My husband and I have been good friends since we were teenagers, and have been married now going on 33 years. We are still best friends and I always thought that alone would protect me from the so-called empty nest syndrome. I never expected to have any emotional struggle at all when my kids grew up, left the nest, and started their own families.
Much to my chagrin, I was wrong. Our older son has been married over six years now, and our younger son, almost four. I feel now that I'm on the other side of the struggle, and I can safely talk about it.
We are totally convinced that our sons each have the perfect mate to complement their own personalities and natures, and we love both of these women and consider them as daughters. It had to be a God thing, as we prayed long ago, when our sons were still little boys, that God would someday bring the right women into their lives for that very reason. What comfort that gave me, in the midst of my struggle to let go.
Over the last few years I've thought a lot about why it was so hard. There are so many reasons! I always felt my job as "mom" trumped every other job I had with the exception of "wife". We lived around our color-coded calendar posted prominently on the refrigerator. We had 16 consecutive years of year-round organized sports that our boys were engaged in. We went through two mini-vans. I cooked, I cleaned, I shopped, I organized, I laughed, I cried, I prayed. All the things every "involved" mom does. And I loved my job!
Then it seemed like suddenly life as I had known it for 20+ years came to a screeching halt. It was something like getting laid off. Left to my devices to find a new normal. And it came at a time in life when a bunch of other life transitions were beginning to happen as well. Parents get older and need help, and sometimes they die. Our always steady-on breadwinner got "downsized", not once, but twice in six years' time. We became grandparents, ready or not.
I clearly had a choice. I could either embrace my "new" life or spend the rest of my days kicking and screaming, as if in rebellion against some natural law. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot I don't understand. Like why does God put so much love and sense of responsibility into the heart of a mother, then ask her to allow her little chicks to grow up, leave the nest and cleave to another? Why does it take so long for mothers to realize we will only have our children in our care for such a small percent of their lifetime?
I just talked to a mother yesterday whose son will be married this coming weekend. She's having a hard time. I tried to share what I've learned. I'm praying for her. I've been there, and it's hard. I told her to give it some time, because I've discovered the rewards are so great. You really do gain a daughter when your son marries, if you allow it! And then the grandchildren come, proof that God knew what he was doing afterall. You get to experience that motherly love all over again, only this time without the heavy responsibilities.
Life is good. It really is. Letting go was so worth it.