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The Emptying Nest...When Your Kids are Growing Up and Moving Out

Updated on August 13, 2017
Karen Hellier profile image

Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She happily lives in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.

My 3 children, who are out of the nest now/getting ready to leave.
My 3 children, who are out of the nest now/getting ready to leave. | Source

People talk all the time about the "Empty Nest Syndrome," but no one talks about the "Emptying Nest Syndrome." As a parent of 3 teens, I am here to say this in itself is a hard period to go through. Especially if you enjoyed being a mother or father, and spending time with your children.The "Emptying Nest Syndrome" is when your children are still with you but are leaving, one by one, and some are preparing to move go off to college, to get their first apartment, etc. The hardest part is that you know the Empty Nest stage of your life will be here soon, and so the separation begins.

I have a 20-year-old son and 17-year-old twin daughters. When my oldest moved out a few years back, it was tough. I had had to ask him to leave as he thought he was beyond the stage of following house rules, etc. once he hit the age of 18. Too many stressful, (and sometimes loud) arguments later, the decision was made that he would find a place of his own. We had been very close while he was growing up. He was my first born, so while I knew the move was necessary, it still wasn't easy. For the first week after he moved out, and in with a friend, tears flooded my eyes at the grocery store when I saw items I knew he liked and I would normally have bought for him to have in the house. I was sad inside that he wouldn't be there with a funny comment to his sisters or me. But things were more peaceful, so after awhile, the peaceful home was a balm for the space he left behind.

Now, my girls are 17 and will be moving onto college in the Fall. "Senioritis" has hit one very badly, and although we used to be buddies, it's not always that way now. She is ready to move on, to a life of semi-independence at college. We butt heads a lot, and she never thinks I do anything right. I try to have patience, but it's not always easy. I remember when I went off to college, I saw my parents in a whole new light and appreciated them much more than I had when I lived with them. I hope that she has that realization as well someday after she moves on. I remind myself of the sweet and always loving child she used to be. But that in itself is very painful.

Motherhood was always so very important to me. Being a mom completed me, and when my children were babies and were pre-school age, I was never as happy as when I was with them...reading to them, taking them to museums, going on hikes in the woods together. It was a blissful state for me. Once they entered elementary school, things started to change. Their peers became pretty important and had more influence on them than I cared for, especially in some cases. Maybe that was the first stage of the Emptying Nest. Then they moved onto high school, and things really began to change. I saw them becoming more independent, and not needing me as much. Now that the youngest two will be moving on in less than a year, and my nest will be empty of children, I find myself wishing for more time for the good stuff, and rehashing the parenting mistakes I have made. I wish we could go back to the before school years so I could hug them more, read them more stories around a campfire, bake more cookies with them, take them to the beach again and let them jump in the waves.

After a few months of this nostalgia, and actual sadness, I realized I had to snap out of it, or I would miss the good times we still have left. And I remind myself that although the memories we made in the past are precious, there will be good times to come. So, I took my daughter to a movie that we had both wanted to see. We shared popcorn and soda and a wonderful memory. I took my other daughter out for ice cream at her favorite ice cream shop on a Friday night, just the two of us so we could catch up on things in a setting we both enjoy. In April, one of my daughters and I are going on a college road trip to Pennsylvania to check out three colleges that we haven't had a chance to see yet so that she can make her final college decision by the required deadline of May 1st. I realize that although the days when they were young are gone, there will be plenty of time to make wonderful memories in the future, with my children as young adults, as spouses when we add more family members, and hopefully as parents, so I will have grandchildren to enjoy. And all that is something pleasant to look forward to. I am concentrating on that during this emptying nest phase so that rather than being sad for memories of the past, I can be looking forward to our experiences in the future.

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A selfie during a visit with my daughter, now in college!
A selfie during a visit with my daughter, now in college! | Source
On a trip with my daughter to New York City last summer!
On a trip with my daughter to New York City last summer! | Source
My son and I on a trip to Tennessee!
My son and I on a trip to Tennessee! | Source

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    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 5 years ago from Georgia

      Dear teaches12345,

      Very well put. You are right about doing what was best at the time. That's all we can do is accept the past, mistakes and all, and move on. I am looking forward to grandchildren, but not just yet! Thanks for the comment.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I have raised my son and am now enjoying my grandchildren. I have to say, as you hinted, grandchildren are a wonderful experience. You can't look back and second guess how you raised your children. You did what was right at the time in consideration of all the circumstances and options. If we remain open in communication, listening much and expressing wisely, we will strengthen the ties as they fly from the nest and build their own. I enjoyed reading your hub.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 5 years ago from Georgia


      Thanks for your comment. I agree, it is hard to let them go...when they are teens though, it's a bit easier on the days they argue about everything though. I think as parents we all get one of those days every once in awhile. maybe that is God's way of helping us separate...through exasperation?!

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 5 years ago from Georgia


      Nice to hear from the "other side". I was in your same situation when I left for college, but things turned around once I was out on my own. I have a better relationship now with my parents than I did as a teen. I hope the same for my 3 children. Maybe you can move closer to home after graduation? 1 or 2 hours is a nice distance.Closer, but not too close?! Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Melody 5 years ago

      I have 2 daughters and it is hard to let them go but I know that it is the best thing for them and that God has great things in store for them. Our relationship has changed over the years and I know it will continue too. Sometimes have been easier than others but I am so glad that God blessed me with 2 wonderful daughters.

    • BlessedBella profile image

      BlessedBella 5 years ago from United States

      I totally understand the feeling, I myself am a college student, who's graduating very soon, and It can get very lonely, I am 10 hours drive away from family, at a certain point I found myself calling home more than twice a day just to hear their voices. I can totally understand what you're going through, I was so eager to get out of the house, and get away from all the drama, and family nest to try and build my life and be independent, but guess what? Family is like a drug we can never get rid of. I like your hub, very touchy. :-)