No one said it would be easy

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life124 Comments
Finding her socks in the laundry.

Seeing her beige flats at the bottom of the stairs, the ones you repeatedly told her to take up to her room.

Remembering she’s not asleep in her room when you get up from your desk to refill your coffee.

Having waves of grief crash down on you, hard, unexpectedly.

Having them pass and breathing again.

Seeing your husband cry.

Knowing this is part of the process and knowing you have to go through it.

But much like the way people don’t talk abut what happens to your physical body in middle age, people don’t really talk about this either. Not while you’re in the thick of raising them anyway.

And besides, you can’t really prepare for it.

You can’t know that watching an epic Beyoncé performance at the VMAs will make you feel so alone because no one else in your family gets it except her.

You can’t know that hearing a Paul Simon song that you don’t even like will reduce you to tears in the Target parking lot.

You can’t know the elation of getting that first FaceTime request and feeling like you can finally exhale.

Maybe that’s why people don’t talk about it until it’s changed into something more manageable.

I know it will change into something more manageable. It already is.

There is so much joy in this. So, so much joy for the opportunity of her lifetime.

To do this. To go to college. To gain independence and experience and knowledge.

To start living her own life.

That’s how it changes. That’s how it becomes more manageable.

The great part is that I still get to be her mama and she still gets to be my child.

I’m so proud of this girl.

That’s how it becomes joy for me, too.


Cathy ZielskeNo one said it would be easy

124 Comments on “No one said it would be easy”

  1. #2

    My boy left for England five months and two days ago and will be gone for another 18 months and 29 days. What keeps me going is knowing he is exactly where he is meant to be and the Skype chats every couple of weeks which can last anything up to three hours – it seems like there is so much more to say from the other side of the world! Plus he is loving it. Wishing you an increase in joy xo

    1. #2.1

      Tracey, if your son ever needs a friendly face, an American meal or anything at all, we are an Army family stationed here in England. I would be happy to get in touch or deliver anything you need. It would be my pleasure!

      1. #2.1.1

        Thank you so much Melissa, that is lovely! We are from Australia but I’m sure he’d love an American meal anyway, growing boys love their food, no matter the cuisine. Where are you stationed? He is in Frensham, which is in Surrey.

  2. #3

    Know the feeling well. When we took our oldest to college we had a 6 hour drive home. I quietly cried most of the way home. And just when I would get myself together our youngest would lean up and pat my shoulder…then I would start all over again. Our boys are all grown up now and living on their own but it is still hard at times even now. Hugs.

  3. #4
    Dawn F.

    I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this-I have 3 years until my oldest graduates and I’m already wondering how I can get through it! I’m holding on to this time very closely. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. #6
    Missy K

    This is so beautiful Cathy, in that it does not try to leap to the next thing. You are leaving lots of space for this process you are all in. I can feel a deep breath between each line.

    Keep breathing.

    1. #6.1

      Missy – you hit the nail on the head. Leaving space…just to experience it all and process. Our oldest just left for his Junior year in college and our youngest just started her Senior year in HS….so we will be doing this all over again in a year. I remember the feeling…just needing to breath and let it flow….not trying to rush it.

      Cathy – I am thinking of you and getting it…I remember the heavy heart…the wave of sadness that would come over me…and then pass. Like Missy says – keep breathing

  5. #7

    I laughed and cried with recognition through your writing, Cathy. I’ve got 2 gone this year and it’s all very weird — and quiet! I’m happy for the changes, it means I gave them the tools to grow up, but I’m sad it all had to change so soon. Hugs to you, my friend!

  6. #8

    My daughter left for her Junior year 2 days ago, and even though she is close by (40 minutes depending on traffic on 94) the house is SO quiet. It always takes getting used to. I think the dog misses her more!

  7. #9

    Reading this I realize more what my mom went through when she put me on a bus in Vermont and let me adventure on to Seattle, when I was only 20. My goodness. Thank you powerful Momma Hearts for giving us the strength and confidence to go on our paths. Thank you for being supportive, and encouraging, and being a safe place to land if we need it.

  8. #10

    Sending hugs, having gone thru this 3 times I can say it does get easier, but it is SO hard at the time. As parents we want our children to grow into wonderful adults, just wish the process didn’t happen so quickly.

  9. #11

    Oh lord, you worded this so well. I cried most of the way home dropping our daughter off at college. I cried at the restaurant while we ate dinner afterward (thankfully our waitress was understanding and told us the story of how hard she cried when she took her daughter to college). But the worst was coming home and knowing she wasn’t at home. I cried all the way up the driveway and into the house. The first few days are the worst, especially their empty bedroom. Our cat spent the first 4 days our daughter was away in her room. She’d only come out to eat. But on the 5th day everything seemed to normalize. We fell into a groove, albiet a new one, and things are getting easier. There are texts, calls and the blessed FaceTime. I, like you, am so proud of my daughter and I’m so excited for this new adventure in her life. I just wish it were a bit easier on me.

  10. #12
    Alison Foster

    Both of my boys have finished university, and are now living many hours away. I thought I coped quite well. But then my eldest got engaged. Well, even though she is a lovely girl, I felt like the bottom had dropped out of my world. My place in his life had shifted downwards and it took some getting used to. Especially as this hadn’t happened to any of my friends yet. But eventually I managed to accept the change and see it as the natural progression.
    It’s still hard, not seeing them very often, but FaceTime helps. You will get used to this new phase, Cathy, but you will always miss her. It doesn’t help much, but you are not alone.
    Just drink more wine!

