Your Teen Graduated from High School. Feel Free to Exhale and Focus on You

The graduation tassel has been officially been turned!

They did it!

And now your teen can happily disembark from the four year long rocky cruise affectionally known as high school!

And you? Their cruise director? Well, since your time on that job has now abruptly ended, and with relief you’ve finally steered that ship to shore, you’re probably wavering between sadness, despair, joy, sadness, despair, joy, sadness…well, you get the idea. 

So now what do you do with all that buzzing, mothering energy that needs to find a new hive to settle into and manage?

Does your student now need help with community college or university prep? Are they joining the service or headed to trade school? Are they hitting the workforce and require job guidance?

If any of those are the case, wonderful!  By all means, go ahead and transfer all those “managing your high schooler” skills into helping them chug along at whatever the next phase of their life looks like.

Big jump at lake
Your kid has graduated and you’ve earned your couple time, parents. (@elias.lika via Twenty20)

How to Think About Your New Life

But can you do one thing for me? Can you *help* them a little less? Can you respond with, “I think you can figure that out for yourself” when they ask you to do something you know they’re fully capable of doing for themselves?

Can you finally begin the very necessary, highly uncomfortable, yet fundamental process of loosening those apron strings, cutting off the 18 year long umbilical cord that is attaching your heart to their everything, and maybe, just maybe, entertain for the first time what you’re gonna do with the next phase of your life?

Listen, this won’t be easy at all on you. Even the most burned out mothers who have been craving this light at the end of the tunnel for years, and finally feel like they have permission to let go, will find the reality of doing so is anything BUT easy.

It won’t feel easy either, rather, think of it as if someone is saying to you, “Hey right handed lady, your right hand is pretty tired, right?  So why don’t you go ahead and use your left hand from now on?”

First you get excited, then you wake up the next morning and try to make coffee with only your left hand, and the whole day already feels out of whack. How do I do this? How do I shift my “all day, every day maternal thinking paths” to new ones where the only path I see is the one waiting just for me to journey on? And even if I can start doing that, isn’t it selfish? I mean, I do still have kids!

No, it’s not selfish, and even though it will genuinely feel that way for a while, this is when it’s imperative to keep trying out that new feeling of putting yourself first, and to fight through the thoughts that keep saying you’re being self-indulgent to want to do something with your life.

It’s incumbent that for your future (and you do have a post kids future, I promise), that you practice plenty of self-talk that tells you only all the positive by-products of this new future. And it’s a future that includes you allowing yourself to be in a place where your daily energy isn’t zapped by the needs of your children, but is recharged by tending to the new needs in your life.

And what are those new needs exactly?

Well, this is the best part. They’re whatever you want them to be! They can be watering your probably very neglected marriage garden for a while. They can be finding new hobbies, new friends, new jobs, or they can be absolutely nothing at all, and that counts too! Finding and marinating in your new passion for some well earned peace is a legit passion!

I can bet over the last four years of ushering your teen through high school (and all the social, academic, and mental drama that came right along with it), you almost never had what I like to call an authentically slow evening. By this I mean, nothing and nobody to care for but yourself and maybe your spouse, where you could be completely satisfied (and allowed) with eating a piece of cheese and drinking a highball for dinner, all in bed.  But guess what? YOU CAN NOW!

And don’t be consumed and overly concerned with the way and how this whole shifting your focus is supposed to look. In the same way your experience raising teens was likely vastly different than everyone else’s, so is your journey from 100% present mother to whatever the heck percent you want to be of someone else. Just like there was no right and wrong way to fill and fluff up your nest, there is no right and wrong way for you to empty it,  and then be filled up again with whatever you choose.

Bottom line, give yourself heaps of grace at this point in your life, especially if your last kid just graduated high school. (And honestly, if you still have more kids to get through high school, go ahead and start this entire process now, so when that last little one goes, you’ll already be partially efficient at taking care of YOU.) Either way, as much as is possible to enjoy this awkward feeling of the shifting focus process, you’ve got to try to do just that, because the alternative?  It’s called a midlife crisis, and you deserve so much more than to end up a cliche, right?

You Might Also Enjoy Reading: 

Top 12 Dorm Shopping Mistakes 

High School Graduation Gifts: Favorite Books and New Releases 

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

Read more posts by Melissa

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