Kids Growing Up? Is It OK to Be Happy AND Sad About It?

“Cherish every moment. It all goes by so fast.” 

I used to get so irritated when my children were young and well-intentioned people said these words to me…because it wasn’t going by fast, and every moment was not one I felt I could cherish. Some of the moments were awful and so difficult, and I could not imagine a time when I might long for them again. 

And so, here I am. 18 years later, longingly, nostalgically looking at pictures of a time so long ago…of a mother looking so tired and stressed with her beautiful young children, and I’m just wishing I could go back there for a little while and spend some time again in those precious moments. It all goes by so fast. 

I’m not sure I celebrated and savored all the firsts and lasts enough. I appreciate them all now in the remembering of them. Sometimes it hits me that these times will never be again, and I get consumed with sadness, but most of the time I feel okay with where we all are and I face the future with hope. 

Is it ok to feel happy AND sad about your kids growing up? Is it a universal condition? 

The happy parts:

I have raised my children to be independent and self-sufficient. They do not cling to me or feel guilty for living their lives. This makes me proud! This was the goal. They are happy most of the time and have plans for the future. I, too, have plans for the future…without them! I’m not one of those mothers who is devastated that the kid is leaving home. I’m looking forward to my privacy, my freedom and all the things that come with having adult children. I love looking back on our lives. I will always treasure those young motherhood years, and it is nice to be reminded of how far we have come and how much fun we really did have together. 

The sad parts:

Kids getting older makes us face our mortality and the not so fun parts of aging. I am not the young woman I used to be. I could never juggle the madness now that I managed with composure when the children were young. I need more time to rest now. Sometimes a feeling of longing creeps over me for the past. A time before that I will never see again. When children grow up, they are grown and you’ll never know their young selves again. I miss the people they were throughout the years. All the different incarnations of them. Watching your kids grow up and grow away from you can bring on not only feelings of sadness, but also anxiety and uncertainty, as well. 

What do you do when you get sad or overwhelmed about kids growing up too fast or leaving the nest? 

Let yourself be sad, but only stay in that sad place for a reasonable amount of time. 

No one should be expected to move forward without looking back to the past, but there is such a thing as too much focus on the “then” over the “now.” Give yourself ample time and space to grieve and feel all the feelings, and then begin your plans for getting on with it. Write down what you miss about the part of your life that is over, have a good cry, talk to someone who understands. 

Plan something for the coming months.

A trip, a mental health day, a new tradition, a craft you’ve been wanting to try, etc. Focusing your energy into something you have to look forward to can help you from dwelling on the past.

Be proud of yourself.

Raising kids who spread their wings and fly is an honor. Watching our kids change from sweet preschoolers to teenagers who answer us with one-word sentences is the greatest privilege a parent can know. They are living their one precious life, and we no longer have to check on them several times a night to make sure they’re still breathing. We got them to this place! And, what about the new moms we see holding babies and writing those first chapters of early motherhood? They are looking to us to keep lighting the way. 

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