25 Fantastic Things About Back to School in an Empty Nest

So maybe you’re an empty nester for the first time, and maybe you’re feeling a little nostalgic – or maybe you’re crying a river of tears that reaches from your living room to your kid’s dorm.

I remember watching my youngest packing boxes (so many boxes!) to head back to college for his senior year, feeling a mixture of Momma pride – he’s all grown up…almost – and a tinge of the empty nest blues, yet again.


I guess it never ends – but it does get easier. I’ve grown to love the empty nest, and so will you.

In the meantime, take a look at this list of 25 things that I haven’t missed about being the parent of school-aged children. Maybe it will help you to appreciate your empty nest, even just a little bit.



  1. Filling out the same forms with the same information every.single.year.  Maybe it’s different now, but back in the day (um, that would be 2010), in our school district, we still had to fill them out by hand. Most in duplicate, a few in triplicate.
  2. Writing checks for: lunch tickets, books, fees, donations, classroom supplies, bus passes, ID cards, PTA memberships.
  3. Writing more checks for: booster clubs, activity fees, uniforms, costumes, yearbooks, overdue fines, cookie dough, gift wrap.
  4. Making lunches and then having the lunches come home in the backpacks, uneaten (I just wanted chips, mom).
  5. Carpools. Carpools. Carpools. Did I mention carpools?
  6. Waking my son up for school every morning for 13 years. Every morning. Yes, I was that mom. He gets himself up now that he’s an adult and living on his own. We’re so proud.
  7. Shopping for school supplies that no one ever used, like those pink erasers and endless packages of 3-whole punch lined paper. Plus the supplies for the classroom, like Kleenex and sanitizing gel. Where did all that lottery money go, anyway?
  8. Buying two dozen mechanical pencils for my son who promptly lost them all or gave them away within 48 hours of starting school. Every year. You’d think I would have learned.
  9. Buying clothes for my daughter that she wore once and never again. A few weeks into the school year, she would default to a school sweatshirt and jeans, hair in a messy bun, more often than not.
  10. PTA meetings. Painful. But the guilt of not going was even more painful. And now I look back and think “why?”
  11. Small talk in the parking lot waiting to pick up your kid with the mom whose kid is better than yours at everything. You know who she is.
  12. Back-to-school night. Did anyone really want to be there? Well, maybe the new teachers. And the parents of the kids who do everything better than yours do.
  13. Parent-teacher conferences. The icky feeling that you’re being judged because your kid isn’t perfect. Although that feeling passed after about 2nd grade.
  14. Annual check-ups. Shots. More forms to fill out.
  15. Driving by the school to see if my kid was one of the kids walking along the fence, alone, while the other kids played with each other. Happily that never was the case, though I checked periodically.
  16. Head lice. Yep, that happened.
  17. Smelly sports uniforms that had to be washed every day. The football uniform was particularly delightful.
  18. Middle-school angst and drama. Oh the heartache.
  19. Colds, coughs, flus.
  21. Auditions, try-outs, contests, elections, prom kings and queens.
  22. Waiting to be asked to prom/winter formal. Asking a girl to prom/winter formal. Not me, of course. My kids.
  23. First day jitters and senioritis.
  24. College applications, essays, application fees. The common app, submit buttons, extra-curriculars, teacher recommendations, PSATS, SATS, ACTS, SAT IIs, Merit Scholars, valedictorians, legacies, financial aid, deadlines, safety schools, reach schools, match schools.
  25. College admission anxiety for seniors… and their parents.


Do you feel better now? If not, you will soon.

And then, your kids will come home for the summer, and then they’ll leave…and you’ll have to adjust, again. And you will. I did. I still do.


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  • You had me at head lice…homework was just the icing on the cake.

  • All so true! For me it was the endless sports practices and the lost cleats and jock straps and calls to drop them off at school. For some reason making school lunches each night also drove me crazy. The college admissions process/anxiety belongs in a category itself!

  • Unfortunately with grandkids, number 6 keeps coming back to haunt me!

  • That’s as supposed to be number 16!

  • That was a GREAT list! I am at #25 with my first born…

  • I am totally with you on this. I am semi-retired now and enjoying my own space and using my time for things I love now.

    My kids are in second and fourth year now and I regularly count my blessings for not having to do all the things on this great list!

    My guys played hockey too which similar to football, I am sure, took up 3-4 nights a week for each of them. Driving out of town for games and practices.

    I do not regret any of it…but definitely glad to have my own space and time. Thanks for reminding me to appreciate it again!

    • We too drove all over Southern California for football games and show choir competitions. At the time it was great and I usually enjoyed it – but looking back it’s amazing how much time was spent going places to watch our kids!

  • Too many on that list that I can identify with. And we said we LOVED raising them??

  • Sharon – great list – I love everyone of them – Of course spending #10-#25 with you every step of the way – made sure we both came out on the empty nest side with smiles

  • Sharon, I took a walk down memory lane with your list- it was perfect. Our youngest has one more year in high school and I have already said goodbye to so many of these things, happily. But as I enter “my” last year of high school, too, I am feeling the tug of nostalgia growing. A year from now, after we drop our daughter at her freshman dorm, I may need your shoulder to cry on!

