From organizing the Flagler Adopt-a-Senior effort for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 to hosting the VIProm in May 2021 for seniors in Flagler and Volusia counties at the historic Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Melodye Lewis has been a busy mom. Embarking on the next chapter of her journey, she shares a little insight into becoming an ’empty nester’.

Tell readers a bit about yourself and your daughter’s recent accomplishments.

I’m a single mom and now an empty nester. I work as a pharmaceutical rep but also run multiple philanthropic Facebook pages for the community. My latest venture is my Empty Nesters 101 page.  My daughter just graduated from FPC, Magna Cum Laude and was dual enrolled so she received her AA degree simultaneously from Daytona State. She is now attending FAU in Boca Raton and will study Film and Digital Communications.  She will be rushing next week and will participate in a sorority.  I am extremely proud of her.

You put a lot of effort into ensuring that her senior year would be amazing. How do you feel that it brought the two of you closer?

Having her senior year during a pandemic was very difficult and anything but normal, but I knew she would rise above it.  I’ve always taught her to see beyond the situation and to look for opportunities to succeed in the face of opposition. Working with her on the Adopt a Senior pages and planning the VIP Prom definitely made us closer.  It was so heartwarming to watch her fight for what she believes in and to work alongside her to create an event that she and her friends will never forget.  We have always been close, she is my best friend.  But working with her and seeing her agility and determination shine through was a really special moment for me.  We make a great team.

You’ve now entered the next chapter, commonly known as empty nest. How did you prepare for it? 

There’s no way to prepare for the empty nest!  I thought I did, but waking up that first morning to an empty house was harder than I even imagined.  It’s very sad and lonely and way too quiet.  I tried to mentally prepare myself over the last few months by reading articles, chatting with other parents and spending as much time with her as possible. No one can really prepare you for this. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking and it’s a form of loss. You just have to take one day at a time and try to embrace the new chapter of your life.

What advice would you give to parents who are also experiencing the emotions and changes of being an empty nester? 

I can honestly say that I experienced almost every known emotion within the three days of moving her down to college.  I was an emotional, crying wreck the night before we left and in the morning while packing our cars and watching her pull out of the driveway. When we got to the school I was surprisingly calm and overwhelmed with pride and happiness for her.  Spending a couple of days getting her moved in and settled really helped me feel better in knowing that she was ok and this was the best thing for her to experience to help her succeed in life.  The campus was beautiful and she immediately made friends with her dorm mates.

I think the advice I would give is just let yourself feel all the feels, join parent groups, do the orientations at school and don’t let anyone else judge you for how you are feeling.  Everyone deals with the empty nest differently. Some are happy, some are heartbroken.  Either way, you do you, and give yourself time and grace to get through the process. