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“You’re posting all these stories about empty-nesting, and I haven’t even gone back to school yet—you aren’t really empty-nesters,” joked my twenty-one-year-old son.

As if I wasn’t already suffering from imposter syndrome as a want-to-be-blogger. Now, I was being called out by my own kid—for my ‘𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝘁𝘆 𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵.’

“Well, your sister is fifteen-hundred miles away, doesn’t that count for something?” I tossed back. (I can’t believe I am actually having to justify whether or not I can call myself an ’empty-nester.’)

“Not really,” he shook his head, not giving an inch, “and then there will always be John…”

“Yes, that may be true,” I agreed. John is our twenty-four-year-old son who has autism and still lives with us. He does not want to move out, and we love having him here, so it’s a win-win.

However, at times I do feel like we have a renter upstairs. John has a busy life with work and daily activities, so when he’s home, he likes to retreat to the peace and quiet of his ‘apartment’—“No Visitors Allowed.”

So maybe by some standard, we at least qualify as ‘quasi empty-nesters’?

All joking aside, this is a new season for us, with our youngest having just left for college—I know it is a new chapter in many of your lives as well. For most of us, there have been years of these little bursts of energy swirling through our lives, our homes, and most importantly, our hearts. So after the whirlwind of laughter, late-night snacking, football, soccer and basketball games, tennis matches, and band practice subside, there is most definitely…a void.

Of course, they’ll be back for the holidays—thank goodness. For turkey and stuffing smothered in grandma’s special gravy, their favorite apple pie, and opening gifts on Christmas morning. Sure it’s a magical time, but it’s still not the same as when they lived under our roofs full-time…(insert ‘a sigh’ here.)

Fortunately, in an effort to help me prepare for this new chapter in my life, my mother gifted me with a golden piece of advice a few years ago. She told me to “find something you would like to try, or you would love to do and get started BEFORE your youngest leaves for college.”

And, so I did that just that when I launched this blog, I Do Part Two—Empty Nesting & More, about two years ago. Maybe for you, it’s not about writing or blogging or podcasting, but I hope you will see this time in your life as a chance to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Now, is a great time to rediscover interests you may have set aside while you were raising kids.

Ask yourself–

What did you use to like to do?

What do people ask you to get involved in or compliment you on?

What kinds of books, podcasts, and activities do you gravitate towards?

What lights you up?

What leaves you drained?

“Listen to the whispers,” a friend tells me, because everything you do or decide not to do, is leaving you clues.

I truly believe if we stay open to the possibilities, this season in our lives can be a time of amazing growth, new connections, and beautiful opportunities. The world is waiting-you are never too old, and it’s never too late—to discover who you were truly meant to be.

P.S. Just for the record, my son is back on campus. Maybe now, we can officially call ourselves ‘quasi empty-nesters.’

Two birds in nest

Shortly after saying a tearful goodbye to our daughter on a campus far away, her older brother decided to join my husband and me for a few days of golf, paddle boarding, and relaxing at our cabin in the mountains.

As parents, these are the moments we breathe into with gratitude—when time blesses our hearts.

Soon he will be headed off to school as well, but thankfully at a college less than an hour away. He is close enough to golf 9-holes with us in an afternoon, then grab a bite together, and still make it back to campus in time to hang with his friends for the evening.

As our adult children spread their wings, many parents, like us, are finding unique ways to stay connected with their kids.

Our oldest son, who has autism, has chosen to continue to live with us, and we feel truly blessed. We’ve turned the upstairs into “his apartment.” When we are all home, he comes downstairs to tells us “he loves us,” and heads back up to his sanctuary. Fortunately, he’s very independent and loves his daily routine of work and activities, which keeps him fulfilled and engaged.

I saved the best of our ‘𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘵𝘺 𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵’ for last—my husband.

We. Are. Still. Here. Together.

We built this nest, and we are looking at this next phase as an exciting opportunity—rather than an empty one. We have been intentional about what we would like the next few years to look like, and are excited to experience this new chapter as it unfolds.

