Q&A (12): Letting go

Dear Sarah,

My fear (which hit me recently) is that my baby is growing up and moving forward in leaps and bounds. Each day I see her grow, become more independent and getting excited about college and her future plans. It feels strange... as she needs me less and less. I try to imagine my life and what it will be like no longer being a full-on mum. I guess what is also scary is that I'm going to have to watch her make mistakes and find her way, knowing that I need to let go and not interfere even if I see it coming! How do you do that?

Love Jill*

Dear Jill*

Your fear is a very normal one and one that many parents experience as they approach the empty nest. I came to motherhood later in life and my son is only six but already I am amazed at how quickly he is growing up and how increasingly he can do certain things for himself (without Mum helping him out).

I've coached and worked with many empty nesters and I think behind the fear is often some deeper seated questions such as - Have I done enough to prepare them for the world? How do I relate to my child as an adult? Who am I without my role as parent? What now for me?

Let's take those questions in turn in case you can relate to any of those:

Have I done enough to prepare them for the world?
None of us will have been perfect parents but we will have done the best we could. One friend of mine who has written books on parenting - talks about 'parenting on elastic'. We increasingly give our children room to grow and find their feet. When they are little we do so much for them but as they mature we trust them to do things on their own and make their own choices and decisions. Our role as they mature into adults is to move from controller to consultant. We are there to give advice when asked and to provide a welcome sounding board and a listening ear plus of course that all important unconditional love (and maybe the occasional home cooked meal or laundry service!)

Jill over the years you will have invested so much of yourself into your daughter's life. You will have given her 'roots and wings' and now it is time to trust her and trust the process of growing independence. You've done a great job. From the way you describe her she sounds like she is a capable, loving, passionate and social young woman. You have helped shape her into the person she is today - give yourself a pat on the back. Yes - she will make mistakes and will probably make choices you don't agree with but that is how we all learn and grow. That was certainly true in my own life. What about yours?

How do I relate to my child as an adult?
What does it look like to be our child's consultant rather than controller? It means not telling them what to do or giving unsolicited advice. It means listening, being curious and asking good questions. It means loving more than judging and being there if and when they do make mistakes or need a big hug.

Who am I without my role as a parent?
You are still a parent and always will be and she will still need you albeit in a different way. Perhaps one day she will have children of her own and a whole new role as grandparent will open up to you.

What now for me?
The empty nest period can be a great time to re-evaluate who you are and what you want to create in this period of your life. Your daily responsibilities are changing and you will likely have more time to explore other avenues.

At Naked Hedgehogs we get quite a few empty nesters coming on the Bootcamp or for coaching. They enjoy re-connecting with their authentic self and finding their purpose and passion in life. What would you love to create in this next season? How can you start on that today?

It is important too to be investing in other relationships so that your need for connection isn't just being met through your daughter. Which friendships do you want to invest in? Who do you want to serve or help with your time? How can you make new friendships doing something you love?

I know it is both difficult and a little scary for you Jill but this is an exciting chapter for you and your daughter. You both have wonderful and exciting times ahead and you will no doubt have fun together sharing the stories of how you have both gone out there and been bold, been brave and been yourselves.

Thank you for your question and I do hope my answer has been of some help.

Love Sarah

*name has been changed

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