Family & Friends

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Mother

When you have a baby, older, wiser mothers warn you that the time will go by quickly. . .Then — poof! — suddenly your child’s childhood is over and you have to rediscover your life without her.

We’re fortunate to have the resources (and Southwest’s nonstop flights) for our daughter to come home for winter and spring breaks, as well as special weekends (like her cousin’s recent wedding). And, with my best friend just twenty minutes from my daughter’s campus, I make it a point to visit her every few months as well. But even that feels as if I’ve gone through the looking glass.

I debark, collect my baggage, and head out to the curb. She pulls up in her used Honda CRV. It’s wonderful to see her, but also strange to have her serving as my chauffeur. After all, I was the designated driver by necessity for sixteen and a half years. Even after she got her license, I still did most of the driving when we were together.

However, when I visit, I’m on her turf. College has become her home away from home. If I take her shopping or out for lunch, I may pull out my credit card, but she’s still my host and guide. She shares aspects of her life — the occasional lunch with a roommate, a quick tour of an academic building — but it’s absolutely her life. I’m just visiting. It makes me sad, but at the same time so grateful.

Because the thing is, some of those other mothers I mentioned (the ones who were handling change less emotionally than I was) have already shared horror stories. Some of my daughter’s high school peers are miserable at college. Some have transferred. Some are taking “time off.” Meanwhile, my daughter is happy, healthy; she’s earned solid grades, made good friends. She’s thriving.

I miss her terribly every day. But I’d miss her terribly every day whether she was happy or not. So I console myself that this is about as good as it gets.

When you have a baby, older, wiser mothers warn you that the time will go by quickly. Caught up in the day-to-day, you don’t quite believe them. Then — poof! — suddenly your child’s childhood is over and you have to rediscover your life without her.

Thank goodness, then, that time continues to move at a brisk pace even when the child’s away. That first year, as hard as it was for me, is over. My daughter’s a sophomore now and the spring term is coming to an end. She has a local job lined up for the summer.

In fact, she’ll be home in seventeen days.

Not that I’m counting or anything.


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  • Cara April 15, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Loved this story also! I can truly identify with the title “Long Distance Mother” in so many ways. I found it by chance while looking for royalty free pics to plug into my own similar Sunday Morning Blog/Writing. How quickly the years go by. Bravo for you in finding a helpful way to share this and also for your eloquent story! I look forward to reading even more…

  • Jo Shafer April 10, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Loved this story! I have two children, so I didn’t cry on my drive home from taking my first-born to his new campus, three hours from home. I was, however, a little miffed that he had left me waiting in his dorm’s lobby while he — all by himself! — set up his room, then came down to hug me and walk me out to the car. Sweet boy that he was, he asked me, “Mom, will you be all right?” Awww….

    Then home to my second born, a daughter just starting high school and a marvelous four years with an only child again. When she left for the same college, I did cry afterwards, as well as after her marriage four years later.

    Silly, those tears, for my children’s independent, stable, adulthood lives had been my mothering goals all along. But I can miss them, can’t I?

  • Andrea April 10, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Thanks Alexandra for this piece. We have all been there and experienced this time of “letting go”. Now for some “ME” time!