I’m home from dropping the kids and thinking about the myriad ways we all address this time as parents. I’m a big observer of behavior and I listen for a living. I’ve learned a lot and have have noticed four distinct Mama-types that reveal themselves at this time of year. Here is what I’ve learned – feel free to add something else if you don’t find yourself here!
- The “It’s their time, they’ll be fine” type, or its variation, the “You know its what they have to do, don’t you?” Mom. These moms have an ability to put all the emotions of their child’s departure into a tight, little box, neatly tied with a bow. It just is what it is. While not unkind, they really have no patience or understanding for those who talk about what it feels like to have said goodbye to their college kids.
- The “I’ve just lost my best friend” Mom. She isn’t quite sure what she’ll do with herself (other than count down those days!) now that her BFF isn’t front and center anymore. This mom looks forward to face timing with their kid at the end of the day, tries to visit often, and has definitely had a huge role in decorating their child’s dorm or apartment. Care package group just may be a highlight for this mom when she can hear what all her kiddo’s hometown friends are up to. She loves them all.
- The “I’m worried that they don’t know how to take care of themselves” Mom. She stays afloat by keeping in touch with other faceless parents on the university chat rooms dedicated to parents like herself, looking for advice on where their children should grocery shop, asking what time the shuttles run, or wondering how to lodge a complaint about their child’s roommate or professor. She is not going to let her child be swallowed up by bureaucrats who might not be looking out for the best interests of her vulnerable child.
- The “One Day at a Time” Mom. Her emotions shift and adjust daily; sometimes she’s happy, others days she is sad, and many are nameless and shapeless and difficult to describe. Feelings weave their way through her days as she gets used to a smaller household, a quieter household, and maybe even a cleaner household.
No matter what you are feeling or which of the above types resonate for you, who you are in times of major change in other areas of your life is likely how you will show up when your child leaves the roost. If you tend to need to cry it out, then you will probably need to cry this one out, too. If you prefer to drown yourself in work, well then you will be busy this fall. If having all of the details or none of the details of a particular situation is comforting to you, then you’ll want the same here. And if you generally don’t acknowledge an impact, well, status quo, here you come! Remembering who you are will help you to predict your needs and gage your activities to avoid a salty exchange with your spouse, a tearful moment with the Starbucks barista, or your total confusion when your friend is trying to tell you how often their child’s dining hall has served corn on the cob.
If you are the “I’ve lost my best friend” Mom, do not assume something is wrong when you are hanging with your “It’s their time, they’ll be fine” pals. They are different. They are not you. It does not mean you can’t invite them along to your care package group, but do not compare yourself to them. Identify with them, instead. You have a shared experience and are both wherever you are in that. And when you need to find your people, find your people. You’ll know them immediately. And chances are, they will need you, too.
It never serves me to pretend to be the Mom I am not. I’ve tried. It is only when I remember who I am that I find what I need in these times of transition. Likely, we are each a hybrid of these four types. I know I am. Maybe others, too. When I remember who I am ~ what I need and what I value ~ I care less about being judged and I judge less. In letting go of who I am not, I can authentically be who I am. It then becomes abundantly clear that we are all doing the best we can, showing up as we know how to in this moment. From this place, I settle in to a sense that the universe will give me what I need and it is all gonna be ok. It is always peaceful there.
Now that I’m clear about that, I’ve gotta go face time the kids to see how their day was.