My daughter leaves for a month long internship at the Oceanside Museum of Art in Oceanside, California this Friday. Her pending absence has me reflecting on what it will be like when she leaves home for good. Please note, I’m not in a hurry for her to be gone, although I suspect she wishes she could get out on her own. It’s just she has been my main focus for so long.
This transition period from having had the lead role to being demoted to supporting cast in her life is a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It’s awkward, frustrating, exciting, scary, sad and freeing. I’m proud that she is trying to be independent and blaze her own trail, so to speak, but I also feel left out and rejected as she pulls away and focuses more on friends and potential mates.
I’m dubbing this time as ‘Life in the Gray Area’.
I know there are parents that dread this time, but I’ve actually been preparing for it for nine years. When I turned 40, I had a major crisis of identity moment. ‘When I’m not associated as Maya’s mother anymore, who am I?’ sort of thing. I realized I would have to get my own life, and at that time, I had no idea what I personally liked to do.
This is my best advice for other parents in how to forage your way through.
Get a Life Outside of Your Kid(s)
I delayed this until I turned 40, but I encourage any parent that is heavily involved in their child’s life to start working on this as soon as possible. Have fun exploring different activities to find an assortment of activities that you really enjoy. Make plans to nurture and pursue dreams or goals. Foster and strengthen friendships with other women, so you will have an active social life.
Stop Bailing Them Out
As they grow older, gradually start letting them figure out more things on their own. Give advice only when they ask for it. Have them take on more and more responsibilities, including financial ones once they start working. You’ll be preparing yourself for your supporting role and at the same time allowing them time to build up their independence.
She’s Not a Kid Anymore
I no longer have a right to know everything, as she’s technically an adult. Even though she still lives with me, I don’t feel comfortable asking what time she will be coming home or where she is going. This is hard sometimes, because as a parent you still worry about them constantly.
One benefit has come out of this. I have more sympathy for what I probably put my mom through. My respect for her deepens as I go through the different stages with my daughter. The urgency to let her know how much I love her increases daily.
I’m happy to say that I have a well established group of friends. I envision days spent reading and writing, and playing with the cat I’m going to get. Traveling to places because they intrigue me alone. Attending concerts, going for hikes and trying new recipes. Shopping for cute things to send her out of the blue to brighten her day, while I enjoy the serenity of my own home and lifestyle.
It’s going to be just fine.