My son is a senior in college and his current job search is really on my mind. I’d love to know how to remain excited about and supportive of his future opportunities, when it’s highly likely he will be moving very far away. I want to be so happy for him. But honestly there is part of me that feels a little sad.
You don’t need advice. You need a big hug and a soft shoulder to lean on while you feel those sad feelings!
Because of course you’re sad. When our babies go far away, we mourn the loss. We mourn the sweet smell of their baby necks. We mourn the twinkle in their eye when we’ve said yes to seconds on dessert. We mourn their angst and their anger and their gratitude, and everything in between.
Though you will always and forever be aware of the difference between having him close (and younger) and having him far away (and older), your acute mourning won’t last forever. It will gradually be replaced by the new relationship you’ll have together, mano a mama. That wonderful relationship will be filled with his adult experiences and will bring you a new kind of joy that is as unique as the joy you felt when he took his first steps and fell into your lap laughing.
But until that transition takes root and that new relationship has a chance to evolve, give yourself the space and time to do your grieving so that it doesn’t become his problem, or worse yet, That Which Defines Your Relationship. As your instincts are telling you, being excited and supportive are the right things to be feeling and sharing with him. The rest — the sorrow and uncertainty — is for you to bring to the other adults in your life, maybe a support group (you’re not alone), or a coach or counselor at some point.
The job description for parenting changes all the time. And the job description for parenting an adult is just as confusing as the ones you’ve barely mastered all down the line since they were little. Just when you figure out what your infant/baby/child/tween/teen needs from you as a parent, they go and start needing something different! And just as you figured out how to parent a college student, your new job is to parent a young adult who makes decisions without even taking your feelings into account… just like you, at some point, decided to stop basing your decisions on what made your own parent(s) sad or happy.
The small print in this current job description reads something like this: Show your children that you’re a whole person who can make your own happiness, grieve your own losses, and take care of yourself. Then they’ll know that that’s what it means to be an adult.