We are looking forward to more spontaneous outings, dinner with friends, and a renewed intimacy. We also know, just as we become accustomed to living with two fewer bodies in the house, the holidays will be upon us, and we’ll all be together again.

And isn’t that what is really important? It doesn’t matter if we are all ‘home’ in the same nest or not. We are a family because of our love for each other and because we choose to stay connected no matter where we all live. And that is the kind of nest that will never be empty.

A few short weeks ago, our daughter was graduating from high school. This morning, we flew her halfway across the country to begin her freshman year in college. Her older brother came out of his room to say goodbye, singing, “Leavin’ on a jet plane, don’t know when you’ll be back again…” We laughed. It cut the tension we were all feeling.

I woke early. My husband said I snored so he 𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺 kicked me all night. I’m surprised I slept so deeply. Ugh—I’ll have to start using my automated snore pillow again. 

Welcome to midlife!

As I hurried around the house before everyone got up, trying to clean up for ‘who knows why’ while we’re gone, all I could think about is how messy my closets are.

How did they get so unorganized? Why didn’t I organize them when we were in lockdown? I had all that time, and I didn’t get anything cleaned or organized. 𝘕𝘰 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘦 𝘒𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘰-𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘮𝘦.

I know what I am doing—I am avoiding “it.” 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘢 𝘱𝘳𝘰 𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴.

I’m avoiding thinking about the giant void my daughter leaves behind. The one filled with infectious laughter and the funny, contorted faces she makes when she springs to life 𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙩𝙤𝙤 𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙩 𝙣𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩.

And the other void where she enters a room at full stride—in mid-sentence—spilling the latest tea. She hates it when I need her to back it up a little, rewind. “Mom, I already told you about so and so…” 𝐼 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤, 𝑡𝑒𝑙𝑙 𝑚𝑒 𝑎𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛, 𝐼 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑘 𝑡𝑜 𝑚𝑦𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓.

Noise and commotion also have a way of filling up spaces. My daughter’s girlfriends came over last night to wish her well and keep her company while she packed. I could hear them laughing and stomping up and down the stairs as they helped her load everything into the car for our early morning departure.

Then she yelled, “We’re headed to Taco Bell.” Laughter, chatter, and patter of feet shuffled out the door—then silence. 𝘋𝘦𝘢𝘧𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘪𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦.

This is how it will be, quieter, for a while anyway.

Her two brothers are still at home. They will easily fill some of the spaces she has left behind. Their friends will come over, and jokes and laughter will fill the air—the TV will inevitably drone on.

The boys each have their own unique way of filling the spaces in our home. It will be comforting to have them home for at least a few more weeks.

But there are some spaces only a daughter, our only daughter, can fill. The space where she’ll let me hold her when she’s sad and hug her until she pulls away with a snarky, “Okay, now, Mom.” As if I didn’t know I was holding her just past ‘comfortable’ on her hug-o-meter.

It’s a good thing she picked Texas. Texas is a big state with lots of open space—she’s going to need all of it. I can’t wait to hear about all the people she meets, the subjects she studies, and the places she goes.

Facetime, family-group texting, and eagerly awaited phone calls will bridge some of the space between us.

She’ll come home for the holidays. Her laughter will again fill the house. From experience with her older brother coming home from college, I know that some spaces will be forever changed. Still, new and exciting dimensions will continue to be added.

There is no holding her back, even if I wanted to—which I don’t. The world is a big place, and I’m excited to watch how she chooses to fill up her own unique spaces in her life.

With much love to our daughter, Mom XOXO

Wild Horses by Pixels

“Are we going to see the wild horses?” my not-yet-college-bound, have-to-be-dragged-everywhere, youngest asked. “You promised.”

We were on a college visit trip with her older brother.  5 colleges in 5 days.

The drive to see these mythical creatures on an exotic island was about an hour out of the way and I was exhausted from tours about professors/safety/dorms and hotel rooms with weird smells/bad breakfasts/non-working hot tubs.