  11. #13

    Cathy, I know this feeling all to well! I felt it 4 yrs ago when my 1st born left for college but now I am experiencing it all other again when she moved out of state in July for her dream job! Life sucks sometimes!
    So big big hugs from atlanta to you!

  12. #14

    Reading your post is making me cry, and my oldest is only four years old! You convey such emotional depth with so few words. Thank you for sharing.

  13. #15
    Tammy B

    Cathy, my daughter just started her second year of college; last year left me feeling incomplete, empty, and lost. My husband and I have a wonderful life together, but I just no longer felt whole. I took so many photos of things once she came home for a weekend visit. Things like shoes left by the kitchen counter…”her spot” for dropping things, her personal items left out on her bathroom counter, just little things that were signs she was present; things I didn’t treasure before she left.

    One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of support from some people. Some folks actually teased and laughed at me for feeling this way.

    The departure this year was easier, but her absence is still an obvious, uncomfortable void in my daily life. I would never wish for her to remain at home and not go out into the world, blazing her beautiful trail, but I wish there was a way to feel complete, as her mother, while she is doing this.

  14. #16

    Cathy, you don’t know how thankful I am that you are posting about this. It is terrifying for me to know that I have 4 years before our family will be where yours is, but hearing your thoughts on the process helps to remind me how fast these years fly, and how I should soak up this time with my girl. It is reminding me to be more present, and also let go ever so slightly, to get both of us ready. It’s hard already. But I get it when you say it’s also exciting. I feel a little of that, too. Thank you for sharing.

  15. #17
    Jenny A

    Your words bring tears to my eyes. I’m still in the thick of raising my children so I’ve been saving your posts for future reference. Thanks for sharing a piece of your heart with us.

  16. #18
    Krista N

    “Seeing your husband cry.” This line just brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your experiences. Big hugs!

    1. #18.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You know, Dan is a very sensitive man. It’s not like he’s never cried but it’s just so different this time. So different. He has such a tender heart.

  17. #19

    Tears..and love for a family I’ve never met IRL, but who feel like extended family. Thank you for sharing your heart, Cathy. I’m dreading this transition, but like you, I am so excited to watch my kids spread their wings and FLY!

  18. #21

    Hate to admit it, your thoughts make me miss your girl too. But you will be okay.
    I am dreading the day my girl will be leaving for college next year. I need to enjoy her last year at home.

  19. #22

    I kept it together until that line about Dan. Thank you for being the one to write this part of the story.

  20. #23
    Joanna Johnson

    Thanks–AGAIN–for writing exactly what I’m going through, too. I have a lot of complaints and anxiety about social media, but when I read about your college-letting-go-grief-joy process, I’m grateful you share, because I don’t feel so alone. I hope you don’t feel alone, either.

  21. #24
    Amy K

    You always say exactly what I feel as my daughter is now at college for 2 weeks. Grateful for Facetime and Friends and Family Weekend soon!

  22. #25

    I get it. My public unexpected breakdown happened in the grocery store when I realized I could buy the 4-pack of pork chops Instead of needing two for a family of five. It’s the surprise reminders that kick you in the gut. My second baby ( this one is my girl – ughhhh) leaves next year and I’m already gearing up for the event reading your posts!!!

    1. #25.1
      Cathy Zielske

      YES! That’s why the Beyonce thing hit me so hard. That’s a thing she and I share, the love of Beyonce’s last album. Sigh.

  23. #27

    was waiting for this…lovely post cathy, and life moves on with much more joy to come , you’ll see, I promise

  24. #28
    Liz H.

    I know how you feel. My son has started his junior year of college this year. Next year I will have two gone as my daughter is a senior this year. The first year my son called almost everyday we are lucky to get a call every other day. He is enjoying college life and apartment living. I still tear up when we drop him off and he is only an hour and half away. Enjoy this time.

  25. #29

    We not only took our daughter’s things back to college this year, but she also got married the week before we moved her things there. While she and her new husband were on their honeymoon, we packed up their things and drove them across country to meet them at the end of the week and settle them into their new little apartment. She is a junior this year. She married an awesome young man and we couldn’t be more thrilled for both of them. He is everything we had hoped for in a husband for her. But the tears have flowed for over a week now. It was hard when we first took her to college – and left her there. She was many miles away, but she came home for every holiday and break. And many of her things were still here at home, too. Moving them in over the weekend and helping them get their things put away and settled in was a total joy. Helping them pick out those necessary things to help organize their home better was exciting. And even taking her grocery shopping for all of the staples – and helping them plan a menu was fun. Helping her learn to make *my* chicken soup – which is her favorite meal – so that she could make it for her new husband was so cute! Seeing my husband take her husband out for lunch to plan their strategy for putting together the shelving and storage units, and then watching them work, side by side, confirmed again to me that this was “good”. But as we set up their household, the realization hit me that this was now her home. And that they may or may not come back to MY home for every school break and holiday, because *home* is now their own little apartment. Her things are now moved into their home. I’m sure I will probably still find a few of her things as I deep clean her room this next week. I will lovingly package them up along with some special treats to send to her, just like before! And yes, we talk almost on a daily basis and skype often too, so I still know what is going on in her life. But wow… it is QUIET here now. Knowing she (and her dear husband) are right where God wants them to be right now is reassuring and gives me peace. And I keep reminding myself that my job was to work myself out of the job of parenting – and to become her mentor and friend in the end. Its all working out the way I had hoped and prayed for her. But man…change is HARD!! (and the tears just started all over again…)

    1. #29.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yep. It’s hard. But it’s also positive. There is so much to experience and remember: you will always be her mama.

