This piece first appeared on Stark Raving Motherhood. See Jill Seale’s complete bio and  contact info below the post.

I held my sh!t together pretty well through the whole transition of Only Child to College Child…for the most part. Day one of bringing her home it hit me that one day she would fly the coop. I had 18 years to get used to the idea.

 

Does any mom feels like she’s covered every base and covered it perfectly when it’s time to send a kid off? (I’m including Tiger Mom, she won’t like it, but I would BET she is not immune.) For me, the middle school years awakened a kind of gauge “if I sent her into the world TODAY, what do she still need to learn to function?” The last six months before she left I felt like I was cramming for a college exam about all the things I wished I’d been more thorough about.

 

It’s scary to loosen the grip before you feel you/they are ready, which is the reason why God invented the sometimes-hellish dance of the teen years, so a mom can LET. GO. (In fairness, my daughter wasn’t bad, but teens are just unsettled creatures.)

 

Three good hard cries bubbled up about her leaving. One was a sudden onset when it dawned on me we were at the end of the era of her living at home, heaped with every wish a mother has for her child. Next when her roommate’s mom put her hand on my arm like an ICU nurse in hushed concern, “How ARE you…REALLY?” Sorry if I got snot on your from crying, lady. The last big whopper was from the hug goodbye for 50 miles. Then I dried up and looked onward.

 

The focus circling back to me was a welcome change. Did I miss daily nagging? Not a chance. Not having extra laundry was a welcome change. Having a cleaner house… who am I kidding.. it’s still a mess. (Tip: lean a broom in the corner if someone is coming over so it looks like you were about to get to it.) The ability to clock out of my on-call status was as welcome as getting to eat cereal for dinner.

 

I felt a little guilt for singing a quick and enthusiastic “GREAT!!” when people carefully asked, “How’s empty nesting going?” It IS great! I love my daughter, I miss her but I’ve handed the torch over to her. It feels fantastic to see her run with it and dammit it’s MY time!

 

It’s your time too! Take a hike with me 12 Steps down the alphabet where Nest becomes Zest

 

O: Only me to build a daily schedule for
P: P.E.A.C.E.
Q: Q.U.I.E.T.
R: Rolling in the hay with the barn door wiiiiiide open.
S: Screaming is back in vogue in the barn.
T: Travel. Short trips, long trips, with no guilt trip.
U: It’s all about U, bringing your needs, goals, dreams, (fill in your own blank) into focus. What do you want your life to look like now?
V: Vast options – old and new. What have you been putting off, wanting to try, learn about…no need to put it off any more.
W: Whatever I freaking want, whenever I freaking want it
X: Xtreme Makeover – in the mirror and in life, where you see fit. A fresh start never hurt anybody.
Y: You’ve earned it – treat yourself to the things that feed your body and soul.
Z: Zest for life is the most delicious item on the menu! Insist on it and eat it up!

 

While it’s terrifying on some level for them to leave the safety of home and sad that you’ll only get glimpses of them from now on, it’s AS gratifying to see them making their way, giving you back yourself. Caveat – you’ll never get your heart back, it’s theirs to keep but everything else is yours to own and bring joyfully into the next chapter, finally with space in the house for that Zen Room you’ve dreamed of.

After 3 good cries,it was time to say goodbye & embrace my empty nest. Let's get the party started! Here are 12 steps to take you from (empty) nest to zest.

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