But my memory of the picture on the cover of the book, Misty of Chincoteague, a beautiful wild horse, and her foal, drew me in and convinced me to keep said promise.

As we pulled into the park and made our way to the restrooms before embarking on our glorious, out-of-the-way adventure, signs warned not to feed the horses as they may bite and to ensure our safety by staying 40-feet away. This was exciting!

Bladders empty, we were ready!  We couldn’t wait to see these wild creatures, prancing in the sand dunes and uttering high-pitched neighs.

What happened next was stranger than strange.

We rounded the corner and there was a horse, in the middle of the parking lot.  Not prancing. Not neighing. Standing. Still. So still, we thought it might be a taxidermist’s latest “stuffing” project.

We got out. Walked around it. It did NOT move. Just stood there. We did see it take a breath, so we surmised it was alive and didn’t belong at the local Cabela’s.

The “wild horse ” in the parking lot

We had so hoped to happen upon a wild, prancing, neighing horse, enjoying the sands of Virginia beaches and its ability to roam FREE.

But what we found was more like a TAMED mule ready to plow the fields under the guise of some master who needed to get things done.

As we ventured on the park pathways, we saw a few more horse/mules milling around, and I can assure you that we were not scared, or excited, not even one little bit.

We got back in our cars and my mom thoughts took off into those mom places only they can go.

Are these horses like my kids?

Longing for adventure, FREEDOM, and curiosity to discover, hope, and dream?

But standing around, TAMED, bored, and controlled because of how me, as a mom, and society, as a whole, has directed them?

Don’t bite.
Stand still.
Be quiet.

Don’t stand up for yourself (your true self). Fit in.
Do what everyone else is doing. Stay in the box.
Control yourself at all costs.  Never color outside of the lines.

College visits.
What everyone else did.
What we were supposed to do.

Over the next days, I kept coming back and back to my thoughts and these horse-mules and my kids.

I did not want them to be mules.  I wanted them to be horses.  WILD ONES.  Not TAMED into submission to some arbitrary set of rules that who knows who made up.

I wanted them to be FREE.  To discover, hope and dream.

I talked and talked and talked to them about it.  And then talked some more.

Guess what happened?

My college-bound son said, “NOPE.”
He decided to take a gap year.
He enjoyed the end of his senior year without the pressure of choosing.
He never went to any of those 5 we had visited on that trip.
He discovered a school that made his heart happy.
FREEDOM.

My baby watched him intently.
She spent an extra year with him, the two of them becoming the best of friends.
When it was her turn, she chose an out-of-the-box school where she could get her Bachelor’s degree in two years. Two long, hard years.
She moved to California at 19 to pursue her dreams, graduation behind her.
She wants to win an Emmy.
FREEDOM.

Guess what else happened?

I began to wonder the same thing about me.

Do I have the FREEDOM to discover, hope, and dream?

As a middle-aged, regular, mom who has always played by the rules?

Who didn’t bite, stood still, and was quiet?

The answer:  YES.  YES, I DO.

I might stand up for myself.
What if I forge my own way?
Maybe I will even draw my own lines to color inside.
We’ll see how it all plays out.
It’s going to be good.
FREEDOM.

Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

Marriage is not easy, my friends. And we hear this a lot. We’re told that marriage takes work. But do we really hear that message? We may know that marriage isn’t a fairytale, but are we really prepared for the effort required to make marriage successful and fulfilling for the long haul?

Our 30th wedding anniversary is today and I’ve been reflecting on our marriage and marriage in general. Somewhere along the way, I went from being a Wife in the Moment to being a Mom in the Moment, and while in theory, I should have found a way to be both perfectly, in practice that wasn’t so easy.

Even if we think we know what to expect from marriage going into it, there are just some things we can’t be fully prepared for. We may be used to working through the obvious issues, but it’s hard to be prepared for the way having children can impact our relationship. Yes, becoming parents enhances our relationship in so many ways – but it will also most likely add some strain to it.