  26. #30

    OMG and AMEN Cathy! I too, have my oldest (a daughter, freshman in college, 4 hours away,) who has the exact same winnie the pooh bowl sitting in our kitchen cabinet! I walk by her room and two weeks into this new stage of life, I still am emotional. But, just as you say, we have to focus on the amazing journey they are on, and just be glad that we can hear all about it, and cheer them on! But you are right, it hits when you least expect it, my only other child, a son 15, had his first day of high school yesterday, and when I went to make his lunch, and saw my daughters lunch box from her years in high school, the tears came on. Thanks for sharing, thanks for your amazing blog, and yes, I have weight issues also, so those entries sure as hell help me too, but that’s another story…..

  27. #31

    One of my worst parts was going to the grocery. Going through the aisles and thinking Shelby would like this, or I will make this for me and Shelby for dinner. Then realizing she isn’t here….. Neither would the other 4. And the feeling I am truly alone hits again. Mine are through college. The youngest is taking part in “Chicago Semester” and doing her student teaching in Chicago. She will be home in December, but just on her way out to her real life. It’s all a change I am not sure of yet, and I am alone. And yes, life will be joyful again….. I wait.

  28. #32
    Madeline St Onge

    Hugs from me too, you have me in tears. Guess I was lucky my kids both went to college locally and stayed at home (((HUGS)))

  29. #33
    Lynne Moore

    In a way it was easier last year dropping her off at college. Where I could take pictures and see that she was doing OK for the first day before I (was forced) to leave her there. This year she took off driving the distance with a friend and don’t get to see her greet friends, unpack in chaos, get settled. (And the ex-boyfriend was mean to her and I couldn’t be there to stare him down…)

    I know she needs to do this independently. I really need her to do this independently. But I still want to be the fly on the wall. I know her friends and they are good friends. She will be fine. But my friends are busy with their kids…. Whose gonna take pictures of me and make sure I am doing OK? (wink).

    At least I can stalk her on FB and send her random txt messages and photos of the dog.

  30. #34

    I hear ya . . . I was in the thick of it just over a year ago, and then she came home for 12 weeks . . . and I’m kind of going through it all over again. This is what we spend 18 years or so of their lives getting ready for, at least in part, but I get it. A lot of us get it. Hugs to you from Florida and you put into words what is so hard for many. Thanks. I couldn’t help but feel with you.

  31. #35
    Emily Irwin

    I fear this post strikes too close to home as we help our high school senior navigate through the college search process. Like you, I know in my heart that this is all good; that she is beginning a wonderful journey but my heart is already feeling the small cracks set in that will become full-fledged breaks in less than a year?

  32. #36

    Thank you for your honesty, again! I am on the countdown to when this happens to me next year and I know it will be hard even though it is a beautiful thing for my daughter. I get it…but not totally, yet. As I sit with tears in my eyes, I thank you for talking about it and I hope you’re feeling the hugs and love being sent your way.

  33. #37
    Mary R

    the pain, sometimes, of letting them grow up, is nauseating. Nothing can prepare you for that and for how quickly it arrives.

  34. #38

    Sweetness, we’re not there yet, but you still made me cry. I need to be conscious how my husband is touched by his sons growing up. Thank you.

  35. #39
    Kim Woods

    Hugs mama, this makes me teary with a huge lump in my throat because I’m dying thinking about going through this in 4 years and then again two years later…at least I have my 8 year old caboose. I know that he will keep me sane and loved on when the BIGS are gone. **seeing my husband cry** I mean oh my goodness…hugs.

  36. #42

    Cathy you are amazing and gifted. Love reading your posts. I am preparing myself for six years from now…..I almost cried reading this.

  37. #44

    Oh Cathy…i feel for you. So much. My oldest daughter (of three) just started middle school. On the first day, she didn’t want her Dad and I to walk her to the bus stop. That is the first time in 8 years (JK to now) that we have not taken her to the bus stop at the beginning of the school year. I wished my zoom lens was longer and that time would stop flying by so quickly. I mean, I’m keenly aware of how time flies, cherish the moment, all that stuff…but I just can’t make it go any slower and it is killing me already. Hugs to you.

  38. #45
    Kirsten J

    Yep, all that. And the late night mama bear wandering the hall, checking on the kids, and seeing his dark room?? Ugh. My pity party went on far too long. And added 20 pounds to my frame. It’s now 5 years later and he’s moved home for the final quarter of grad school….and it’s love/hate with that situation. I’m so glad I have a 9 year cushion between my kids. Lol, a “caboose”. You’re right, it IS one of those things. Like sleep deprivation with a newborn, potty training, teaching them to drive (and sending your younger offspring in the car with that new driver)….you don’t quite know until you experience it, and it never ends.

  39. #46

    Cathy, may I just share with you that I am actually GLAD that you are having all of these feelings. I am glad that you are having this grief and this struggle. I am actually fulfilled to see that a mother actually feels this way about sending her daughter off to college. I did not get along with my mother. We were not close. 28 years ago she dropped me off, unloaded the car, made my bed and disappeared. She did not call. She did not write. I had to call and ask permission to come home for Fall break. I wasn’t even allowed to use her washing machine to wash my clothes while I was home and was told that I needed to take care of my clothes on my own time, not with her water and soap. When I was granted permission to come home for Thanksgiving, I was kicked out of my room (slept on the living room floor) and completely ignored while she hosted her siblings for the holiday. All I remember about that long weekend was doing sink after sink after sink of dishes, alone in the kitchen, with no one to help … so much so, we ran out of hot water. When I came home for Christmas, she ended up in the hospital unexpectedly and I was the one at home making my first Christmas dinner, cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors, without any help from my stepfather or brothers. When I brought home my first boyfriend at Easter, she went to great lengths to embarrass me. Quite frankly, I spent that first year absolutely assured that she was happy that I was gone (I still had two brothers at home). I felt hated, ignored and loathed by my mother. I am telling you all of this because I am thankful that you have the relationship with your daughter that you do. To have these emotions and to feel these feelings … I WISH my mother had gone through half of what you are going through. After freshman year, I stopped coming home and instead stayed with my father. To say that I am envious of your relationship with your daughter would be an understatement. I hope that you will always be able to share how much you love her with those of us who weren’t so lucky. What you have is amazing and a true blessing! Please don’t ever take that for granted.

