Child Off to School Sets Off Mom’s Angst Trigger


Is it normal for mothers to have strong feelings of nostalgia when their children move into the next phase of life?

Q. Since the oldest of my three children started kindergarten this year, I have become increasingly attached to her, as if I took for granted the past five years I've had at home with her. The rational side of me knows I need to allow her to be independent of me, make mistakes, and so on, but the irrational side feels almost literally sick when she comes home talking (in my opinion, prematurely) about boys, clothes and the like. I don't want to be a parent who ends up with a 30-year-old "kid" still living at home, but I also want my kids to remain close to me. What is wrong with me and how can I change?

There's nothing wrong with you at all. You're simply over-analyzing your feelings, something mothers are wont to do when it comes to their kids. In your case, that's compounded by the fact that it's generally much more difficult for moms to let go of their children than it is for dads.

The feelings you're experiencing are normal to parenting transitions of this sort; again, especially for moms. When your daughter began school, the fact that she won't be a child forever became crystal clear. As a consequence, you began to experience a sense of profound loss, exacerbated by your daughter's talk about things you associate with an older age. It's as if her life has suddenly accelerated and you can't keep up.

My wife experienced very similar feelings when our first child went off to college. She was truly "thrown for a loop" and began going through what I quickly recognized was a grieving process. I further realized that whereas dads derive great satisfaction from seeing their children become independent, moms have great difficulty on such occasions with the loss of dependence.

Understanding your feelings is the first step toward accepting them as normal. Stop fighting them, stop worrying about yourself, and this very natural phase of your parenthood will pass that much more quickly.

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