing up and moving out in the back of my mind at every moment.

Wish me luck.

More Great Reading:

21 Things You’ll Love About The Empty Nest

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

Read more posts by Katie

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