Ever felt like you're losing your identity as your kids leave the nest? You're not alone. Welcome to an honest conversation about the emotional rollercoaster of empty nesting, the worries, the identity loss, and the mother shame. This episode is a deep dive into the uncharted territory of letting go, as we share our own experiences and provide you with some tools to cope, and ultimately, embrace this new chapter.
We'll also touch on the unique experiences of single parents and their struggle to rediscover who they are beyond their roles as parents. It's not about filling the void, it's about rediscovering and celebrating the person you've always been. As we unravel the truth about parenthood, we share rituals to stay connected to our children and ways to find ourselves again. Join us as we celebrate the resilience of the parent-child bond and the transformative journey that lies ahead after the nest is empty.
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Hello. So the first episode of the Inviting Chef podcast for season two, which releases in September. So if you're not listening to this in September, it's that time of year where a lot of my clients are letting go of their children. It's empty nesting season, right, and it were about probably a month in if your kids are going to college and it may not be what you thought it was going to be right, and I don't think that they prepare us enough for the letting go, like I always remember the hard part being when they were little and then when they were teenagers, and then there's the letting go, and this is probably the hardest, most sustaining part of parenting is constantly letting go once you've kind of raised them. So what do we think empty nesting is? I think that when I was younger, I was like, oh, that's when parents start having parties and they're hanging out and they're getting to do all the things that they couldn't do when they had kids, or maybe they're just taking naps all day. I have no idea what it is right. I think my mom always wanted to be able to sit down and watch an entire movie, so I guess when I thought like her kids would get out of the house. That's what she would spend her time doing, but what it actually is right. So there's some really crazy things that happen with empty nesting, and this could be whether you're excited to have them out or you're afraid to let them out. Either way, there are some things that it actually is right. So, whether we're excited or we're missing them probably a little bit of both Missing and worrying about our kids is always a thing right, like we know intellectually that this is a good thing, that they're off on their own, that they're gonna go, live their journey, and yet every time, something comes up that might seem scary to us or different for us, or maybe something we never gave ourselves permission to do, or their journey just isn't looking the way that we thought it should. Right, we're going to worry and miss our kids. We're gonna worry about them. It's just a natural part. That's something that's probably not gonna go away. It may lessen, right, we can lessen it. We can get realistic worries about them and we may still worry about our kids. The other thing that happens that actually happens is wondering what to do with our time. So I know that all of our lives while we were raising these children were like, oh, when we don't have children, we're gonna do this, I'm gonna start that new hobby, I'm gonna start going to the gym more, I'm going to start traveling more. But what really happens is I get a lot of clients that are like I don't know where to start. I don't know what to do. I'm not even sure what I'm passionate about. What do I like? Who am I right? And so I think that for many of us, the first section of empty nesting is really figuring out. Who am I again, as a person, not as the responsible party, not as mom, not as the caretaker, but who am I right? So that's something that we go through, and we'll talk a little bit more about that in a bit. And losing the mom identity right, we're not completely losing it, but we're losing that active. I'm there for you every day. You have somebody to count on, to ask for advice, to teach you how to do things right. We're losing that piece of our mother archetype, and we're gonna talk about that a little bit more too, and what we can do with that mother archetype, because she is not going away, that energy within us that wants to mother things, wants to nurture things and grow things Like that is not going away, and so we can talk about how we can manage that, and we don't necessarily have to have a whole new baby or anything. So put that away unless that's really something you're excited about. But I've seen people that like get baby crazy after their kids leave their house. So my story is much different. My son and his father got divorced when he was young and his father moved across the country and so he would go there for summers and then somewhere around 13, he decided that he really wanted to go live with his dad, and in my motherly heart I knew that it was probably about the time where he needs to go spend time with his dad. He had a great stepfather I have a great husband but he really needed to go see his dad, be with his dad, know his dad, and so at 13, I don't move across the country, or that's what happened anyway, and who did I miss him? So the first thing I did because I had already been doing a lot of my own growth work, thank goodness is I called a circle of women around me and what came up for me as I shared stories, as they shared their accounts of my mothering and grief and letting go is that I really trusted who my son was and the big part for me was I was losing my identity as that full-time mom and I started grieving all of the things that we never did, that maybe I should have coulda, woulda while he was younger, right, and so these little pangs are gonna come up like, oh, I never did that thing, I wanted to do that thing when they were little, and all those things are gonna come up and I was able to release them. So there's probably some bits of you that might carry mother shame. I'm not trying to say that everybody has it, but everybody has it and that's perfectly okay. That's actually partially normal. It means that you were a good parent. If you're looking back and you're questioning some of the things that you might have said, done whatever, I'm not saying we can change it, but there are rituals that we can use to move them through our body, and for me that was sitting amongst women and being able to speak about all of the things that I felt were unspeakable, like if I said it out loud it would somehow make it true. And letting go of that mother identity also meant letting go of my judgments about how bad of a mother I was or how I could have been better, whatever that was. So for me I had this early stage where I could. I had like a practice session of letting go, but of course my son was still in high school, so I wasn't going to absolutely abandon him. We talked on the phone not as much as I liked, of course, because they say, well, he is a boy so I didn't talk to