dr margaret rutherford parenting heart

Letting go of some of your heart.

I have met many mothers since writing “NestAche” that tell me, “Oh, I can’t even think about the time my children will be be leaving home”.

Tears spring into their eyes.

Unless you plan to move into the dorm with them, it’s going to help if you anticipate letting go.  You can start when they are young.  It just takes practice!

What do you need to do?


Families have varying manners in which they are organized.   Some families are more tightly wound around “the family” as the central force in a child’s life.  Others stress more independence.  ABC’s hit show Modern Family blatantly displays this battle!  Cameron and Mitchell chastise each other for parenting Lily differently.  Gloria and Jay constantly bicker about how she needs to let go of Manny.

Think of these two kinds of families as two ends of a spectrum.  There are pros and cons to both.   The healthiest?  The ones near the middle.

Why is this important for you to know?

Because if you were reared in the first kind of family, the, “You can only trust family” kind of family, letting go of your child is going to be harder.  In fact, the “helicopter parenting” phenomenon is likely to come from this dynamic.

Parents stay involved at a much deeper level with their child, struggling to give over control.

If you were reared in the second kind, the, “Get out there & be who you can be, and by the way, you need to support yourself asap“, you might be too detached.  Too uninvolved.  I had a patient the other day tell me he was paying rent to his aunt when he was 10.  Obviously a problem.

Consider these issues in yourself, your spouse, and the family you are creating.  Success in parenting?   When your child can leave home as a young adult, still learning but ready to be away from parents’ hands-on guidance.

2)  RELISH AND LET GO:  START PRACTICING NOW!3 Ways to Prepare For An Empty Coop .png

Every stage of a child’s life is a fantastic opportunity to practice what “empty nest” will bring you, just in smaller doses.  When she goes into kindergarden, instead of dreading the change, welcome it!  If you truly relish each stage and do the things that will bring you satisfaction and contentment, you should be able to move with her.  To celebrate with her.

When he makes that jump from his tricycle to his big bike, run along side of him and love the moment.  From middle school to high school, don’t get out the toddler pictures and think, “He was so cute back then”.

Okay, maybe once in a while.  But as a general rule, don’t look back!

That’s the practice part.  Relish and let go.  Keep moving along with your child.  Then you will be ready when the year comes for that child to truly move away.


Whether a stay-at-home mom (or dad) or a parent juggling both, I realize that hearing, “You need to focus on your relationship and yourself” can seem almost laughable.  Ever present laundry, dust, bedtimes, school functions, your own work or volunteer responsibilities, church – “And we are supposed to make time for each other?“.  More difficulty comes when kids have learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, or other mental or medical issues.

“We have focused too much on our kids.  That’s all we talk about”.

“She’s always angry with me, so I just don’t talk much”.

“He doesn’t understand that if he would just help me more, I wouldn’t be mad.  I would want to be closer to him”.

“If I try to help, I feel like I am doing it all wrong or that’s the way she makes me feel”.

“I am away from my kids so much with work that I don’t feel it’s right for us to get babysitters”.

“There are no babysitters that we can trust”.

If this is you, there’s something wrong.  It’s fixable.  You just have to prioritize differently.  You have to care enough for your self and your marriage.  Go to a good therapist if need be.  Just take some time.

When your child or children leave, all that’s left is you.  And your partner.  It’s important to pay attention.

Just enough attention.

So the rest of the nest will enjoy the rest of their lives.



You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!

My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.

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This post has been modified but was originally viewed at www.nwamotherlode.com.

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