The National Catholic Review

My youngest of four daughters has moved out of the house. She is now sharing an apartment with one of her sorority sisters, only 50 miles from home. She is halfway through her freshman year of college. She is lovely, witty, compassionate, intelligent, thoughtful, and completely ready to be out of the nest. Just as her three sisters were before her.

I should be congratulating myself on a job well done: four daughters, out in the world, finding their way, figuring out who they are and who they intend to be, navigating the waters of adulthood. Instead I am rattling around in her nearly empty bedroom, feeling sad and sorry for myself. It’s really over. The years that sometimes seemed to drag have flown. My little birds have all fledged.

It’s been, after all, almost 28 years that I’ve had at least one child at home. Those girls have been my life work. No matter how good a job I do at work, no matter how many published credits I accumulate, my daughters will always be my chef d’oeuvre, my magnum opus. They are my joy and my bequest. They are proof of God’s existence and benevolence. They are the grace of God personified.

So: a mere melancholy mood. It is right and natural that children grow up and move out, that they branch out and blossom and bloom. As our daughters mature, the relationship between my husband and me also enters metamorphosis. We can luxuriate in the presence of each other. We can live by a more forgiving clock. We can focus on what it means to be just us.

Our fledglings gone, we remain in the nest. We’ll be here. We’ll still be good for the occasional loan, word of advice, laundry facilities, square meal, place to regroup, and holiday destination. The sheer physicality of parenting, the mess and immediacy of it, is over – I no longer know what every child is doing at every moment - but the spirituality of parenting goes on.

Every time a daughter moves out, I suffer through a small mourning period. This last one just seems so final. I look at the little things she has left behind, and indulge in a bit of a cry. And then I am just so grateful for the impossibly, deliriously blessed life God has lavished on me.

Valerie Schultz

Comments

mary jane mantzke | 10/29/2010 - 4:24pm
Being the mother of four children (1 boy, 3 girls), I totally understand your feelings! And, I too, say ''good job, mom!!''
Also wanted to comment on any of your articles: You are a good writer and I have really enjoyed reading your work. Thank you for sharing so much!!
Michael Bindner | 4/7/2010 - 12:12pm
Congratulations. I can relate that eventually, one or two might come home to stay for a while. Indeed, my brother moved back home after my father died. When you have grandchildren, you will also find that they will be frequent visitors during summers and holidays, as I and my cousins were to our grandmother. The nest will not stay empty forever.
Winifred Holloway | 4/7/2010 - 11:57am
It only gets better, Valerie.  You and your husband will be feeling like 20 somethings again - only without the diapers and getting-up-in-the -middle of the night blues.  Their  coming home for visits as adults will be a real gift for both them and you.  Much merriment, lots of memories, good conversation (you'll find out things you never knew ) and lots of satisfaction for the parents.  You will ask yourself over and over again, How did we get to be so blessed?  Enjoy