Jul 28, 2015


Diary of an Ivy League Mom: Preparing Emotionally as My Daughter Leaves to College

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empty nest syndrome

Yesterday, I found myself googling the words “empty nest syndrome” and doing what I always do when I feel anxious: read everything I can find on the subject.

The days are numbered.  My daughter leaves to Harvard College in exactly 32 days.

Of course I’m superbly proud of her — it is no small feat to gain admission to Harvard — the grand-daughter of a Dominican immigrant woman who worked in a factory for years.  This is one of the most promising things that has happened to our family, and I know that she’s going to spend the most remarkable four years of her life there.

But I can’t seem to ignore or quiet down the ache in my heart.  I feel it right here in the middle of my chest, as I realize that she will no longer be there, in her room, or downstairs in the living room — ever present and available for everything.

We’ve been each others’ go-to person for years.  She’s been a wonderful daughter — a cheerleader, supporter, my think tank companion, helper at home, graphic designer and my joy.  Yes, my joy.  She has the natural ability to bring peace to those around her — nothing unravels her.  She’s the no-stress zone in my life.

As with every experience that has felt uncomfortable or challenging, I allow myself to embrace all the emotions.  The more I experience these emotions fully, the closer I get to a place of logic and insight.  What I am learning, as I grief her departure to college, is how dependent I have been on her all these years.  This is an important revelation — one that I can clearly appreciate right now.

So I whole heartedly welcome the opportunity to find all the joy and closeness I share with her in other people, things and places.  It’s my next phase of growth, as I venture to live life without her around me all the time.

empty nest syndrome

My biggest fear?  Moving day (smile).

I pray to God that I don’t turn into the stereotyped emotional Latina parent, as I say my goodbyes to her.  I envision thick tears rolling down my face, with serious tightness on my chest, desperately trying to avoid loud sobbing.

But something tells me I’m going to be alright.  I have 32 days to prepare, to let go.  By the time August 21st rolls around, I’ll be filled with excitement and pure joy.

So I say:

Go my dear angel

wings spread so wide they embrace the world

as you search for your own north star

make waves, laugh loud, inspire

go change the world…

Mami –

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. What a beautiful, candid piece. It’s a bit of a grieving process, I imagine, and one I do not look forward to, with 12 years left before that milestone for me. With the foundation and relationship you have, the distance will truly strengthen your bonds. On a lighter note, college is what created an “a-ha” moment for me, spurring me to call Mommy and thank her for all that she did and continued to do for me.

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Thank you, Adriana for those words. I do believe she will keep in touch and keep close. I asked her if we could Skype every other day, and she looked at me as if I had 3 eyes…LOL…

  2. shirley acevedo says:

    Beautifully written… I can certainly relate to those emotions. Last year I pushed my little bird out of our nest to her first year at BC. Find peace and pride knowing your job is done and done well! She will always be in your heart and only a video chat away! Good luck on moving day!

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Hi Shirley! Thank you!
      Tell me something — does she call and comes home a lot? Or, do they sort of forget to call, text, etc? Trying to have a realistic idea of what to expect…

  3. Felicidades! A ella por ser una valiosa jovencita que ha logrado lo que muchos no han podido. A usted por estar cosechando lo que sembro en ella, pues hay que ver los logros de los hijos para saber que detras hay excelentes padres. Yo como dominicana tambien me siento orgullosa al leer este articulo, por que eso solo una vez mas demuestra que: Si se puede! y que para hacer realidad tus sueños solo hace falta Soñar y trabajar en ello.

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Alejandra! Gracias! Tus palabras son tan bonitas. Me alegra que te sientas orgullosa, ya que así mismo me siento cuando veo a otras/os Dominicanos triunfar. Abrazos!

  4. No matter how difficult it is to see children leave the nest, parents learn to accept that their children must continue on their own journey in making a positive difference in this world. My parents went through the same emotions you are feeling when my siblings went away to college. You are going to be alright, amiga! :-)

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Hola Isabel!
      That’s the tricky part — that I know it’s a good thing for her, and that it’s going to be OK, but — for now, it’s tough…

  5. I am a rising senior at UPenn and know my mother went through the same lot. Mucho suerte a su hija y a su familia. She is going to do wonderfully and continue to make you very proud. No matter how far she goes, I’m sure she will always carry you in her heart as I know I do my mami.


    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Dear Becky,
      It’s so nice to see a UPenn college student chime in this conversation! Thank you. I loved your words…Means so much, coming from another young lady. Abrazos!

  6. As a mother of 3 daughters, I am misty eyed at the thought of my babies leaving my side. Congratulations to both of you on a job well done.

    As a fellow-Dominicana, I am super proud of your little girl. We’re all rooting for her.

  7. Pam Montana says:

    Watching our kids especially our daughters leave home for a new journey in their life is bittersweet and exciting. I am confident that having you as a positive role model will give her guidance and peace. God Bless you both on this new venture in both your lives.

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Dear Pam,
      Gracias for your words and your blessings! I will certainly keep everyone posted in the future about her journey (and mine) as she enters college :)

  8. Sending you abrazos grandes. My daughter is also a huge part of my life and I am dreading the day she leaves. You are a wonderful mother and I know she will carry your words of wisdom with her on her journey.

  9. Sorry if this sounds a little on the vane side, but I have to say that your daughter is stunning. What a smile!

    Second congratulations to her and to you for the accomplishment. Way to go. I know about climbing that ladder. I am the grandaughter of Dominican campesinos who recognized the importance of educating their daughters. When most of my mom’s classmates were getting married barely past puberty she was getting ready to leave home to start the university. It is no small accomplishment and I only mention it because I want you to know that one day your daughter will be as proud of you as I am of my mom.

    Second, kudos to you for not breaking down into a puddle of snot and tears. Which I am planning to do myself.

  10. Of course, years of university of eduction (engineering dpt. no less) left me with no ability to count to three.

  11. What a lovely post! AND congratulations to your you and your daughter! What a wonderful accomplishment. From what my mami told me, when I left home to go to college (mind you it was in Riverdale, NY), she said she cried every night for a year. She took it hard but you know what? I made her proud and she didn’t stop me from doing what I had to do. Btw, will I see at BlogHer? I hope so! I want a HUG! LOL :)

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin Angélica Pérez-Litwin says:

      Hola Lisa!

      Thank you for your beautiful comment :) Yes, I’ll be at BlogHer, speaking in a panel on Thursday. I’ll be there also on Friday. Hope to see YOU there! Abrazos!

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