Relationships & Divorce
CoveyClub’s College Drop-Off Survival Guide
College drop-off is scary. Empty nesting is overwhelming. The Covey team has you covered with a roundup of our best articles, essays, and podcasts to get you through
For years, I laughed and scoffed at those parents claiming they were devastated by their children finally going off to college or moving out on their own. “Empty nest syndrome,” they called it. As a hard-core executive who put in 60 hours a week or more at my job running national women’s magazines, I would say to myself, “College drop-off? Oh, c’mon. Get a life.”
Yes, I loved being a mom as well. And my job allowed me (or sometimes forced me) to have moments when I wasn’t working and could be a dedicated supermom.
While I adore my children and feel that they allowed me to have the family I never had growing up (my parents divorced when I was 10), I also had a deeply rewarding and creative job. I traveled the world helping women raise their voices and reporting on injustices I saw. (Ok, so I also got to try amazing cosmetics, spas, and clothing — but that was a perk.)
Yet when my daughter announced that she wanted to go away to high school because the public school she was about to enter would be too large and she was having trouble in junior high catching the teacher’s attention, I nearly fell over. That was the same year my son was going off to college. I had planned on four more years alone with her. But she was having none of it. I delegated the task of finding, applying, and getting into a boarding school to her (assuming she’d never do it), but in less than a year she was on her way.
Even though I have a great husband and lots of caring, warm friends, the sense of loneliness that descended upon me when my youngest left home was devastating. I cried for three weeks. The bond we have with our children is like nothing else. And while they may drive us crazy (a lot), the return on your love investments is 100x. It wasn’t until I was on a business trip to a spa with a lot of spiritual activities that I was able to recover. I had a meeting with a shaman/psychologist who told me that I could leave that profound sense of loneliness with him at the spa. If I ever needed it, I could come back and pick it up. It was a brilliant trick. I never went back or picked that feeling up again. I know it exists, but it exists outside of me, instead of inside. (I also know that my very particular, profound sense of loneliness derives from a childhood wound — from when I had to leave my dysfunctional mother to live with my dad at age 12.)
Today both of my adult children live in different states and we are just as tight as when they were growing up. I speak with them several times a week (sometimes a day), and occasionally they even step in and take care of me (like when I had a recent health scare).
Because CoveyClub is all about getting through transitions, we have gathered here for you all the amazing writing and podcast episodes that touch on the subject of empty nest. Peruse them all and read or listen to the ones that intrigue you. You will find voices here that will tell you that you are not alone. This is a difficult transition. I highly suggest finding new hobbies, joining new clubs (why not CoveyClub?), traveling, moving, or going back to school. This is a time for your child to grow but it’s also your time to grow. Grow together and you won’t believe what happens.
CoveyClub’s College Drop-Off Survival Guide
THE EMPTY NEST: WHEN MOM FLIES, TOO
Bestselling novelist Laura Munson mourned her kids moving on — until she ditched the empty nest herself.
THE UPSIDE OF HAVING AN EMPTY NEST (IT’S SEX.)
“Sure, we missed having the kids at home,” says freelance journalist Andrea Atkins. “But man did our sex life get better.”
OF LOVE, LOSS AND BASKETBALL
Journalist Alina Tugend recalls that she was fine with the empty nest — until a storm moved in.
THE LAST FIRST: GETTING READY TO LET MY KIDS GO
As her oldest prepares to leave for college, writer and Covey member Elisabeth Catuogno tries to find the woman she’ll be when she’s no longer defined as a mom.
WHAT YOU’RE THINKING ON COLLEGE DROP-OFF DAY
A roundup of tweets about the jittery, sweaty, beautiful transition to an empty nest.
KILL YOUR COLLEGE DROP-OFF ANXIETY: 8 HELPFUL TIPS
College drop-off in a post-COVID world is weird, but there are smart things you can do to increase your child’s chance of staying healthy and staying at school. At the height of COVID, writer Christina Cush shared these helpful tips that still ring true.
MOTHERHOOD SUCKS: DROPPING YOUR CHILD OFF AT COLLEGE
Conflict. Tears. This separation ritual means day-to-day parenting is over. What’s next? Longtime Covey member and writer Harriet Riley explores.
#35: REINVENTING TO FILL UP HER EMPTY NEST (JEANNIE RALSTON)
She was a successful magazine and newspaper writer whose photographer husband had wanderlust — forcing them to uproot and homeschool their kids around the world — from South America to Mexico. She even wrote a book about the successful lavender farm she ran outside of Dallas. Then, when her last child left home, Ralston launched NextTribe.com, a virtual and IRL space for women 45+ to connect and create new friendships.
#73: REINVENTING BY MOVING TO A NEW CITY
When your adult children have finally moved on to their own lives, some women find the only way to jumpstart their own bliss is by relocating. “I’d always imagined we’d live forever in our big, beautiful suburban home where I’d given birth to my daughter two days after moving in 24 years earlier,” says CoveyClub founder Lesley Jane Seymour in conversation with Covey Editor at Large, Deborah Marquardt. “But once she and my older son had vacated the nest, the house felt like a mausoleum to sadness; every inch reminded me of their childhood and reinforced how they were now finally gone. Plus, the town is so kid-focused that I could walk down the street naked and if I didn’t have a child with me no one would notice.” Seymour and her husband downsized in New Orleans, a city they’d visited on vacation for 30 years. “We wanted warm weather, a university town — where we can teach or learn — interesting culture, diversity of age and economic backgrounds, beautiful housing, a lower cost of living, and people open to newbies. We got them all — and more. Plus, we have a 31-year-old marriage. Sometimes you just have to jump off the high dive in order to start learning and rediscovering yourself — and your spouse — again.”