College and the Myth of the Empty Nest

Both of my kids are in college. And I spent many moments worrying about this time and what it would signal for my role as Mom. Like many moms, I had heard whisperings of how we “only get 18 years with them” and how empty the empty nest was going to feel.


Not only are these things not necessarily true, sharing them serves no good purpose. All we accomplish when we proclaim these notions is to scare or upset other moms. And worrying about what is to come just makes it more difficult for us to appreciate the present moment.


Over the past few years I’ve learned that college is a time of transition, with kids living both at college and at home. It is kind of like a test run for the next season when our young adults move out and really launch their lives. (Which is not the end of Motherhood as we know it, contrary to what our anxious minds might tell us).




The “next season” is not THIS season. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves! This season is actually awesome! My kids have grown in amazing ways and they are growing into young adults who are even kinder, wiser, more grateful, more loving than they already were! They are so much fun to be with when they’re home, and equally wonderful to text, talk or FaceTime with when they are at their respective colleges.


Our relationships are likely to grow and deepen during this season. If we remain connected with our kids while they are away, we just might find that both they and we have heightened appreciation and love for each other when they are back at home for breaks.


A bonus of this not-yet-empty nest time is the space to focus on our relationship with our spouse, and invest in reconnecting or enriching if needed. This is something we’ve done, and seemingly small efforts have made a world of difference.


When kids go to college we are not left with an “empty nest.” We have a “transitioning nest.” And in my view, our nest is never really empty, because it will always be filled with love. Adult children will come home to visit, and while this is not the same as having our family all live under one roof, it is far from “empty.” Motherhood (and Fatherhood) is a lifetime position, and while the landscape along the way may change, the journey is never-ending.

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