    1. #46.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh Melissa, this breaks my heart in so many ways. I won’t take it for granted. You know, someone just posted on my Facebook page telling me to grow up and part of me wanted to a) ban them permanently and then the other part of me realized b) it’s not about me, it’s about them. Maybe her relationship with her children was not what she’d hoped.

      That is a sad thing no matter who you are. Thanks for sharing this.

      1. #46.1.1
        Kirsten J

        That is heart breaking. We do each live in our own realities, no? But I am suddenly reminded of my best friend and when my goddaughter (same age as my son) went to college and she did a happy dance. I still don’t get it, but we are different parents…

  40. #47

    Your experiences with your daughter have left me with a whole new perspective on what my mom must have gone through when I left home (nearly 10 years ago now, wow time flies!). Thank you for sharing–your writing is, as always, a perfect combination of beautiful, emotional, and no-nonsense.

  41. #48

    Oh, this is so familiar. My third child just started college (500 miles away), and it’s been a bit bumpy for him. I just have to have faith that he will settle in as his older brother and sister did. There is only one more at home and she is a senior, so I am savoring every last day of full-time motherhood. They do come home again, for holidays and even maybe a summer or two, but it is different. That’s good! But it’s the end of an era too.

    You do write beautifully, Cathy. I can’t wait for the third time through METAV! So excited!

  42. #49
    Sue Treiber

    Will you stop making me cry on a daily basis? Sheesh! 😉
    Last weekend I took my daughter to tour Cornell, at the top of her wish list. After an 9 hour car ride, I was hoping to hate it. Naturally, we both adored it. Even though, chances are, that she wouldn’t know a single person there, she was totally ok with that. And that’s when I started to feel that it really is all about her. I never could have made that decision at her age, to be wholly alone in an unfamiliar place. I don’t know whether or not she will get an acceptance letter or not, but knowing how sure she is about the whole thing, I really felt better. Still crying at the drop of a hat, but better. Now if only money would rain from the sky…

    1. #49.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You know, I went to college 30 minutes south of my hometown for two years. But i went home a lot. A lot a lot.

      And then, I just moved home for the last three years (yep, it took me time to figure out what I was going to do.) I never thought that maybe my mom liked that. I don’t think my dad did, but I don’t know that for sure. But I sure liked it. I think I missed out on some real chances to grow and develop though. But my therapist tells me that all the time. 😉

  43. #51

    Having a child leave for deployment brings the same feelings. Skype and internet communication does offer some anxiety relief. Being a parent is gut wrentching at times. Hugs

    1. #51.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Mary, I would imagine it does. Be sure to thank your son or daughter for their service. I think that’s the most brave thing.

    2. #51.2
      Kathryn Benfiet

      Mary…I agree. Our daughter struggled in high school and we knew she wouldn’t be going to college like so many of her friends. The first year after high school, she worked a couple part-time jobs. She went into the Marines almost a year to day that she graduated from high school. Boot camp was 13 long weeks and they aren’t allowed to call home except for one 10 second call to say she had safely arrived. We took up the long lost custom of letter writing and after she graduated boot camp, she did more training in a tiny town in Missouri. She was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina (we live in Oregon) but at least then we could talk on the phone and do FaceTime. The worst was when she deployed to Afghanistan for 7 months. It was her and another female with 85 men. A lot of it for us was figuring out the logistics and finding ways to stay in touch. LOVE iPhones and iPads which allowed us to FaceTime often. To all you Mama’s whose kids are leaving the nest, take it one day at a time and embrace the wonders of technology!

  44. #52

    I went to UW-Madison for THREE WEEKS before calling my mom and asking her to come get me. (I know mom cried after dropping me off for the first time in the high-rise dorms downtown, but she remained calm and strong in my presence.) Eventually, I discovered that it was a lovely place to visit on weekends, as my HS boyfriend remained, living in a whole other world over in the lakeshore dorms. I moved back home, took a career search workshop at a local technical college, became a full time tech school student while living at home and working. My mom and I used to enjoy walking together; no one else walks at the right pace and I enjoyed her company SO MUCH! Now, living HOURS AWAY from her, I would give almost ANYTHING to be living nearby her again. TOMORROW marks a BIG DAY in the history of our household… My three year old (youngest) goes off to preschool and his older brother is a few weeks into kindergarten. I’m unsure HOW I will handle the silence and the solitude two mornings per week. At this point, I can’t even imagine going to the bathroom by myself.

    1. #52.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Aidan is in the lake shore residences, too. 🙂 And it’s all about discovery and we support her all the way. There is no script she needs to follow. 🙂

      1. #52.1.1

        That makes me happy to hear that she is in the lakeshore dorms!!! There’s something to be said for waking to the sounds of squirrels chattering, ducks quacking, birds singing or the crew team sailing by on the lake; MUCH DIFFERENT than the sirens, car alarms, honking horns of the high-rise buildings downtown. For three weeks, I had a a terrific view of a parking ramp downtown, while BF had lake view and serene environment.

