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I Can Do Hard Things-But Not These Two Together

I can do hard things, but no amount of guts, grit, and tenacity could prepare me for this. When I finished book #2 in April, we set off to visit the last college on our list, UNC Wilmington. I had no idea the monsoon of emotions that would flood, breech, and break my heart.

Jennifer OBrien author at her home on Long Island.

I’ll start by saying I’m not good at change. I’ve known that since my older siblings left one by one for college and then left the state to get married. Which was followed by my mother’s long illness and eventual passing. For as long as I can remember, my life has been in flux. It felt like my feet were permanently fixed to the brakes. And I’ve been skidding down the highway ever since in hopes that I could avoid change altogether. But we all know that’s not how life works.

DIY + Design City Farmhouse Blog by Jennifer Obrien.

This year has been the last of so many things, and for the most part, I’ve been in denial. The truth is, to recognize that my son is leaving the nest; my nest is too painful. Maybe that is why I poured my heart into book two in the first place. I wrote every day for four months, finding time in the early morning and at night. I guess you could say they kept my mind awake and alive. The alternative was to travel down the windy roads of the past, where I still had a little boy.

Backyard pea gravel patio. City Farmhouse by Jennifer O'Brien

Grief is a tricky thing. It can crash into you like a wave you didn’t see coming, sweeping you off your feet and into the current. And you can also feel projected grief before it even happens, and it’s just as authentic as the real thing. I know both all too well.

Potting bench makeover. City Farmhouse Blog.

Fast forward to today. My son is headed to UNC Wilmington in the fall, and my book is complete. I’ve begun querying agents and publishers. I’ve had a good amount of full manuscript requests, but the rejections are almost too much to bear sometimes. Each querying writer comes to the table with different lived experiences, but no matter how confident you are, the no’s gut you with an old rusty knife.

Jennifer O'Brien designer at City Farmhouse.

In closing, my advice to you is when your child is getting ready to leave the nest, be gentle to yourself and don’t take on ANY additional stress. And never do what I did and query agents and publishers while you are preparing for the hardest thing as a mother.

Any advice is greatly appreciated. Happy day, friend!

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  1. So much love to you, Jen! It’s so hard. Hugs. (Just a SAHM here who loves your style and blog so unfortunately no publishing advice but I know you’ll there!)

  2. Boy, this was not what I was expecting to read when I opened the email! What you said is so true. Boy #1 left for college 7 years ago and is getting married later this year. Boy #2 is four years out of HS, still at home, working two jobs. Boy #3 (our ‘caboose’ at the end of our boy train) just finished his junior year. Facing senior year and all that brings is where I always start to lose it. I’ve been through it twice, but it’s not any easier. You’re so right about not taking on stress and being gentle to yourself, because it is a crazy ride as you prepare to launch them into adulthood. Just know that you are not alone and you will come out of the tunnel, back into the light. Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. I remember the my 2nd child leaving for SUNY Purchase. My baby! 18 years old! Pooof! She got early acceptance ! We slowly learn to adjust, we relish in every success, every moment they are maturing, experiencing life on their terms! She didn’t shed a Tear! She skipped off and jumped in! That s what’s we need to do. jump into something new! I took up yoga and meditation classes. I took a writers course in memoir writing. I took time to photograph the east end, north fork and E. Hampton. I wrote a memoir about loss from an overdose, and losing someone to suicide. Most important! WE FaceTimed, and texted, and called a lot. We all adjusted, at our own speed. Life changes! The love deepens. Xoxo you got this Mama!!!


  4. I can feel the heartache in this post. Find time for your own self care….spoil yourself right now. Lean on your network of friends. I hope your heart feels a little better each day.
    Thank you being brave enough to share your vulnerability. Sending hugs from Indiana.

  5. See them regularly when possible but give them some guilt free freedom to not come home every holiday, etc. Send notes and packages. They love getting mail and I always felt better when I mailed it. Their dad sent a note every week.

  6. Letting go is difficult for parents – it is very normal to have the feelings you are experiencing – we give our children TWO gifts in life: roots to grow and wings to fly!

  7. But life is *always in flux. We can ride the ride or sit down and wait to die, right? I think you’re going to find that the joys of having young-adult children are just as wonderful, more, even, than having littler kids. And the thing that we don’t know until that first Thanksgiving break of their freshman college year is that they come home. Over and over and over. And we go visit, some, and there are still times for family holidays and maybe a beach trip. It’s not the end, truly. Congratulations on finishing your book, and I wish you the very best with its next steps.

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