Family Transitions and Taking Breaks
Recently, my Modern Family went through a major transition.
My youngest child moved away to college!
Wow! I can’t believe that I’m an empty nester now.
It’s just me, the chihuahua, and the cat roaming around the house all by ourselves now. While the quiet feels strange, I’m also excited – excited to watch my kids pursue their adult dreams and excited to begin my next chapter in life, too.
I had heard horror stories about how the empty nest transition can be a hard one on Modern Parents (especially single parents), so about three years ago,I began planning to make my empty nest chapter a positive and exciting one. I’m glad I did, too, because I definitely feel ready for this next chapter in my life.
There’s a lot I have to share about my experience with planning for the empty nest stage, so I’m going to share all those thoughts in next week’s blog post.
However, in today’s post, I want to share how my Modern Family came together to make my daughter’s college move a special one, and why it was important that I took a break from blogging over the summer in order to be fully present for this important time in my daughter’s life.
I hope that by sharing my experiences, you will 1) feel more confident in developing creative ways to make your family events special no matter what your family looks like, or what unique challenges your family might face, and 2) to give yourself guilt-free permission to take breaks from some responsibilities to focus on your family.
How My Modern Family Handled This Transition
As many of my readers know, I co-parent my son and daughter with my ex-husband and his new husband. We are a mixed orientation family – one parent is straight while the other parent is gay. You can read more about my family here. We’ve been parenting pretty successfully this way (admittedly, with several ups and downs) for the past 11 years.
Jeff (my ex-husband), Keith (Jeff’s husband), and I are not only co-parents, but friends, so this makes co-parenting fun and easy. Sometimes it’s a challenge to get together because we live about 90 miles away from each other and as the kids got older, they had their own busy lives that didn’t always include wanting to hang out with parents. But overall, we try to make sure that we are planning get togethers semi-regularly.
We also make an effort to ensure that our kids feel special and loved during important life events such as graduations, birthdays, holidays, etc. so coming together to move our daughter to college was pretty natural for us.
As is typical for most Modern Families, sometimes special occasions conflict with work responsibilities and social events, so we had to be creative with fitting in everyone’s goals during this trip. Belle was scheduled to move into her dorm at the University of California Santa Cruz on Friday, September 13th. Unfortunately, I had already committed to speaking at the Diversity in Parenting Conference that same Friday and Jeff and Keith usually attend “Out at The Mountain” at Magic Mountain each year and it fell on the 13th as well this year.
The way we chose to solve this problem was to ask Belle to contact her school to get permission to move in on Saturday the 14th (gotta learn these life skills at some point, right?) and, thankfully, they allowed her to move in a day late. On Friday, I stayed overnight at the conference in Anaheim and Belle attended the event at Magic Mountain with her Dads where they stayed the night at a hotel close to the park. Early Saturday morning, I drove to their hotel, and then we all loaded into the Dads’ SUV and we drove the 5 hours to Santa Cruz together.
We had a fun, but emotional weekend together experiencing moving our last kid into college. Experiencing special moments with each individual kid is always uniquely different. Although I had experience moving my son to college three year earlier, he only moved to Los Angeles which is only an hour away from me. I didn’t expect that I would feel so emotional leaving my daughter in Santa Cruz – she feels so much farther away from me than my son!
Keith, Me, Belle, Jeff Belle & I Saying Goodbye
Even though driving away from Santa Cruz was hard, my heart feels so happy and proud when I speak to my daughter on the phone each day and she is loving her on-campus job, meeting lots of new friends, and enjoying her classes. This is a great new chapter for her!
All in all, this Modern Family event was a success for us, but it was also VERY exhausting.
Which is why I chose to take a break over the summer from everything except for seeing patients in my private practice – and this allowed me to soak in all of those last moments of being a full time mom.
Why I Decided To Take a Break From Blogging This Summer
I’ve talked about the benefit of taking a break from optional commitments in order to focus on family before. Sometimes we need to “circle the wagons” around our families in order to provide the support our family needs to overcome a certain event.
The origin of the expression “circling the wagons” came about in the 1800’s and refers to settlers arranging their wagons in a large circle, protecting women, children, farm animals, and valuables on the inside of the circle from an enemy.
Modern families, at times, need to “circle the wagons” against the modern enemy of overcommitment, unhealthy relationships, and/or ineffective bad habits in order to provide the support that families require to remain loving, warm, and close.
This summer definitely called for circling the wagons around my family.
What was my purpose for doing this, and how did I make it happen?
My purpose for “circling the wagons” this summer – or taking a break from unnecessary activities or commitments – was to:
- Provide emotional support for my daughter when she got nervous about moving to college.
- Communicate to my daughter that she was loved and that she mattered to me
- Soak in all of the “little things” like laughing over the antics of our cat, hearing her complain about having nothing to wear, or even making dinner together – these things won’t happen on a daily basis for me anymore.
I knew I could have dinner or lunch with friends anytime. I could write blog posts and post on social media another day. I could turn down speaking engagements over the summer because there would be many more in the fall and winter.
This was a unique time in my daughter’s life and I wanted to be there all I could.
In order to make this happen, I relied upon my assistant to ensure that I only scheduled patients in the afternoons and early evenings (it’s hard for me to say no to my patients!). This allowed me to have slow mornings to hang out with Belle. We also cooked together each night and watched a show or two together.
When friends would suggest lunch or dinner dates, I let them know that I was going to be out of the loop of a while to focus on family. All of my friends understood and supported my decision.
Even after the move to Santa Cruz, I still needed a few weeks to recover from all the emotions and busyness of the past month. Taking this time to myself was great for my own mental health, and now I feel fully recharged.
Great Things To Come
So now my “next chapter” is here – and I’ve got some really BIG plans for Modern Parents.
You’ll see some new ways to learn about Modern Parenting and I’m working on providing new opportunities to engage more voices in conversations about current Modern Parenting topics.
I can’t wait to introduce these new projects to you, so keep an eye out for announcements over the next few months. The best way to keep up on all of the changes is to sign up for my mailing list and to like me on Facebook. I would love to keep in contact with you!
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