  45. #53

    Hugs Cathy. I remember my mom crying on the station platform in the early 90’s when I, her only child, was student. It was not easy for me either… So I understand.

  46. #54

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories. My daughter is a few years younger than yours and soon we will be there too. Your family seems amazing and you are doing a great job as a Mom. Watching your kids grow up has helped me prepare for what’s next for my child. It’s never easy but at least we can all go thru this together. Every moment, every photo…priceless.

  47. #55

    Two things: When the oldest moved away for college I would find myself just standing in the doorway watching the youngest as he played games / did homework / read / whatever – until HE’D finally had enough and said get over it already – ha;
    My public emptynest breakdown came when they were both gone and we’d just eaten out and the waiter asked if I wanted a carry-out box. I completely lost it and was blubbering all over the place [the COMPLETE ugly cry] becasue for years our two teenage sons had always CONSUMED whatever left-overs were brought into the house — and now they weren’t there.
    And lastly – don’t let anyone [ANYONE] make you feel bad about how you should process this – we’re all different and the emptynest is REAL and HARD – but, like I’ve said before – DO-ABLE. [I had one friend who had friends that all had kids leave at the same time and they started a weekly dinner club {eating out} so they could process together…]

    Okay – that was three, maybe four – just know that I love your writing and writing is a GREAT way to process [okay, five; I’m done.]

    1. #55.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Judy. And yes, I’m not going to let anyone make me feel badly. That’s such a childish thing to do, to judge others. To diminish others.


  48. #56
    Lynn L.

    Thanks for sharing! I too, just dropped off a child at college 3 weeks ago. I was brave and supportive the day of move in but the day after we came home was just awful! I felt like I was grieving! Just sad. He is adjusting to his new college life and we are also settling in to a routine that no longer includes him. I am excited for his future and I know he is where he is supposed to be, but it doesn’t make it an easy transition. We get to see him tomorrow and watch him play his first college football game. So excited to see him and see for myself that he is doing just fine without me. 🙂 Thanks for making me feel like I am not the only one who really likes my kid and misses him…a lot of people think I am nuts for having a hard time sending my kid off to college.

  49. #57

    You know, my son (and my oldest) is a college freshman this year as well…it’s really hard. Lucky for me, he decided to go to community college for his first two years, and told me he has no plans to move out while he attends. My husband and I always tease him about kicking him out…we “need his room!” but honestly, I was relieved. I wasn’t and am not ready to let go yet.. big hugs to you!!

  50. #58

    My dog and I are mourning right this moment. I am testament to the fact that it does get easier. But it always hits me again in September.

  51. #59
    Beth Hardage

    This is the bittersweet part of parenthood. We spend all those years teaching our children to become independent human beings. We love, we scold, we laugh, we get frustrated, and we wish for just a few minutes in the day to ourselves. And before we know it, our goal has been accomplished. They have grown into strong, independent, and wonderful young adults. And then they leave, which they should. And we are sad. And it’s too quiet in the house. And we have whole hours to ourselves. But we’ll get used to it and we’ll find new ways to connect with our children, and we’ll always welcome them home.

  52. #60
    Janine Rutherford

    Thanks for sharing this Cathy. It actually helps me to see how my mother felt when I left home. I had stayed at home throughout my teacher training and the first few years of work. I got married at 26 and left home – finally!! I couldn’t wait!! And I couldn’t understand why my mother was so upset that her baby was leaving – I am the youngest of 6. I feel so bad now as I read this as I know I pushed her away a bit as I was trying to assert my independence. She had a migraine the day I finally left with all my belongings to my new home. Poor Mummy 🙁

  53. #61

    Cathy when one of my twins Holly went off to start her college life two years ago I thought it was so horribly hard and even though her college was only an hour and a half away it felt like so much farther and I remembering sobbing as we drove away. Fast forward to this year when she decided to transfer from SF state to Penn State. This time I didn’t cry for hours I cried for days and still do just thinking about it. It’s the not knowing when I will get to hug her again that gets to me, that and the fact that she is 2,846 miles away doesn’t help. I am so very proud of her and the independent woman she is becoming but she will forever be my baby girl too! Sending hugs to you my friend!

  54. #62

    Such a sweet post, Cathy. It is all those little things that kind of blindside you throughout the day (and night).

    A friend dropped her oldest son off at college and, as many moms do, she cried the whole way home. Immediately upon entering the house, she grabbed a hoodie from the coat rack and proceeding to sit on the couch, clutching it and crying big tears. When her younger son came home, she sobbed, telling him that she missed Colin so much and that all she had was his sweatshirt, with his scent. Tears turned to laughter when her son said, “Uhhhh, Ma. That’s my sweatshirt.” 🙂

  55. #63

    ***Big hugs*** to you and Dan. (How’s Cole doing? Doing that boy thing and pretending it’s all cool?) My daughter starts fifth grade tomorrow & a new school — in eight years I’ll be facing this, too. Going to hug her tight tonight.

  56. #64

    So beautifully written, and heartbreaking for me for entirely different reasons. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen Kenny Chesney’s video for the song “There Goes My Life,” and maybe now is not the right time for you to search that out, but I had a mental picture of that bittersweet moment when I would send my just-born-yesterday babies off to college. I’ve realized that I’m never going to have that particular moment and that things aren’t going to turn out the way I’d imagined. Honestly, I feel kind of cheated.

