Back to School Reflections from an Empty Nester

Back to School Reflections from an Empty Nester

Back to school is one of my favorite times of the year. All of the hopes and dreams that come from the start of something new gives me energy. Shopping for school supplies brings me joy {There’s nothing better than a fresh set of pens in alllll the colors}. I just love back to school – even though I haven’t had a true back-to-schooler living under my roof for about 6 years now.

My youngest graduated high school in 2013. That year, back to school meant getting her settled into her freshman dorm at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. My oldest went to live with his dad at this point, and so, once I drove back home, my house was all mine. 

People called, texted, and reached out to me {and by people, I mean my mom} to be sure I was handling the “empty nest” okay.

And, I totally was.

For the first time in 19 years, I didn’t have to “mom” anyone in my house. Not in the traditional sense, at least.

Gone were the reminders to clean up after themselves, do their chores, take care of the pets. There wasn’t anyone I had to feed, other than myself. It was uh-maze-ing.

My parenting philosophy, especially during high school, was based loosely along the lines of getting my children ready to become capable adults who could successfully navigate their way through adulthood. So, when my daughter forgot her project at home, for example, and she called me to bring it up to her, I didn’t. 

When my son did some stupid prank in high school got caught, I didn’t go in and rescue him. That boy got to do some in-school suspension for that act.

I know it sounds like I was cold-hearted. But let me tell you – it wasn’t easy to let them suffer the consequences of their behaviors.

I wanted to go in and take care of things.

But…would that be the best thing for them? In my eyes, it wasn’t.

Because I knew, in just a few short years, I wouldn’t be able to do that. And I felt that it was important for them to learn how to deal with adversity and their choices on minor things so they could handle the bigger things later in life.

So – when my little birds finally flew the nest – I was confident that they’d be able to handle things themselves along the way. And, instead of being a manager as a mom of younger kiddos often is, I became something even cooler – I became an advisor to young adults.

Nowadays, I counsel my kids on everything from what apartment would be best to how to rank residency choices to how to pick a financial advisor. To me, it’s still parenting. It’s just a different type of parenting. 

And it’s a lot of fun. Plus, after putting others’ needs in front of my own, now I get to do things for me {like keep all the cool pen colors for myself. Oh – and buy myself a pretty electric blue manual transmission Mustang}.

I won’t lie – if you had told me when my kids were toddlers and young kids that I’d be here, I may have kicked you in the head. Because parenting those young ages is 24/7, exhausting, stressful, question-my-existence  kind work. And you may be wanting to kick me in the head right about now, too, as you are in the throws of the most uncertain back to school season ever. I promise you, though…you can and will get through those tough parenting years, and come out alive on the other side, getting to keep all the cool pen colors for yourself. And maybe even with an electric blue Mustang, too.


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Carol grew up and stayed in Ohio for the first 25 years of her life - and then moved 6 times around the country and to Brazil between 1996-2000. She settled in Indiana with her kids, Jonathan {1993} and Ellie {1995}, and her then-husband for 9 years before finally making her way to the great state of Texas in 2009. Within a year of moving, she was saying “y’all” and “bless your heart” like the true Texan she was meant to be. Carol held a variety of part-time jobs while her children were in elementary and middle school. These jobs, from a kindergarten teacher’s aide to a substitute teacher to a Gymboree Play instructor, always centered around working with children. She did the whole volunteer thing throughout her kids’ elementary school days from class parent to Girl Scout troop leader and council volunteer. After earning her 1st degree blackbelt, became a nationally-certified instructor in taekwondo, and volunteer taught taekwondo at her instructor’s school in Fishers, Indiana. After moving to Katy, she opened her own taekwondo school in 2010 so that she and her daughter could continue to do what they loved and continue to be a part of their national association of schools. Carol found her true calling of teaching her students strength, focus, and confidence at her taekwondo school. Carol’s children are both grown and on their own now. {Mostly. They do pay their own bills, but they still come to her for advice}. Her daughter, Ellie, married her high school sweetheart in 2019. She met her now-husband, Scott, through Match.com {yeah, those things CAN work!}. They live in Richmond with their dog and 2 cats and enjoy spending their down time going to the movies and supporting all the local restaurants they can.

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