In the early years, we moms face constant demands on our time, endure exhaustion from sleep deprivation and feeling needed all the time. This often leaves us feeling touched-out and craving time to just crash on the couch. We may feel like we don’t have much left of us for our husbands, and not only does this cause our husbands to feel distanced, it often leaves us feeling guilty.

Before I became a mom, I was really good at being a Wife in the Moment.

Back when we were a couple, and before we became a family, everything was about us. Plenty of couple time, time spent with friends, time to exercise together, time for trips together. We invested so much beautiful time in each other. Of course, I’m well aware of the guidance that reminds us that a happy family is dependent upon a happy marriage. And that the marriage relationship should always be paramount. I’m just going to be honest here, and I think many moms will relate….sometimes this is easier in theory than in practice.

Even after we became parents, the change wasn’t immediate. It happened gradually. We slowly lost some of “us” along the way. Little things added up, and less time devoted to each other exacerbated other issues that would have otherwise been tended to and worked out. Spoiler: we have found our way again and worked out these issues. Where there is love, there is hope. It sounds obvious, but the first step forward in hope is to be mindful of investing consistent time in the “us” relationship. Date nights are great, but simple time together is recharging, too. It can vary by the week, as long as there is a conscious connection. A walk, coffee, or iced tea on the patio and eating dinner separately from the kids are all easy ways to create a connection.

Sydnei and her love of 30+ years

While time is an essential building block of a strong relationship, another important factor in strengthening our love and relationship is good communication. Being tuned in to how we are feeling and then being completely open and sensitive in how we share that. Sometimes there’s accumulated resentment over past disagreements or negative patterns that make it harder for us to communicate from a place of love. When this happens, there is no shame in seeking help. I can attest to the healing power of couple’s therapy. Having a neutral person listen and guide us back to healthy communication, and facilitate us sharing and working through our feelings and needs, was less complicated than it sounds. And it was transformative for our relationship. As couples, we should never stop working on our relationship. Life will throw us curveballs, but it’s up to us how we choose to deal with them.

Love changes over time. We may know that with our minds, but feeling it with our hearts is a whole different thing. What begins as butterflies and dreamy love transforms into deeper, through-the-ugly, intentional love. We took vows on our wedding day and we must choose to keep those vows. We must consciously choose to love each other each and every day…and strive to be both a ‘Wife in the Moment’ and a ‘Mom in the Moment.’

Well, let’s find out together as Christopher D. Connors, an expert on Emotional Intelligence, sits down for a conversation with I Do Part Two to discuss what an emotionally intelligent marriage looks like in 2020.

Christopher D. Connors is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader and The Value of You. He is a keynote speaker, executive coach and business consultant that works with leaders at Fortune 500 companies, sports organizations, schools and universities. His writing has appeared in CNBC, Quartz, World Economic Forum, Virgin Media, Thrive Global and Medium. Christopher is happily married to his beautiful wife and is the proud father of three amazing, rambunctious baseball-loving boys. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit him: http://chrisdconnors.com

Mr. Connors references a talk that Brené Brown presented on “empathy.” Brené Brown, Ph. D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is known world-wide for her work on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is also a gifted story-teller. There are numerous versions of her talk on empathy available online and due to copyright laws, I Do Part Two encourages you to search for them on Youtube or on Brené Brown‘s website.

I so hope you enjoy I Do Part Two’s conversation with Christopher D. Connors,

Is now the perfect time? What is holding you back?

For years, fear held me back from starting a blog, writing, or pursuing any projects I thought they might appear— “frivolous.”

Who am I to start a blog?

There are so many accomplished writers out there— I’ll never be good enough.

How will I ever overcome all the technological hurdles of building and maintaining a website?

Well, something happened when I turned ’50’—I let down my guard. I stopped trying to be perfect. I realized I didn’t want to look myself in the mirror on my 60th birthday, having still not launched the blog I had wanted to start in my early 40’s. The time is now!

What about you? Do you have a passion you’ve been wanting to pursue? I will tell you a secret…there will never be a perfect time to start, but it’s never too late and you are never too old.

