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From Full House to Empty Nest

I knew it was going to take some adjustment moving from a houseful of people I was solely responsible for financially, emotionally and physically to only managing myself. I raised six kids primarily on my own. Our grocery bills were $200 a week and more. Ordering pizza to feed everyone was a minimum of $50. Last night I ordered pizza for myself and it wasn’t even $20 and I have half a pizza left in the fridge. Amazing.

I had a rough time last week leading up to my moving out of the apartment I share with my daughters (who are all adults now except for one) and in to a place of my own. I felt a wide range of emotions from pure grief at the loss of the day to day interaction I had with them to simple regret or thoughts that I didn’t do everything I needed to do – I wanted more time to be a better parent – to be a better person.

Simple things like my 15yo taking a sip out of my drink. Tea, soda, water it didn’t matter she wanted a  sip of that drink – it had me choking down the tears or just giving in and sobbing because it felt like the last time we would share this silly ritual. Braiding my other daughters waist length hair, something I’d been doing for her since she had waist length hair at 5 years old.. 16 years later I’m still braiding it – this killed me – it felt so final – like I’d never experience that bonding moment ever again. Walking in the door at the end of my day (which because of the distance and lack of car was 12 hours)  and seeing their smiling faces lifted my spirits no matter how my day went. My children are beautiful. I raised some truly wonderful human beings. All the things that could have gone wrong. I shudder to think about it. I got told on multiple occasions that my parenting these kids single would subject society to juvenile delinquents and/or drug addicts. I was lucky, my parents and my brother were an active part of my kids life when they were little. They helped to shape who they are today. I stayed up all night with sick or teething babies but my family stood by me no matter what stupid decisions or choices I made. I’m blessed beyond measure by the children I was given in spite of the fact that they were raised fatherless.

Here I am 27 years later living on my own. Something I never experienced because I was a mom at 21 (barely) and I shared my home with my children for my entire life. You can just call me backwards Betty. I’m experiencing life as a single woman after I raised a half dozen kids. How weird is that? I guess it’s not exactly the same because I do have 6 people who love me no matter what. Unconditional love (and it’s been proven so on countless occasions). I may be intelligent but I don’t have a lot of common sense. My kids love me for me. Would I have had that experience had I stayed childless throughout my 20′s? It’s hard to say.

I do know this though and I’ve said this again and again within my kids earshot. I would do it all again. My kids are my life and I look forward to our new relationship in separate homes. They will always be my heart.

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Regret me not

It’s an age old happening that our mothers and their mothers and their mothers before them have had to endure. Children becoming adults and leaving the nest. It’s nothing new. As parents this is an event we dread from the moment we look in to our newborn babies eyes. We get told by other mom’s ‘cherish every moment because they grow up fast’. I tell young moms this now. Seize every opportunity. Don’t let their childhood pass you by. You only get one chance. Put down the smart phone/iPad/laptop and look into your child’s eyes and let them know they mean more to you than your gadget. Seems silly right? I had the benefit of parenting pre-smart phones and all the other distractions we have today. I sit here now 27+ years later about to move in to a place of my own so my adult daughters can figure out what direction they want to take in their own lives and I realize just how privileged I was to parent these human beings. Even if I didn’t always do it right. In fact I’m pretty darned sure I royally screwed up on multiple occasions. I’ve decided though that no matter what I really wanted to do the life I ended up living has been unexpected, exciting and the most rewarding I could imagine (my intention was to be married and have kids and it turned out that I had kids but never met a man who could stick it out for the long haul — don’t blame em – I’m pretty freaking awesome and can be a little too much to handle :D ) . The way I see it, I’m doing everything backwards. I never experienced the “living on my own” go anywhere you want freedom  that so many 20 somethings do – I had a baby at 21 and my life became all about seeing to his needs and I loved it! Now as I embark on a new chapter as a single parent with an empty nest I seriously have no regrets. I can’t, second guessing my decision to raise my kids on my own would only devalue what they’ve meant to me all these years.

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Coping with a new phase in my life

No, it hasn’t happened yet, the empty nest. So close though and it feels like it was just yesterday I had a houseful of kids who needed me – now they don’t. I think that’s the hardest part. We are hard wired to feel needed. Whether it’s a puppy or a kid or an ailing parent. Heck feeling needed at work makes us feel valuable.

My life has revolved around my kids since a couple months after I turned 21 years old. I held my infant son in my arms and the tears flowed unchecked. I was not ashamed of the little boy I brought in to this world.  There is no way to describe to someone who does not have (nor want) children just what that moment feels like. There are no words.  It doesn’t matter how they came to be or why but that they ARE and they have made my life the richest it could possibly be.

As I mentioned, my kids have been my world for 27+ years.. the coming years will bring on a new kind of life and I hope a successful entry in to a new phase.

(my 21 yo told me the other day ..”mom, please don’t turn in to one of the extreme hoarders just because we are leaving the nest” – heehee –  I guess most of the episodes –usually the women– say they started hoarding because their kids left home)

OH and I really want to feel a little like the couple in the comic below — maybe someday I will :)

Lesson of the day? Mom’s make sure you have a life separate from your children – make them important but take care of you and your own needs too – there is NOTHING wrong with taking time for yourself and finding interests that do not involve the kids. In fact do NOT make your whole life about your kids. You’ll suffer later. I know it seems simple enough but it’s very hard to do and if you don’t you’ll find yourself so wrapped up you’ll have a hard time letting go when the time comes.

This blog is my dumping ground for all areas in my life but my hope is having a place to express my feelings about my emptying nest will help me to cope a little better.

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