    My oldest child, my son, graduated from high school this year but won’t be going to college right away. He is the very definition of not living up to one’s potential and has made so many frighteningly bad choices this year that making him move out looks like the only option at this point. My beautiful, bright, funny boy is working hard at destroying his own life and I can’t fix it for him. I’m praying hard that jail won’t be where I’m visiting him. Do they allow care packages at jail?

    My delightful daughter, two years behind him, has special needs and will likely live with us for many more years to come. I’m fine with that, of course, and proud of her accomplishments. But still, not how I had dreamed things would be.

    I’m so happy for you that you have been blessed with such a wonderful, successful daughter, and sad for you that you have done such a great job raising her that she’s ready to sail out into the world, but I have to admit that I’m jealous. I took for granted that I’d be where you are one day.

    I apologize for this horribly maudlin comment… Clearly a sore subject for me at the moment.

    1. #64.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You don’t have to apologize for being real. 🙂 This is not a place of judgment. Sending you some cyber love.

  57. #65

    Wonderful piece! Having walked that journey three times with kids, each one is different and yet there is a loss and a joy to each one. Care well for yourself.

  58. #66

    So hard to be a parent – my 3 have all left for college and graduated! The hardest thing was this past year. My daughter left for the convent. I am so happy for her, and proud of her, but I miss her terribly. She won’t be able to visit for 2 years ( we have been able to visit her once) and no emails! It makes the weekly letters and monthly phone calls all the more precious. I do know from having them leave for school that it will get better, and it will for you too Cathy.

  59. #67

    Your posts break my heart slowly. For you. For her missing you. For me knowing this is coming up for me. For knowing how much it must have broken my mom’s heart when I left for college, then went all the way to South Carolina for my Master’s Degree….. How I wish she were still here so I could tell her I understand it now. I sure had no clue back then how much she missed me. I was focused on how much I was missing her, making friends, and studying….. What I wouldn’t give to hug her NOW and tell her how grateful I am for her loving me so much…. Ahhhhh, yeah, What I wouldn’t give for my mom to watch me miss my girls….. heartbreaking…. so proud of HER and you. HUGS.

  60. #68

    We took our youngest (and only daughter) to college two weeks ago. I can completely relate and was comforted to know that someone else is going through the same thing. I’ve done this twice before, but this time it was much tougher….maybe because she’s the only girl and maybe (probably) because she’s the last. Hang in there! 🙂

  61. #69

    OMG…I don’t have kids and this post made my heart hurt! But on the upside I have NEVER seen her room so clean! 😉

  62. #70

    Who knew that a clean room would break my heart every time I walk past it since I’ve nagged about it for years? I totally get where you are this week – I’m still there too but it’s week 2 and getting better! And hearing the excitement and happiness in her voice makes it manageable. But when the husband thing happened here it was absolutely unexpected. And it wrecked me. Still does when I think about it, but it makes me weirdly happy at the same time – and reminds me that he and I are in a shared place and connecting about this. Which is a good thing.

  63. #72

    Oh Cathy, you captured ‘it’ so beautifully! It is all so good…and it hurts! I have done this once and am gearing up to do it again. I still remember how sad I felt when I (over and over again) accidentally set the table for four instead of for there. For me, seeing him happy made all the difference. I can only imagine what a basket case I would be if he went off to school and was sad.

    Sending you hugs and love.

  64. #73
    Juli Elgin

    Well said and I would like to say it gets easier with each one but I have been thru this three times and each time it was just as heartbreaking and joyful all at the same time. Hang in there. You will find a new normal and it will all be good.

  65. #74

    Hi Cathy, I enjoy visiting your blog and I truly appreciate your openness to share your family story and journeys with the world throughout all these years.

    I don’t usually comment but felt especially drawn to comment on this post.

    While reading it, I thought at first that your daughter had passed away.

    As someone who has just recently experienced the death of her mother, the sentiments you express here is what I feel when I go back home and my mom isn’t there… and I know she won’t be there ever again.

    “Having waves of grief crash down on you, hard, unexpectedly.
    Having them pass and breathing again.
    Seeing your husband cry.
    Knowing this is part of the process and knowing you have to go through it.”

    For people who have lost a family member, your words just hit too close to home. And this post is not about death. It’s about change. Those are two very different things. If you are going to share your story openly, I think it’s important to be sensitive to those that really have experienced grief in its truest form.

    Remember, she isn’t really gone. Cherish that you can call her, text her, visit her. And she can do the same. Because that isn’t guaranteed. I learned that (or, rather, I’m learning that) the hard way.

    Just something from the “daughter” side of things, to put your thoughts in perspective.

    1. #74.1
      Beth Hardage

      Stephanie, I am sorry for the loss of your mother and understand that you are speaking from a very sad place, and grieving for a child going off to college may seem silly to you right now. But, I don’t think you are being quite fair to Cathy. Grief isn’t always about loss due to death. People grieve over the end of a marriage, the end of a career, or the end of a dream. Cathy and all the rest of us who have commented on her post have experienced a form of grief when our children grow up and move away. It is, after all, the end of our lives as we have known them for about 18 years. Grief is grief – there is no one form that is truer than another. True, some griefs are not as long lived. I speak as someone who lost both her parents within the last two years, and my mother’s death was totally unexpected. I also lost my husband to cancer almost twelve years ago. Yet I still grieved when my children went to college and then moved on out into the world. The grief comes and goes, and occasionally will blindside you when you expect it least, but eventually it does ease.

  66. #75
    Cathy Zielske

    Oh my goodness, I would never want to offend anyone who has experienced a death. I only write to find my way through things. I would not presume to compare this to that. That was not my intention.

    It’s so very hard to know how words will be received. There is no disrespect here. Please know that.

    Also, I am genuinely sorry for your loss.

