Stacy Robertson
Stacy Robertson
May 5, 2024 ·  5 min read

“I Raised Four Sons as a Single Mom. Now That They’re Grown, I’m Off to Europe,” – Jen McGuire

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” – Barbara Kingsolver.

A time will come for every parent when they have to decide what they’ll do with their lives all over again. When all your kids are grown up and have struck out on their own, you’ll end up with a scarily empty nest and way too much time on your hands.

Good Housekeeping contributor and single mom, Jen McGuire has found herself in the inevitable empty nest situation [1]. In a post published on the website, she wrote about her plans now that her chicks have cleared out. Her four sons are all grown up, and her last boy just recently moved out. Her entire life has revolved around her golden boys. She’s decided she’ll head to Europe and pursue the dreams she had to put on hold for her boys. She’s been raising them singlehandedly for 16 years, and now it’s time to explore the world and see what it really looks like.

“I’m going to try to meet this unwelcome new mom I’m supposed to be in Europe. I will live in Italy for two months, and then France, and then one extra as-yet-to-be-chosen location that I’ve decided to call ‘Dealer’s Choice’ for the sake of spontaneity. At the end of this trip, I’m flying my sons over to me as a sort of rejoining of our family. They will bring their girlfriends and their own agendas. I know this; I know they’ll never feel like mine the way they did just months ago. But still, we’re going,” Jen wrote

Jen has no money saved away or any source of extra income, but she won’t let anything stop her from this ambition [2].

An epic maternal pause

Jen recently found herself checking out backpacks for the new school year. She was stunned when she realized what she was doing. Who was she buying bags for? Her sons don’t go to school anymore. She’s been absolved of her domestic mummy duties. Her sons have grown into capable men, and reflecting back on how far she’s come, she knows she did a great job. She went extra miles to make sure the boys were never embarrassed for the lack of a father figure in their lives.

First son at 21, second at 23, third at 27, fourth at 28. Single mom by 30. Two or more jobs at a time for the past 15 years. One dog bought in the first grip of divorce guilt — a dog who is now 16 and will most likely live forever. One cat who ran away when he realized we were never going to be a good fit. Thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on renting at least seven homes. Probably more. Hundreds of hours of volunteering at their schools so the teachers wouldn’t hold our financial situation or persistent lack of a positive male influence against my kids,” Jen wrote.

Jen has spent such a long time making decisions with respect to her sons’ preferences that now, she doesn’t know what she wants or likes. She doesn’t know what her goals are anymore. She didn’t even know what type of car she’d buy later, but since her sons are tall, she’ll go for an SUV with the extra leg room. Even now, her decisions still revolve around them.

Single or dating? Good luck to any man who enters the realm of We Five. Therefore, I’m moving to Europe. Not to date. Not to become someone else. But to wander around and uncoil the parts of my insides that have been coiled around those boys for my entire adult life,” Jen wrote.

“I will uncoil the parts of my insides that have been coiled around those boys for my entire adult life.”

Jen understands that she has accomplished a great feat raising her boys. Either way, she doesn’t know what to do with that accomplishment. It’s overwhelming because she’s spent so much time with her sons. Now it’s difficult to let go, but she must. She wants to awaken the parts of her she put to sleep to give her boys the best she could. She wants to explore and let the lack of responsibility wash over her.

So I’m off to see things and figure out what I like as me and me only. Will I enjoy living in a little village outside of Rome? I plan to embrace a little silence, stretch out my shoulders and learn how to like my own quiet nothingness. If all goes well, I might even get a life-affirming compliment from one handsome Italian man, preferably while driving a Vespa and wearing a mid-calf skirt and ballet flats,” Jen wrote.

She also has the rest of her wild journey planned out. Nothing’s certain yet, but she has an idea of what she wants to do and where she wants to go. She actually started learning French for her trip to France.

“Next I’m off to Avignon for a month, the ‘gateway to Provence.’ My French is already halfway acceptable and croissants exist, so my hopes are high for a temporary life in France. The city boasts a population of just under 100,000 people; perhaps I’ll develop a taste of city-ish existence. A studio, a bicycle with a basket, perhaps one or two charming strangers who will become my sidekicks if I’m lucky. I could learn to bake a proper baguette and develop an appreciation for wine beyond my canned rosé.”

Jen has so many unanswered questions. She’s not even sure if she can do this. Somewhere deep down in her motherly heart, she feels that her boys may need her along the line, but as she wrote, “It’s time to let them be grown-ups without me.”

Good luck, Jen!