She’s Coming Home! What I Have Learned During my Daughter’s First Year of College

Welcome Home from College, Daughter!It’ that time…already. My daughter is coming home this weekend after finishing her freshman year at college. I am truly in awe of how quickly the year has gone and how much I have learned over this past year.

I wanted to share a few insights about how this life transition has not only propelled my daughter to adapt, change and grow, but surprisingly has done the same for me.

As most of you know, saying goodbye to my daughter was extremely difficult and I felt that I had lost a part of myself when she left.  But thankfully, over time (even though I still don’t like to go into her empty room), I have adjusted to our new normal and have realized that her departure served as a bit of a wake up call for me.

To sum up my mothering of Sophie, I would say that I had an extreme case of the “first-child syndrome.” I wanted to do everything right and to be an all-star, all-knowing mother. Upon her birth, I quit my job as a public relations account executive, and decided that she was my world and that everything else paled in comparison to the joy I felt in being her mother.

Three more kids and 19 years later, I realize that some of my initial new mommy thoughts were on par, but I have also discovered that throughout my motherhood journey I have struggled with defining myself as more than a mother to my children. I have, at times, found it difficult to stay true to myself while taking care of my family (which is the basis for my upcoming book!).

I have had several “hit me over the head” moments (which usually came in the form of mini-breakdowns) that served as reminders that my children could not MAKE me happy, and that my happiness and fulfillment needed to start from within. Sophie leaving for college was definitely one of those moments.

During this past year, I have regained parts of myself I didn’t even know I had abandoned. I realized how much energy, emotional and physical, that I poured into that wonderful, brown-haired, blue-eyed girl. I don’t regret any of it, as I know it was part of my journey and that I experienced a great deal of healing in mothering her the way I did. However, since her departure, I am grateful that I’ve experienced a newfound sense of peace within myself, as well as within my relationship with my daughter.

I now understood that the relationship Sophie and I built while she was living at home was only the beginning. We laid the groundwork for what would continue to be a solid and indestructible bond. Throughout this past year, Soph and I found our rhythm in how much we talked, or didn’t talk; how much she leaned on me for advice or support and how much she tried (or I urged her) to figure things out for herself. I realized that when I missed her, it was okay for me to call her, and when I missed her A LOT, I could even grab my little one and go visit her.

But equally as important, I realized that sometimes when I was lonesome for  her, I needed to not call her. I needed to be present in my life and focus on what was in front of me— my husband and three other kids, my writing, yoga, faith, friends and family. Doing so provided me with an amazing sense of comfort and fulfillment and reminded me that while my kids will always be a huge part of my life, I have many other passions and interests that make me who I am and make me feel whole.

This sounds dramatic, but I found that Sophie’s departure made me look at my life in a “big picture” kind of way. It has taught me that while I initially thought of Sophie’s leaving as a “loss,” it turned out that after I shed all the necessary tears, it actually felt like a gain for both of us. The cord was cut, once again, and we both were thrown into unknown territory where the 650 miles that separated us caused us to be less dependent on one another, and provided us extra freedom and space to grow and explore our individual passions.

As I anticipate her homecoming tomorrow, I am well aware that our strengthened relationship will be tested as she is expected to live under our house rules again. This experience may add an entirely new twist to our mother/daughter “absence makes the heart grow founder” love story. More on that to come…Wish me luck…

Comments

  1. Julie, I feel privileged to have walked much of this crazy journey with you and even happier to see how you have grown and that our friendship has survived the ups and downs of our girls friendships. I value our history and look forward to our “new” future and new selves.

    • Thanks, Nan! What a crazy journey it has been! Whew! And it continues… :)! I am grateful for our friendship and look forward to continuing to watch our girls grow and transition into new phases of their lives, and to be able to add more stories to our already long list of good ones :)!

  2. Beautifully written, I have my baby girl home now. Enjoy Sophie’s return!

  3. Congrats on surviving the first year Julie! I just have one question: Does Sophie now bleed blue? 🙂 Seriously though, sounds like you both handled this year beautifully and grew in positive directions. I just hired my son’s SAT tutor today and found out he was good friends in high school with Randy’s freshman year roommate (who also lived in MN for a while but is from NY)…small, crazy world!

    • Thanks, Emily! Answer to your question: YES! Oh my gosh, YES! Remind me to tell you about some of things she has written about being a student there. She absolutely loves it! That is crazy about your son’s SAT tutor…so many Randy connections! We have to try to meet with our hubbies and maybe some of our kids in Ann Arbor some time. Hope Little Dude is feeling good! XO

  4. You’re right, Julie. The year the first one is off at college is one of growth for the parents and the child. Watching them mature, and embracing this new stage of our lives as parents, is an exciting and emotional one. Enjoy the summer–and the full house again.

  5. Good luck, Julie! We’ll get together soon and compare how “lucky” we are to have our wonderful daughters!

  6. What a great summary of your feelings from the beginning to now. And love the teaser for the book. Yay!

  7. I’m just thrilled for you…..enjoy her arrival!

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