  67. #76

    Cathy and Beth,
    Thanks so much for your replies. Your responses made me go back and re-read my comment, which I think may have been a bit harsh.

    Beth is right: Grief takes many forms. And it’s not right to compare.

    Cathy, you weren’t doing that. But I was. I was projecting my experience onto your post. And really, that’s not right.

    I think your post just caught me off guard. Especially the mother-daughter connection, maybe just a hit a nerve? I don’t know. Grief will do that, sometimes.

    No disrespect here either. You have such a beautiful relationship with your daughter that really shines through your posts.

    My apologies if it came across that I was offended, or if I offended you.

    Cyber hugs to both of you. After all, we’re all in this crazy thing called life together, right?


  68. #77

    there is a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face.

    i feel these emotions each time i pass our son’s bedroom, which i can’t avoid coming out of our bedroom.

    the emptiness, or moreover, the quietness, strikes me everytime…

    i was not, and am not now, close to my mother. she didn’t make the transition from mother to friend, and so your postings give me an opportunity to see how it’s done well. how letting go allows you to come alongside aidan, more and more as a friend.

    your reflections help me think through how i love / parent / begin letting go of our 16 year old daughter.

    it’s hard….

  69. #78

    Hugs from Arkansas. We went through the same last year and it is an adjustment. Knowing they are happy doing what they are doing makes it easier.

  70. #79

    Wow. And I thought sending my first-born off to kindergarten this week was tough.
    I appreciate your honest writing. While I spent the summer trying to treasure and capture all the last moments & activities before my little guy eagerly ran into the big-kid school, I still feel like there just wasn’t enough time. Your post made me pause and readjust my outlook.
    I need to live in this moment before it’s gone too. I can’t image the college years yet. At least my little guy comes home every afternoon. Thanks for sharing your family with all of us. You’ve taught me a lot -and not just about scrapbooking 😉

  71. #80
    Michelle t

    I’ve tried to reply since yesterday, but I had so many emotions and the reply wasn’t coming out the way it should. My boys are still n high school but I’ve been really caught off guard by how fast time flies. Been feeling this for months, and I have some hard things going on, some sad things. But I’m so enjoying them, taught them how to cook this summer, and I’ll continue to keep my eyes wide open. Thank you for expressing your feelings so well. The short time I’ve been here has been a pleasure. Thanks. Michelle t. Oh, I’m sorry for the length but also wanted to say that I don’t understand people who have criticized you, or other bloggers. Just don’t get it. Some people I guess think they really know a blogger. I’m sorry that happened.

  72. #81
    Lisa E.

    Oh, Cathy, I feel your pain! 🙁 Having just sent the 3rd of 4 off to college (and out-of-state to boot!) , I can honestly say I cried just as hard when the 3rd left as I did when the 1st did! And I think it’s harder at home, too, because there’s just one kiddo left, and the house is eerily quiet…hmmmm…..and stays picked up…and there’s less laundry to do…and less food to buy…less dishes to do…less pairs of shoes by the door. But when they all come home, I LOVE that the house is a mess, there are piles of laundry everywhere, and we take out a loan to buy groceries. Every week. We run the dishwasher twice a day, and can’t open the front door because of all the shoes piled in front of it. Total. family. love.

    So, as you said, she will always be your girl, and you will always be her mama, and she will come home. In the meantime, enjoy what you can, and know that you raised her to do what she is supposed to do: spread her wings and fly.

  73. #82

    The only thing I have to say that *might* make you feel better is that Rob Lowe felt the same way too. When you feel up to it, you might enjoy his “Love Life” book where he talks about his oldest kid going off to college. It made me cry and I only have a preschooler.

    Until then, be good to yourself! Although these periods of change are difficult, it is always interesting what comes into your life. You will find your way. But also, it sucks.

    1. #82.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh yes, I read that a little while ago and just sobbed. I loved seeing how tender his daddy heart is.

  74. #83

    My husband doesn’t cry…but he stalks the college website, looking for glimpses of his girl in all the goings on there. He found one last night…just the back of her head, but it made him so happy! His happiness made ME want to cry. Love your stories; keep them coming!

  75. #84

    This post resonates with me so much and had me in tears. I am living the same experience having taken our oldest to college 3 weeks ago. It is hard to find words to describe the feelings but you did a great job of it. Completely hit home for me….all of it.

  76. #85

    You are so not alone. Our daughters are the same age. And oh, how I miss her. She ‘got’ me. Now when I snort laughing at a commercial, it’s just weird. Made even more so by the rest of the family staring at me like I’ve grown another head. All we had to do was look at each other, do the raise one eyebrow thing…and it was like a whole conversation. 🙂
    We took her to West Point this summer (incoming cadet candidates have to get through 6 weeks of Beast before class even starts)…and it was the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever done as a mom.
    We had 60 seconds to say good-bye. And 3 phone calls over the course of 6 weeks. She couldn’t take much/any of her stuff with her…and it’s hard to see all her clothes hanging in the closet (in color order, lol)…all her Captain America stuff…her track medals, and on and on. I just MISS her. We are in Washington state…so the whole pesky New York thing is just really far away. 🙂 I am constantly adding 3 hours to the time here to figure out what she might be doing….
    You hang in there. I will too.

  77. #86

    Hugs and love for all of you, thanks so much for sharing this story with us. Can’t prepare for this or for even the first day of being parents, you can only live it and experience it. So happy and proud of both you, she will do amazing things in this life of hers.

  78. #87

    This is so honest — and though I have not gone through this yet, I am anticipating it with dread. The time is coming… I’m trying not to kid myself. THANKS for sharing YOUR thoughts. It’s good to know that the grief does morph into something good, as your excitement for their opportunitities grows.