Join me in my conversation with Amy Schmidt, the host of Fearlessly Facing Fifty about how I finally got the courage to pursue my passion.

Click on the link below: “EP 72: Making deeper connections with I Do Part Two…

Amy launched her business and brand six months before turning 50. Her mission is to encourage women over forty to push fear aside and find that hidden treasure of confidence that may have been pushed aside for a while and not let this time of life allow them to lose their identity. You can also find her on socials:  Fearlessly Facing Fifty on Facebook, and Instagram: Amy.K.Schmidt and https://fearlesslyfacingfifty.com/

“She’s the puzzle I chose to solve. Far too many people are looking for an easy puzzle, you’re never going to have an easy puzzle” – Anthony Trucks talking about his lovely wife

A few months ago I heard Anthony Trucks speaking about his marriage, divorce, and remarriage to the same “amazing woman,” and I reached out to see if he would share his story with I Do Part Two—Anthony graciously agreed.

Anthony is a devoted husband and father. He is also an author, internationally known motivational speaker and has his own business http://anthonytrucks.com, where he coaches clients to reach their full potential.  In addition, he is the host of his own podcast Aww Shift, which can be found wherever you listen to podcasts.

Anthony is a former NFL player and interestingly enough— he’s a 3 time American Ninja Warrior, and the first NFL player to complete the very difficult obstacle course and push the ‘Red Buzzer.’

He has an amazing ability to navigate life’s challenges……which is so important right now. So, I encourage you to listen and look him up after our conversation.

Anthony had me at hello when he said, “I got to meet someone for the first time that I’d known for 16 years.“

I know you’ll enjoy this interview. Thank you for listening and feel free to pass it along— Lisa Speers

You will be hearing more from contributors to I Do Part Two in the future because, “What will the world miss if you don’t share your story?” (A quote from Donald Miller)

3 Minute Read

By Lisa Quigley

I think I had a sort of midlife crisis. No, not like that. I didn’t go out and get a tattoo or have some kind of regretful affair. I still drive the same Toyota I drove back when my children sat in booster seats. I didn’t even really change my hairstyle. It was much more subtle than that.

Whatever it was, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Last year, on a beautiful evening in June, our daughter graduated from high school. It was a surreal and sweet time. The days leading up to her graduation were filled with anticipation and memorable moments. I watched as she modeled her cap and gown. I took a picture of her leaving for her “last day” of school in precisely the same spot I had taken her picture on the first day of school, some thirteen-grades ago.  

During this time, friends and relatives, from near and far, would send their greetings and wishes. They all seemed to ask the same question. The question that she seemed all too happy to be answering. “So what are your plans from here on out?” I watched as her excitement escalated each time she spoke of all her goals, dreams, and plans that lie before her on a clean slate of the life she was embarking on. We were, and continue to be, so proud of her. 

Strangely, during this time of excitement and nostalgia, waves of anxiousness and grief would wash over me. We would miss our daughter so much, and we would miss the role she has so beautifully played in our family. Our daughter has always been a leader, an encourager, dear friend and wingman to our son, and now she was on the verge of moving on with her own life. 

Graduation proved to be an emotional time, but we’d weathered challenges in our marriage and family before—all which have significantly impacted the course of my life—ultimately giving me strength. So, I knew I had hope.

When our son was only two, he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum—the diagnosis was both shocking and a relief. Our hunches made sense. We knew what we were working with. We took a deep breath, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.  

Life was hectic. Our lives revolved around specialists, horse therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and my personal favorite, dog therapy. Then came school and Special Education classes (SPED), more therapy, Individual Education Plans, and painful, sometimes tense, communications with teachers and principals. During these years, we cycled through an erratic, and always an unpredictable pattern of joy and grief that seems to have no timetable.

My wonderful husband was a rock to our family as we navigated the life we’d been given. He is a CPA and works very long hours. Our life, as a family, revolves around Tax Season. Like many other wives of Accountants, I solo parented about one-third of the year.  

