About the Author: Both of Louise’s daughters worked with Creative Marbles Consultancy to navigate the college admissions process. Emily is a third year student at Cornell University and Kate is a second year student at University of California, Berkeley. Louise graciously shares her experiences about the transitions as both daughters moved away for college.
Before my first daughter left for college, I received lots of advice from friends and other parents and was given books about my pending “the empty nest”. Mostly I heard about anticipated fear and loss and suggestions about how to handle it. The bottom line for me, I discovered, was that everything was going to be all right.
I burst into tears at seemingly random times starting in the college application process. Something was about to change. My daughter got quieter and quieter during the summer before leaving for school. This was her way to handle the transition. She and her sister argued about more stuff than usual. We were all transitioning. Neither I nor we had ever been through this transition before, in many ways similar to the transition of her birth 18-½ years earlier. I did wonder what would happen to me as a mom. Would I be less of a mom? Would I still be her mom? Would she still think of me as mom? Was this role of mom over now and my next role, sometime in the future, “grandma”? It seemed that I might lose part of me when she left.
My first daughter left for school, across the country, followed the next fall by her younger sister. I knew something would change. There is no question that our family dynamics changed during this time. For me, I knew I would miss her. I also knew it was the right time in her life and mine for her to graduate high school and be heading to college. I had confidence she would be at least be okay. A guarantee that she would be thrilled, do great, make lots of friends, eat well, sleep enough, get her work done, etc. would be great. She would’ve liked that guarantee as well. I also knew I would not know for sure, for a few months, and neither would she.
The good news is – we all got through it. My daughter got to school and through new experiences, trials and tribulations is happy and doing well. Was it easy and obvious and always clear what the next step was for her? No – as one might guess with any life change. Did she land on her feet? Yes, most certainly.
Her sister did well too the following year. As for me, I did well too. No drama. No trauma. I did not lose a limb or part of my “mom” identity, as I feared I might. I got to learn how to be mom at a distance. I got to learn how to let her work out her struggles, get through her fears, get to know herself. We spoke on the phone briefly and often enough for her to feel connected. Since then my daughters’ relationship with each other and my relationship with each of them grew and deepened.