May 18, 2010

Tuesday Transformations: Flying High with an Empty Nest

Friday I held a party in celebration of my youngest daughter’s high school graduation. As most mothers (and some fathers) know, this is can be a bitter sweet time, as you watch your baby becoming an independent adult.

You’re proud that they’ve made it through the pains and triumphs of adolescence, and they are one step closer to their dreams, but there are moments when you yearn for that young person who looked to you for everything. My daughter is smart, beautiful, funny… I glow with pride at things achieved and milestones met; the culmination of those four years where she grew from an unsure girl into a young woman.

There is something to cherish in motherhood about being needed. I sat in my kitchen the other day, and began to think, this is going to be the last bag lunch I make, since she is the last one! Seems silly doesn’t it? Why would I spend time making lunches for a teen girl who can make them herself or I could pay for her lunch. Somehow spending those few minutes making sure she gets a nutritional meal every day, and handing it to her with a kiss, keeps me grounded in my role as a mother and fills a part of my feminine drive to nurture.

After the farewell peck on the cheek I reflected: Have the teachings I’ve tried to instill and the love and support I’ve given been enough for her to build a value system that will hold up in the college world, giving her a foundation to build her own life on?

Because of my dedication to my work and the wonderful people I am privileged to coach each day, I’m certainly not overcome with empty-nest syndrome, yet I still felt its quiet presence last Friday. There’s a part of me that feels an exhilarating freedom and a part that longs for those sweet days of the past…scraped knees and kisses, and the wonder of a hundred dandelions sprinkled in the grass.

As I teach in my book, Pure Thoughts for Pure Results, when we feel conflicting emotions, it’s best to step back and observe the situation from outside of ourselves. As human beings we can feel the pains and pleasures of life all at the same time.

Stepping back and looking at my situation from an outside perspective, I realized that there were many things happening at once in my life. A daughter graduating, relocating, business opportunities exploding in wonderful ways, and my dog wanting more attention. Keeping up with the demands of business travel, deadlines for content creation for new programs, and all of the personal things that I value so dearly left me needing time in silence just to appreciate and be.

Seeing everything on my plate really put things into perspective for me—there were changes in everything I was doing! In a recent article by Psychology Today, they site that the number one reason for feeling overwhelmed with your child’s adult progression has more to do with the many other changes going on in our lives at the same time (for many women it will be menopause; for couples it may be the fear of a newly introduced intimacy that they have long forgotten).

Loss is a universal feeling—everyone goes through a variation of grieving stages, for a number of different situations. How do you keep yourself from sinking into a feeling of despair? I wasn’t at that point last week, but I certainly was dancing around some feelings of melancholy which required me to take a step back.

Something else that I noticed in my thought-patterns, was that I had fears of my baby exploring the world on her own. Yes, I know it’s irrational on many levels, but no mother wants their child to get lost on the many paths they may follow. It is essential that your child has the opportunity to discover on his/her own. I teach this to many of my clients, yet I had fallen right into the trap of worse-case-scenario thinking!

Having fear about your child’s future is not only irrational, but it can put a strain on your relationship with him/her. Everyone goes through cycles of change, even your children! When we act on the fear of change, we run the risk of smothering our children, and pushing them away rather than sharing the experience with them. Take a moment to imagine a great adventure beside your child—you can share this with them!

I switched my thinking and attention to focus on—the adventure she was getting ready to experience, and the adventure I was ready to go into in my everyday life. I focused on my daughter’s strengths and abilities and how she will be able to use them to sculpt her life as she moves into her future. I began to feel and know that she is smart enough to make good decisions, and any decision that isn’t in her best interest, is an opportunity for her to learn, grow and become stronger. By giving her the choice to come to me, rather than forcing my fears upon her, I am nurturing her in ways that will allow her to build confidence to own and master her life. Freedom is a powerful gift, and it is one of the greatest gift I can give Kelly as she prepared to enter a brand new world…along with a big dose of love…

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