During this time and even during the “off-season”, we did a lot of tag-team parenting. My husband would take the kids to do something on a Saturday afternoon to give me “a break.” I would take the kids and go out of town to visit friends for the weekend as ‘Dad’s going to be at work anyway.’ The kids and I would spend several weeks in the summer at a summer camp run by friends.  

As the kids attended the camp, I helped run the camp. During these years, I even took a job in retail. The flexible schedule of working nights and weekends guaranteed there was consistency in therapy and parenting. The kids were doing well. Our son was blooming. All of our work seemed to be paying off. 

The years passed, things began to fall into a pleasant routine. The kids grew. Life began to run smoother. We reached the point in our parenthood, where we could leave the kids home alone for a short time. It was then that my husband and I started a little activity that would become a life-changing ritual. 

We embarked on a new adventure. That’s right, we began taking a walk in the neighborhood most evenings, after dinner. 

After so many years of talking about kids, parenting, therapies, it seemed that life had settled down, and we had the chance to talk about more important things. We talked about us. We talked about politics and football, sometimes we bared our souls to each other. We joked and laughed. We spoke encouraging words to each other. 

Even though our neighborhood runs along a freeway, our walks had the magic of a long trek in the woods or a stroll along a river in some exotic city. These treasured walks also made me realize how much I missed my husband. 

At the risk of sounding corny, I fell in love with my husband again on those walks. I will admit it, how much our relationship had fallen into doing life with each other, but not necessarily together. I remembered just how much I loved being married to my husband. We both agreed that we needed to do what we had done with our son so many years ago. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work—this time on our marriage.

Those walks turned into hikes. I started going to the college sporting events that my husband so enjoys, the ones for so long I told him to go ahead and take one of the kids to, so I could get some things done around the house. After the games, we would continue talking over a meal at an eccentric restaurant in our town. 

We started binge-watching a NetFlix series together (why did it take so long for us to discover HOMELAND?). During this time, something else happened. Even though we were focusing more on us, our son continued to grow and experience life just as we had watched him do when we were so focused on his care and progress.  

Just like many of our friends that we have known for years in the small town where we live, we are all on the doorstep of our empty-nester years. Like many of those same friends, we are talking of taking more trips, a more peaceful schedule, and learning new skills as a couple. 

Unlike many of the couples we have literally grown up with, the rest of our lives will, at least in some part, include our son. We absolutely remain vigilant in our coaching of him and encourage him to pursue his dreams. We expect him to live a full life of his choosing. In that expectation, we also realize that we will need to be a sort of home base, mentor, and guide. Our parenting will need to carry on, at least in the form of a consultant to our son as he grows older.

We look to our future responsibilities as parents in this type of arrangement, with the same passion we began this whole journey on. Thankfully, we are going to continue on this journey together, and that makes me smile.

So, was it a midlife crisis? I’m not entirely sure, but it was certainly a wake-up call.  A sort of alarm that happened to wake me up in time, before someday when we both realized—sadly, a little too late—that besides having raised two children, we had nothing in common. 

It was like a text alert for my soul, reminding me how thankful I am that I married my husband, and how blessed we are to do life together. In the end, it was definitely a gift.

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Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels

The in-between is where I reside these days. This strange place, not yet an empty-nester and not a young-mom anymore, either. Just here. 

Sometimes it seems like I’m just floating in ‘the in-between.’ Un-noticed. Fading into the background.

This wasn’t how I imagined this season of my life…

Don’t misunderstand…my husband and I have people in our lives, dinners out, events to attend, and parents we enjoy on the sidelines of our kid’s sporting events. Still, it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s like we’re just here, as spectators to all of it. Most of the time, I feel lonely— even in a gathering of friends.

We’ve talked about it, my husband feels it too. There used to be couples we’d get together with, at a moments notice, for game nights or spontaneous barbecues in our backyard. But as babies were born and our kids grew up, our social life began to revolve around their activities.

Slowly, without even realizing it, our couple friendships began to fade—maybe even taken for granted.  

