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Guest post: When the nest empties

Posted by BJ Roche  September 18, 2012 10:38 AM

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When you spend time on a college campus, where small electronic devices are basically a fifth limb, it's hard not to overhear student conversations with mom. Sometimes I smile at the care I'm imagining coming from the other end of the line, and sometimes I cringe at the nasty way students talk to their moms.

Other times, I wonder whether mom might have a little too much time on her hands. When I busted a student last spring for texting during class, she responded, "But it's my mom! She worries when she can't get in touch with me!"


I asked UMass Amherst Journalism student Rose Mirandi for her advice for moms who are struggling with an empty house now that the school year has begun. Rose is from Amesbury, and she's helping me on my site, where this post also appears. You can read her food blog here.

Before writing, she called her mom.

Here's her take:

When I first moved into college I was only concerned with myself. I didn’t ask my parents how they felt. I didn’t notice my mother’s shaky voice when we said goodbye. It probably would have taken me about 30 years to realize what my mom was feeling that day, but when I was asked to write a piece on “empty nest syndrome,” I learned a lot sooner than I had expected.

She told me that soon after I went to school--I was the last of three children--she finally realized her life had changed and there was nothing she could do about it. We talked on the phone for a long time. Here are the four rules she now lives by.

No matter how much you miss them, never let your children know.

I’ve seen it with my friends a couple times: it will be Friday night and we’re all getting dressed to go out when someone gets a phone call from her mom. Ten minutes later she comes into the room all sad telling us how she feels bad her mom misses her so much. Being a grown woman, you should be able to handle your emotions and know not to ruin your child’s night by making him or her feel guilty about being away.

Thinking about all the times my friends have felt the need to drop everything and go home to visit their parents makes me so grateful that my mom doesn’t cry into the phone every night – or ever. I know she misses me as much as I miss her.

Get started on that bucket list.

Since my mom is a teacher, she gets out of work a couple hours before my dad every night. I think she originally told herself she was going to use that time to prepare dinner and do house chores, but I’m presuming that got old pretty fast.

This year, she and a friend began crossing things off their bucket lists. They’ve helped out at the local soup kitchen, stomped grapes at a close-by vineyard, taken knitting and scrapbooking classes as well as chocolate tours. I’m pretty jealous of everything she’s doing and I know she feels better about filling her days with things she’s always wanted to do.

Find just one show to keep up with every week.

My mom started watching "The Biggest Loser" religiously since I left. She’s obsessed with it, so much so that everyone in the family knows not to call her on Tuesday nights because there’s no way she’s going to pick up. She says it’s her one little guilty pleasure, well, that and a nice hot bath. Keeping up with a show seems to make the weeks go by quick and its great to have something to look forward to!

Start a new hobby.

My mom’s a Family and Consumer Science teacher, which means she loves to cook and sew. However, she has had the same old-school sewing machine since before I was born and it’s rusted over in the basement. A couple years ago she finally went to the store and bought a machine, cleverly forgetting to tell my dad how much it cost. Ever since the purchase she has made so many things around the house, which she has always talked about doing. She tries to work on a craft everyday. From seat cushions to baby clothes to curtains, she is all about homemade projects.

These are a few things that seem to have worked for her since being left with no children to feed or soccer games to chauffeur.

Share your empty nest experiences and suggestions on the Fiftyshift Facebook page. And stop by our Pinterest page. (Rose is helping me figure it out. Gotta love that reverse mentoring.)

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

BJ Roche is a writer and teacher who lives in Western Massachusetts. She’s a senior lecturer in the Journalism Program at UMass Amherst, where she teaches writing, new media and More »

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