Single Mom’s Guide to Surviving an Empty Nest

The heartbreak of separation. The longing for contact.  The brief flights of manic optimism about the future.  A love affair gone awry? No, worse – sending your child off to college for the first time. Here, one woman's solution. 

By Emily Listfield
empty nest single mom sending kids off to college
Photograph: iStock

• When your daughter looks at you with great amusement and asks if you plan on becoming a cat lady, grow indignant and remind her that last time you checked, you actually had a career, a social life, hobbies. 

• Retire to bedroom and close door.  Panic about sorry state of career and social life.  Admit that you have never had a single hobby.

• Consider applying for a sabbatical – a year in Paris, Rome, Vienna.  You’re a free agent now, why not?   Remember at last minute that you are not, in fact, a professor.

• Go to sleep at 9:30pm because there is no one home to make fun of you for it.  Plus,  for the first time you do not have to stay up till 1am wondering how and when  said daughter will be getting home.

• Wake up at 1am anyway.  Refrain from texting daughter asking where she is.  But stay up all night worrying, statistics on teen drinking dancing through your head.

• Date younger men.

• Date older men.

•  Listen to podcast on Buddhism and decide to detach from all want and desire instead.  Practice living in the moment.  Give up and admit that would take serious prescription drugs.  Make a note to call psycho-pharmacologist.

• Decide to make plans instead: Tennis lessons, wine-tasting classes, lectures at the Y, theater tickets, foreign language immersion.  Quickly realize that the only person more over-scheduled than you is an Upper East Side toddler.

• Rejoice that you no longer have to cook a healthy dinner every night.  Eat chocolate fudge brownie ice cream in bed while watching re-runs of Law and Order.  Wash it down with red wine and feel virtuous that you are getting your anti-oxidants.

• Face cold hard fact that if this continues you will weigh 500 pounds.  Vow to eat more healthily. Buy a plethora of locally-grown fruits, vegetables and antibiotic-free lean white meat.  Forget that you are only feeding one.  Throw half of it out a week later.

• Log on to daughter’s college website where there is a live webcam trained on the quad that makes anyone walking by appear to be a worker ant.   Wonder if one of those ants is your daughter. When someone at work catches you at this for the, oh, fifteenth time, explain that you are doing wild life research.  Make a note to close office door before sixteenth time. 

• Get a life.

Emily Listfield is a frequent contributor to More.

First Published August 29, 2011

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