him as much as I wanted and we decided to move across country to go finish the last two years of high school with him. So I did get to have that connection back in some way. However, right after that he went off to the military, where half the time I can't get ahold of him and I don't talk to him as much, and I still feel that pain of not having him with me. Of course I still see pictures of when he was little and I wish I could just mush those little cheeks again, right. But I've learned to really see those as glorious, beautiful memories and part of my journey, part of his journey, and what I have to remember is that this is his journey. Him not calling as much as I'd want him to is his journey. He's figuring out who he is without his parents, and I think it's a really, really beautiful thing. However, there is a lot of grief and sadness that comes with it. I only had the one birth son, so that was my experience of MD Nafting, and then, after I no longer had those parental responsibilities, I had to give myself permission to be happier, to choose happiness, to choose to go do fun things, even when I'm missing my kid, to really explore who I was. So what I hear from a lot of other women is they had grown so attached to them their kids were almost like a best friend or a sister or sibling, and so you know that, really detached, not having the same connection and I hear you. However, I would challenge you that maybe that really super close connection where your child is asking you about every decision that they're making, may not be benefiting them. There is some disconnection that's supposed to happen with between parents and kids, right, like you're supposed to separate at some point so that your kids can really live their journey, not a second version of yours, and this is really common. So it's okay to miss them, and I'm going to tell you what we can do about that in a minute. The other idea is like get them out, I don't care, I don't want to be responsible anymore, and even these parents are going to miss their kids. I know that we say it. Maybe we're joking, maybe we just really had enough and we're ready. However, we are still going to miss our kids. So what I want us to understand is whether you're excited or whether you're sad or any emotion in between around empty nesting. That's, it's all okay. You can have emotions that feel very conflicting about it. It's all okay and it's all completely normal for us to have all these feelings. So, now that I've talked your ear off about what this empty nesting is like and it can be it can be so empty. Oh, I also want to touch on single parents, because it's really really challenging when I hear from my clients that are single parents that are empty nesting. It's a little bit different than a little bit harder, right, it's probably your house is probably silent now if you don't have anyone else there besides. You know your children that just moved out and so you need even more. I think, well, I don't want to say more, but you need these tools so much because this is your chance. Like being single is actually your chance to have no outside influence on who you think you are and discovering who you are now, right, now that you have put a big full-time responsibility of parenting aside and now we are a little bit more like part-time parents, right, support parents, maybe. So what can we do? The first thing is when my son moved across the country at 13, there was a period, I think, when he was around 15 or 16, where he just stopped talking to me. He wouldn't tell me why. He wouldn't tell me what I did wrong, why he didn't want to talk to me, none of that stuff. And so it was like radio silence, even though I kept leaving him messages and texting him, letting him know I loved him. I could have gotten really mad, but that would have just created this fight and this argument back and forth, and I wouldn't have felt like that was respecting his boundary of saying he wasn't ready to talk about it. So what could I do, right, besides sending him those texts and those phone calls, is I could show up the way that I wanted to, and I wanted him to see me as love and support and like a solid beam, always there, ready for him, right, whenever he was ready, I would be ready, and so I held space for him. And I know that you're like, but that's not active. I need to do something right. I also needed to be more active about the way that I held space. So even today, you'll see me in my backyard with my arms stretched wide open in the direction of whatever direction I think he is in at the moment, because he's in the military, and I will just imagine and visualize my love being sent to him. Does it get to him? I don't know. I'm not, I'm more of a science-based girl, but I know that it feels good to me. I know that when I fill my body with love and just send him that energy, I'm filling my body up with love, and that's what I'm really craving. I'm craving that love that I had, you know, from that child part of him, and so I'm giving myself a little bit of that. So that brings me to looking at our mother identity, right? So for so long, because kids need so much care, mother is our main identity with children, right? But as they get older, they need less of that mother archetype and we haven't learned how to let go of it yet. So mother identity is about us letting go of the fact that this is no longer huge in our life. It's shrunk down a little bit. We can do less. There's less to do with it. However, we still again have that mother archetype in us. So there is always going to be a part of us that wants to nurture, that wants to heal, that wants to birth new things and create, and that is the mother energy. But we can use that mother energy in so many ways, and the number one way that women I know need it is to mother themselves. A lot of women, by the time they get to midlife and they're letting go of their kids, maybe they haven't been paying attention to their health as much, maybe they haven't been working on big goals and desires, that they want some purpose, maybe they've put aside the things that they thought would be fun and instead I said I'll wait till. Well, here's the till right. We can use our mother energy to really care for ourselves in a good way, to help ourselves grow, to learn new things, to really nurture our physical, our mental, our emotional bodies, so that we can be curious and discover new archetypes that we want to really embody and stick with or embody today the most right. So we have different phases in life, and so, just because the mother phase is gone, we don't have to go straight to crone. You might go back to warrior and get some new business ideas, birth some new business ideas. You might be a writer that never had the time to write, and you can now go explore your writing, right, anything that you always wanted to do. We have a second chance, right? This is our second adolescence in midlife, so you can go back and do those things so that we can get really clear on who we are, and that's what I wanna talk about. Next is the clarity that we need when we're empty nesters, that we can move forward and really