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Confessions of a Newly Found Empty Nester

And how being a parent is not unlike being involved in an abusive relationship

By Shelley CarrollPublished 9 months ago Updated 9 months ago 3 min read
Confessions of a Newly Found Empty Nester
Photo by Maurice Schalker on Unsplash

Parenthood is not for the faint of heart.

There is unconditional love between a parent and a child. No question.

Sure, you may not always like your kids. Let’s face it - kids, like other humans, can be real dicks.

So you focus on the behaviour and not the person and no matter what: you love your kids. You can’t help it. It’s innate.

And I love my kids, but…

I don’t always like them.

Let me explain.

They grew in my body.

I loved them before I knew them.

I breastfed each of them.

I had sleepless nights for a holy host of reasons - they were sick, someone hurt their feelings, I was upset or disagreed with their coparent, I worried where the money would come from, etc., etc.

I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. I am beyond imperfect. I swore. I yelled. I lost my patience. I cried. I stayed up too late; I slept in. I embarrassed them. I didn’t “understand their life” (that one is a gem from raising a teenage girl).

I also laughed and danced and volunteered and cheered and cooked and tried and tried again and then tried harder.

And sometimes I still came up short.

Always, though, ALWAYS… I have loved them.

I love them still. I always will.

Now they’re grown and gone and doing their own thing.

And it hurts.

Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot.

Yet they’re meant to fly. This nest was built to a certain size for good reason - they weren’t meant to stay.

I have told expectant parents that this parenting gig is the toughest job they’ll ever love.

The truth is: love it though you may, this “gig” will break your f*cking heart.


And you’ll keep coming back for more.

Like a sucker.

The baby (ok, he’s 20) left in June.

He didn’t exactly move out. I mean, he left his dog with us, so he must be coming back at some point, right? His work keeps him away for days and weeks at a time. So technically he still lives HERE, but he’s never here.

Much like his older siblings, I only hear from him when he has something to say… or if he needs something.

It’s bittersweet.

They’re each individuals to be sure and I tried to raise them to be self-assured and independent souls. But I’ll be goddamned if it doesn’t cause me pain in my ovaries when my text messages go unanswered or when I’m unceremoniously dismissed or seemingly taken for granted.

I don’t know that they do it intentionally or even if they recognize their little sins of omission.

Just as they are emerging adults, I too am going through a transition.

I thought I’d welcome the “extra time”… but now it seems that I just have more time to worry.

It’s not that they don’t need me. I hope they ALWAYS need me to some extent.

I just wasn’t ready for the abrupt shift.

I’ve heard amputees talk about phantom pains where their lost appendages used to dwell. That’s the closest I can come to describing how this stage of my life feels. We shared a body once upon a time, after all; now I’m missing three limbs.

My heart keeps beating in four-part measure - a harmony of sorts.

And I know as soon as the phone rings, I’ll drop everything just to share a moment with them, just to feel like I’m a part of their day, their life, their world.

Big love doesn’t end. It just somehow… morphs.

All I can think to say is “I’m sorry, Mom and Dad. I get it now.”

Man (or in my case, girl and boy and boy), do I ever get it.

advicechildrenhumanityimmediate familyparentspregnancyvaluessiblings

About the Creator

Shelley Carroll

Ms. Carroll is a 40-something year-old veteran public servant and mother of three adult children. She and her partner Hal live in Amherst NS with a sweet, anxiety-ridden rescue dog. Shelley loves running, red wine, and laughter.


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