  • Good riddance to nearly every single one of them. Fortunately my daughters never got lice. They did, though, get ringworm… That’s what they get for dating wrestlers. (Disclosure: My husband wrestled in high school.)

    Great list, Sharon!

  • Everything you said, plus field trips or chaperoning anything at all. It’s a toss up whether I loathed those, or the parking lot conversations you mentioned more. No, field trips were worse. Then, you had to have the parking lot conversation at the local fishery.

  • Virginia Kahler-Anderson, aka HomeRearedChef

    Out of three children, I still have one left at home. Actually, after having lived away from home for 1 year, he moved back in. (Times are hard for our children these days.) He keeps very busy, so it is almost as if he wasn’t home. And though I so longed for this moment, the empty nest, now I find myself crying a lot. I think I need something new to occupy my time, or I will dry out like an old prune from crying. lol!

    Loved your post, Sharon!

  • Nooooo, I actually miss many of the things you list. My daughter just left for her senior year of college across the nation and I do still get the blues. While I would not wish her life to be otherwise, I do look forward to her return to CA FOR LIFE! Or else. Is that too selfish? As for the PTAs, fundraisers, etc let’s say that nephews and nieces keep those traditions alive and kicking!

  • This list is so perfect and true. I think my worst was the parent conferences and homework. So glad to not be involved in all of this anymore. Oh, but I still want to buy school supplies because I love new pens, pencils, etc.

  • Great list of things I don’t miss either (including lice!!) Our family’s last first day of school was in 2008 and I’ve never looked back. Grand kids are way more fun!!!

  • Thankfully, we didn’t have to deal with head lice, but the one thing I will miss is Back-To-School shopping. So fun and exciting to start the year off with something new. Preferably sparkly.

  • This is so funny and so true!! The problem is – I am not quite where you are yet and you have just described my daily life. 🙂 AND thanks, because you just reminded me of a couple things I have to do. Good stuff.

  • I love the school supplies! Your drawer looks great, you never know when you may need a pink eraser!

  • Laurie

    This was just great and perfect for this time of year. I vote that HOMEWORK be listed twice. So happy that I don’t have to remind, help, shop for the dioramas (although that ended in Middle School), edit, deal with printing errors, etc.

  • Sharon, you have just reminded me how good it to be an empty nester! I don’t miss any of the 25 items on that list! Especially the school lunches.

  • I still like shopping for school supplies, it’s just nice not to have a specific list you have to match exactly.

  • Sharon, a very convincing list…in fact, don’t show this to anyone contemplating having kids!

  • I swear it really does feel like a lifetime ago! But yet seeing your list definitely brings a lot back! …I miss some of those things. (But not homework.)

  • #7, #11, #24 … Unfortunately, I have a few more years of all of this. Oh well – I’ll save this list and pull it out when I need inspiration!

  • For me it was the oh-so-painful school pictures. The form with all the packages, trying to decide who would receive school pics (nobody – not even g’parents – wanted them), then paying in advance.
    Months later they’d arrive… and they’d be awful!
    And then what do you do with a gazillion awful pictures of your child?
    Okay… this helps with the adjusting. Thank you!

  • Oh, I love this post! It’s really interesting to see things from your vantage point. I find myself on the opposite end if the spectrum, dropping my youngest off for his first-ever day of preschool on Monday. I’m sure I will be a ball of mixed emotions – sad because it means he’s growing up and I’ll never have a baby again. But it also means I’ll have a little more freedom and time to dedicate to my writing and graphic design business – two things I’ve struggled to do with the little ones at home full-time. Good luck with the transition back to an empty nest and thanks for the view from the other side.

  • Okay, just reading that list gave me an anxiety attack. I have to do all of those things for another nine years. I’m having a martini. It’s noon somewhere in the world.

  • That whole period of my life seems so far off!! I’m in the middle of those 25 things and sometimes I think it’ll never not be that way!

  • I’m all anticipation now of leaving all that behind!! Though I know I’ll probably long for it all when my sons finally leave!

  • Is it wrong that I’m already looking forward to this? I love my kids but the process of everything school-related is one of Dante’s creations.. Found through you SITS… !

  • I won’t miss the parent car park huddles comparing colleges their children were applying to/got accepted to.

  • My kids haven’t started school yet. Thanks for the roadmap of all the things I have to look forward to. And what’s with the Kleenex? As a kid, I remember bringing tons of tissue to school, yet there was always a shortage by October.

  • Perfect list – I especially enjoyed #7. Just last night my son complained that I purchased the “wrong” 3-hole punch lined paper (I didn’t know there was a “wrong” choice). I should have bought the kind with the reinforced plastic in the left margin, so he wouldn’t have to use the reinforcements if the paper were to rip. Lol . . . what a terrible mother I am, burdening my son with potentially flimsy paper!

  • Amy

    Thank you so much for this! I have read so many teary posts. it’s nice to remember some of those tiresome awful things that help to put it all into perspective. And I find a lot of blogs don’t want to admit that.

  • I truly understand! My youngest one left for college only 2 months ago. Buying those back to school outfits and never seeing them worn-painful! And signing those forms! ARRGGHH! Especially when they are in every activity available!! I am just now starting to enjoy 🙂

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