You see, twenty-three years of marriage will do that sometimes. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, driving the kids around to all their activities, while my husband has been working long hours at the office. He’s been focused on our family-owned business, and I on our kids, and the business of everything running smoothly at home. 

In some ways, this may sound a little circa 1950, but that’s just how it worked out for us, in terms of sharing the workload. I feel our marriage is solid. We’ve enjoyed a date night almost every week for twenty-one years, and we have fun together. But still, we’re both finding ourselves in ‘the in-between.’ Is it a mid-life crisis? Perhaps. But neither of us is vying to buy a little red convertible any time soon—this feels different somehow.

We have one who just headed off to college and one who is currently managing his days wading through the muddy waters of middle school. So, empty-nesting may be a little further off for us than many of the people we know who have kids heading off to college. 

Our kids and their activities have filled up our lives in so many ways and yet, I am not sure where I fit in anymore. 

I feel like I’m floating between two different friendship groups—the parents of college-age kids and the middle school parents. It is a strange place to find one’s self. Not knowing where I’ll land.

At 48 years young, I consider myself the pretty typical age for a parent of a college freshman. Yet, I didn’t make many deep connections with the moms in that group while my daughter was in high school. Many of them are empty-nesters now, and we never found enough in common to move our friendship forward—I never felt like they got me. 

No matter how many walks, coffee dates, or days I spent volunteering at school events, I never really felt a deeper connection with any of them.

I also have insecurities about feeling like the “old mom” in my middle-schooler’s class. For many of these parents, their middle-schooler is their oldest child, and most have more littles at home. And it certainly doesn’t make me feel any younger to have to pull my readers out in front of them, every time I want to look at my phone or read something.

While they are discussing American Girl dolls, Magic Tree House, and the intricacies of making slime, I am thinking about my daughter off in her dorm room. I’m hopeful she’s headed to her classes and college parties are not her main focus. So, college is not on many of the middle school mom’s radar yet; I wouldn’t expect it to be.

Whenever I talk to the moms in each of the groups, I don’t feel like I fit into either one. Don’t get me wrong—everyone is friendly, everyone is nice.

The ‘middle school and younger moms’ are in the thick of busy, driving every which way with car snacks and activity-filled days. The ‘college-age moms’ are mostly empty-nesters, focused on how well their college students will fair away from home. And a few seem concerned about how they’re going to reconnect with their partner after so many years of focusing on their kids.

I’m finding the rush of activities for my middle-schooler is humming along at a pretty relaxed pace for us right now. It’s low stress since he’s the only one in sports and after school activities. We drive around, talk easily, and have great conversations. I enjoy all of it. The craziness seems to have calmed.

But here is the real deal; my days are full spending time with family. I am content, yet still, I have a sense of loneliness—a sense of not belonging. My deep-rooted insecurity of wondering if anyone really “gets me” still nags at me from time to time.

I turn will be turning 50 in what feels like a minute, and my husband and I are still looking for “our people.” People to connect with on a deeper level, fewer surface friendships, and more real connections. We would like to develop friendships with couples that have found themselves in this same place. 

We can’t be the only people feeling this way, can we? We feel like we missed the window when we were supposed to make these deeper friendships. What do we do now?

Are there any other couples out there, caught in ‘the in-between’ like us? How do we go about finding those people? Is there an app for that?

We told our college freshman to “put yourself out there, meet new people, join clubs, and get involved! That is how you will make new friends.” She has taken our advice and is thriving. We are working on taking our own advice. 

Being a “joiner” is hard after so many years of not working at it.

Maybe you are out there too, feeling the same way? I hope we meet you soon. I believe we can all benefit from deeper connections and more intimate friendships. So, we aren’t giving up on finding our people just yet.

Maybe in a few years, there will be an app for that, but in the meantime, we’re trying to take our own advice…

My husband and I have been making time for more outdoor adventures, and we’re trying to play at the local golf course more often. We’ve made it a priority to attend sporting events and concerts at local venues—where our kids are not the main attraction. 

Now we attend, hoping to meet people like us who are still floating…hoping to meet people like you. 

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