This is a review of From Mom To Me Again, How I survived My First Empty Nest Year And Reinvented The Rest Of My Life by Melissa T. Schultz.
I was prepared to not enjoy this book. After LOVING Going Gypsy and enjoying My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space, I didn’t plan to enjoy From Mom To Me Again.
Even the title didn’t really grab me. From Mom To Me Again implies that ME got lost in being MOM, which sounds so depressing to me.
Then I started reading the book. And sentences I read started resonating with me. For example,
You might be surprised to learn that, technically speaking, “empty nest syndrome” isn’t a diagnosis at all, at least not within the medical community– if a feeling. It’s not an official “thing” you will find on, say, an insurance form that lists the many health conditions you might suffer from.
Though my heart was full– it was also broken. I just never imagined I could feel this wonderful and horrible at the same time.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’m not alone in my dilemma, and neither are you. Everywhere you turn these days– books, TV, movies, the internet– The Empty Nest looms large. That’s because around three million women become empty-nesters every year.
A collection of blog posts
This book is based on Melissa’s Huffington Post blog where she wrote for a year about the process of letting go of her kids and the life she had lived as a mother for 21 years. That was my story! I have spent quite a bit of time in the past few months preparing for the empty nest. My first blog post was Perched On The Edge Of Our Empty Nest.
She describes this book as part adventure and part self-help. From Mom To Me Again weaves together her blog posts, stories of other moms, stories from her own family, and advice from psychologists and experts. She gives real life examples of moms reacting to their newly emptied nest. Interestingly, responses vary from having almost no impact to being a teary-eyed hot mess.
The book begins a year before her younger son leaves home. I identified with her description of her life as being divided into three acts. Act I was before kids. Act II was with kids at home. And Act III is after the kids leave. I feel like she did: Act II was her favorite act so far, the toughest but the most rewarding.
As she notes, even time is measured differently in Act III, not by school years and summer breaks and height measurements penciled on the wall. She faced the reality that the kids aren’t present to breathe new life into hers and their youthful energy is gone from the house. She committed to a transition to prepare herself for that, to fully embrace Act III without kids.
A lot of lists
There is a list in part one of the book: a list of lasts. The last homework,the last sandwich, the last breakfast, the last “are you up”, the last “have a good day”. This is all so fresh for me too! Since our son was home-schooled my list of lasts is different, but the emotions attached are the same.
Another is her list of approaches to give yourself a boost when you are down. She includes exercise, do something artful, practice gratitude, eat something you loved to eat as a child, go to a museum, hang out with the funniest person you know, and take a shower.
The book also includes suggestions for improving relationships. Yet another list appeared in this section: the nine components of healthy relationships. Melissa has suggestions on how to meet new people in order to make new friends. She touches on the discussion to ramp up or not ramp up your career at this point of life and includes suggestions on returning to college, internships, freelancing, and volunteering. Also included is a list of websites to assist in career reentry.
There is yet another list of what she’d do differently if she had the chance to do it all over again. The highlight of that list was: knit. Somebody always needs a sweater, blanket, scarf, hat, mittens, or socks. Plus, it’s strangely soothing.
In part 2 of the book (why couldn’t she just use chapters like normal people?) Melissa details her adjustment to her younger son leaving for college, humorously titled, “Wallowing in the Past and on the Couch”. You can learn a lot from a title! She and her husband constantly checked in with each other to see if their son had communicated something. Been there done that! Half their house was empty and still. I get that. Half our house is silent and dark now too.
And there are some funny, funny blogs: doing lunch where ”everyone” is wearing leopard-print but her, and taking a yoga class with a snoring woman and “breakwinda” women.
She does honestly and openly share the hurts of her childhood and her troubled relationship with her father. Her message to women who have been hurt by their fathers is touching and powerful. She emphasizes two things regarding this: first, it’s not your fault. You were just a kid. All kids deserve to be loved and protected. And second, write about it, talk about it, or turn it into art. By sharing our wounds, we open up our hearts, and healing happens.
Another thing that really struck me was an observation she made about when she left home, she was full of excitement, hopes and dreams for her future. She was not thinking about how her parents felt about her going. We shouldn’t burden our children with our struggles when they leave. The empty nest is ours alone to experience and navigate.
One thing that was distracting for me was the frequent use of different font. Her blog reprints are in one font, her active writing voice another, quotes from someone else another. It was just a little distracting for me.
I would describe this book is interesting, informative, and inspirational. It is also kind of choppy and disjointed. If you are looking for a self-help book, dive in. But if you are looking for an interesting, gripping read with a compelling plot, just say no thanks.
A cautious recommendation for From Mom To Me Again
I cautiously recommend this book. If you want practical advice and resources to prepare for, or deal with, your empty nest then read it. If you like the book, great! I said you would.
Even if you don’t love the book, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t, I still think it has a lot to offer in the way of information, advice, and inspiration.
Maybe you are a contrary person like me, a doubter by nature. Then you will want to read the book just because I said not to!
If you would like to read this book, you can purchase From Mom To Me Again here.
Have you read this book? I would love to hear your thoughts.