  79. #88

    I have cried over many of these posts. My son is off at school again and many, many hours away. He left once before to play baseball in Kansas (we are from Arizona) and hated it. In the beginning my husband and I were sad. My husband asked if it was like that when our older daughter left, “like your best friend is gone”. Yes, it was just like that. The whole semester he was gone was so hard. I kept praying that he would stay and enjoy this wonderful opportunity. It was not to be. He hurt his elbow and the baseball dream seemed over. He came home at semester and lived with us going to the local community college.

    He had surgery over a year ago and slowly regained his arm strength. He decided late this spring that he would try it again. He shopped around for schools interested in him. He finally chose a school 10 hours away. He and my husband drove there with all his things. I flew in for the weekend. They laughed when I remade the bed (neatly) and organized a few things in his room. I needed to make sure he was ready for me to leave.

    We did leave and that old dread that he would be unhappy was there in full force. I wanted him to be happy and like his classes, his teammates, and his coaches. Happily all that has come to pass. He is so happy there that we have had very few phone calls, text messages, or really any contact with him. While this means he is doing well and has made a good choice, it breaks my heart. Gone is that little boy/young man who would hug me and tell me “I love you momma.” I look forward to Thanksgiving weekend when I can hug him again.

    Thank you everyone for sharing. It is nice knowing that others are going through the same sad feelings as we are. We all can do this. Our children will be fine and we will get used to that hole in our hearts.

  80. #89

    Your posts make me tear up. My daughter moved out for her senior year of college and is currently in the Army. She’s been in Korea, is in the same state as us now, and is about to deploy. It’s still hard to see my girl going so far from home, but she’s such a beautiful, confident young woman who is enjoying the life she has chosen. One of the neatest things has been watching the relationship with her twin brother and younger brother. They call and facetime regularly. My family is close, but my husband’s is not. I love that they want to talk and share their lives with each other. Hang in there Cathy.

  81. #90

    Right there with you! My daughter left for college the middle of August and I keep reminding myself that she’s not just off on a trip. This is her big chance and I AM so very happy for her. It’s exciting to see the steps she is taking. It’s reassuring to know that all the “big feelings” for us as parents are shared; you’re not alone in them. My missing her creeps up on me too. Thank you for your honesty and courage in giving voice to them. {{Hugs}} from Atlanta!

  82. #91


    This post made me sob from the beginning. My oldest is going through his Senior year and through the process of picking schools, and my husband and I are going through the process of preparing to let him go. I have been telling myself for few years that this time is coming, and your post is exactly what I see myself (and my dear husband) going through and it hurt to read it out loud. But you did it so beautifully and reading the other comments brings me solace in knowing I won’t be feeling or going through anything different. I will come back to your post when its my turn to send him off, and will write my own I’m sure because these are moments that need to be remembered and felt like this. Thank you for writing and sharing real life so well. My hugs to you!

  83. #92

    It will get easier. Let the emotions flow. You deserve it. Hugs to you, Cathy and thanks so much for sharing.

  84. #93

    This is such a beautifully written post! My oldest graduated college this past May and in July we moved him halfway across the country to attend medical school and while I am enormously proud of him it hurts to have him so far away (he was 90 minutes away for the last 4 years) and this time he took everything so now “his” room has become a guest room. Who knew that an open door in the morning (since when he was here and asleep the door was closed) would make me cry so often? My second one is home this year after 2 years away at college (15 hours away and everytime we left his dad & I would cry when we got in the car) as he needs some time to find his way which is fine, it will happen eventually and luckily my “baby” is only 13! It does get less painful after they move to college but it takes time and never apologize for missing your sweet girl or for crying that’s wonderful that you both have that close of a relationship. I like to call our life now our “new normal” not the normal I necessarily want (a bit too quiet) but not bad either just different.

  85. #94

    Cathy- I cried and wasn’t sure I would survive when my son went to school.. but when 2 years later we dropped my daughter off I was sure life was over…
    I cried.. my husband cried.. I remember him pulling me aside one day to say ” THIS HAS TO END” < meaning our saddness… and it did slowly. 10 years later I still miss them.

    We had aol Instant messenger.. I remember thinking how hard it must have been when parents had letters and phone calls… I felt blessed with the little Bing! Instant messenger pop up! My friend (and I call you that because after all these year….) it will get better and your new life will start to take shape.

  86. #95

    Cathy, I was just on Kerri Bradford’s site when I saw what she posted about sending our child(ren) off to college etc….. It’s funny because I follow both of you when possible…. I have 3 kids ages 8,7, and 4.
    We recently had a situation where my daughter (4) as well as many other preschoolers could no longer return to their school due to a sudden shut down. Naturally, I’m scrambling around and having to try my hardest to be positive while I communicate with my ex-husband in regards to agreeing on a new school. It was tough….. but we came to an agreement and placed my daughter into a school where she can continue the same teaching her previous Christian school had. On her first day of school, while I was sad about the old preschool situation, I was also sad realizing when I took her first day of school picture, that my baby girl is growing up. She has grown so much in 2 years of starting school, just as I saw how my 2 boys have on their first days of school. I just don’t know how I’ll be able to cope when the time comes to sending them off to junior high, or high school, especially COLLEGE!! 🙁 I know I’m probably dramatic but while I have young kids, your words really have me trying so hard to keep myself compose. I’ve had a rough year and half with my divorce and with my hurt/sadness/anger etc about my old life, I just won’t cry …. I just can’t. Your post, has me have tears and I thank you.

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