look forward to the future journey, not like everything that was important is behind us, right, which is a way that we can start to feel. So there's three questions I want you to write down if you have a pen handy who am I now? What do I really truly want for myself now? What is my purpose now in this part of my journey? It can change at any time, so this isn't finding something you're gonna do forever and ever, but for the next five years. What would I like to be doing for the next year or for the next month, right? Any type of clarity is good clarity. So asking yourself these questions and I would even journal them every night for like 10 minutes more perspectives on this right, because it's always uncovering. It's like taking the layers off an onion. We put so many layers on going. I'm too busy, I have PTA, I have this, I have that, I have work All of these things that we put on, and now we can start peeling some of those off right, because we are a little bit more managed in our life Now. We're having a little bit more time. So who am I now? What do I truly want for myself now and what is my new purpose? One of the last things I want to talk to you is about creating a ritual for yourself. So I already talked about one that when I'm loving my son and I'm missing him, that I will go outside, point my body in his direction, hold my arms out and just fill my body of love and then, like, send that over to him, like this big energy cloud coming at him of love. That's a ritual I do. I know it makes me feel good. I'm not sure that it does anything for him again. But it's a ritual, is about bringing it into your body, and when I do that, I'm telling my body yeah, I feel that hurt, and right now all I can do, all I control, is how I show up to the situation so I can give him a call, send him a text, let him know I'm thinking of him and then I go outside to bring it into my body. That's what I believe rituals about about using our senses. It's about getting out of our monkey brain, my monkey brain that can spin and then tell me that all the things that I did wrong and that's why he's not like, all the stories I can make up about why I haven't heard from him or why he doesn't text back right, like I could make up all kinds of stories and instead of doing that, I get out of that monkey brain that's just there to make me suffer, right, and get back into my body. And when we're in our bodies, we're in the present moment and I can release that love towards him, right, I can fill my body up with love and release it towards him. It's a very physical thing for me. On purpose, I want to bring it into my body and it doesn't do that through the brain. Our brain just over-thinks it Sometimes. You can't. You can't help think your kids growing up right. Another one that you can do, and I do this. I do this often. I used to do it more often when my son first left right, but I call it like a dream funeral, or expectation funeral, let's call it. And so I've let go of all the things that I thought I should, could, would do better, right? So instead of shaming myself and saying in that shame spiral, I write them all down on pieces of paper and then I put them. Either you can burn them, but I like to keep a little box in my backyard that I can dig up and I dig it up like a little coffin and I throw those things in there and I have a little funeral that, yes, I know I wanted to be the perfect mother and I wanted to make sure all of these things were done and that my kids would show up this way and they would love me the way that I. All the things that I wanted to be different. That's what an expectation funeral is about. All the things I wanted to be different. I am now burying and letting it go like physically letting it go Again, physically doing something. You can burn them, you can bury them, you can drown them. I don't know whatever makes sense for you. I like the little box because I can still dig it up and put more stuff in there, because there's always stuff to let go, whether it's just around motherhood or not. It's just a really great exercise. And then I can have the little funeral and honor all those pieces of me that really wanted to do all that stuff or really wanted to get it right, and yet honor the human part of me that can't possibly show up perfect. Okay, so this is about us honoring our humaneness, which you'll hear me talk about a lot. Being gentle with your humaneness, because it's so important that we understand we are not robots, we are not perfect. We learn something and all of a sudden we're going to get everything perfect. That's just not the way it goes. Life gets in the way emotions, ego, all of those things that make us human, and so creating more realistic expectations and then letting go of these expectations that are not going to come true so that we can move on right. We can start with our clean slate and move on. The other ritual that I've done before and that I encourage you to try is to write your mother archetypal letter. Honor her for all the nurturing, for all the meals she cooked, all the cleaning she did, all the nagging she's had to do right, all of the things, all the inconveniences, all the ways she shaped her life to really honor her children, to raise and nurture and love and heal and birth those children. Write your mother archetypal letter to honor her for all those things and then also come up with some ideas about how you can best utilize her energy moving forward. Maybe you care for plants or dogs, or maybe you nurture yourself in a really good way. Maybe you raise up that little inner child that's within you, that might still be wounded, that might need some attention or some affection or some nurturing herself. So write about the past and then what is right now and then also what you want this mother energy to be doing. I think it's really lovely and beautiful when we write these pieces to ourselves, because that's our inner wisdom, really working out what it is that we want. So you're going to go back and be able to answer those questions who am I now? What do I truly want for myself now and what is my new purpose. If you are struggling with empty nesting, I hear you. I think that even when we're excited to get rid of our kids, even when we're excited to let them go on their journeys, it can be hard. And it always reminds me of this poem by Khalil Jabran, who it's called On Children, and I'll just read it to you. And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said speak to us of children. And he said your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies, but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you, for life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children, as living arrows, are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite and he bends you with his might. That his arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness, for even as he loves the arrow that flies, he loves the bow that is stable. Cry if you need to, when you need to release the emotions. Find some ritual that helps you feel connected, full of love and honoring that humaneness of us of letting go of our babes.