Wednesday, November 6, 2013

About me, fledged

I'm 40, a single mother with an 18 year old Ky, and a new and uncertain empty-nester.

I've been a single parent my entire adult life. Over the years I think I've somehow let being a single parent become most of my identity. Not that I only live for my child, helicopter-parent-style - I have a really demanding career, I have two graduate degrees, I have interests that don't involve parenting... it's just that parenting has always been the best foot I've had to put forward and my primary way of seeing myself. And parenting has always anchored me. 

I was a free spirit back in college - I dated quite a bit, I liked to drink, dance, last-minute travel backpack-style, camp on the beach and have whatever adventures presented themselves to me. I was the "try anything once" type. I was just getting into that self discovery stage when I found myself completely unexpectedly pregnant. From that point forward my life spun out in a much different direction than I'd foreseen.  

I made a promise to myself - one of those promises you might make when you find yourself pregnant in your very early 20's - "I will not let parenting become my excuse for not doing interesting and adventurous things with my life - I'll just have to change how those things happen!"  And really, immature and naive as it was, I've held to that promise incredibly well.

Over the years Ky has grown up in various kinds of student housing as I went on to get my advanced degrees, we've traveled around the world together, lived in exotic and completely non-exotic locations, and had so many adventures that I sometimes wonder if that promise I made to myself didn't actually propel me into doing MORE things than I would have done if left to my own, single devices. I sometimes think I've filled my parenting life with adventure just to prove that parenting didn't have to mean letting those dreams go.

One consequence of our lifestyle is that I managed to raise a child who is a complete homebody! Ky LOVES putting down roots and remaining in one place, forming lasting relationships and having a regular, happy, grounded routine. 
Quite often, seeing this homebody, roots-loving side makes me feel a lot of regret about some of the vagabond choices I made for us. 

Other times I rationalize that I gave Ky the best life I knew how to create. I'm a smart woman, but I wasn't a particularly wise parent. In the early days especially, I wasn't very mature and I operated from a fairly self-centered perspective for quite a while. When Ky was in 7th grade I promised that we'd stay in the same town until high school graduation, and it was the best decision I could have made for us. We still traveled, we still had adventures - we just did it from a stable base. 

Now Ky is in college and I'm kind of a bit shocked to find myself an actual empty-nester. While most of my friends have just become parents in the last few years, I'm once again finding myself a bit displaced - pioneering the  next stage of parenting without any guideposts. 

I've read some articles about empty-nesting, and none of them speak to me. I don't have a marriage to re-commit to. I'm already IN the workforce, but I'm not ready to retire or finding myself with so much time on my hands that I need to volunteer to fill it. 

What do single, 40 year old women do when they find themselves empty nesting? 

Reclaim their lost youth?

Travel even more?

Finally have a functional adult romantic relationship??

Career transition? Go back to school (again?!?!)?!?

Take up an all-consuming hobby?
I really don't know, and I feel a bit lost at this point. It feels like, for the first time since I was a naive young thing in college, I'm being offered the wide open world - but I don't know quite what to do with it. I'm going to use this blog to work my way through it, and I hope to connect to some like minded folks along the way.

I like "fledged" as a name because I'm realizing that not only has my chick Ky fledged, but it feels like I'm leaving the nest as well in a way. The safe little parenting nest I've made for myself over the years. 

Strange to think of it this way, but in this strange new world, parent and child have both fledged. 

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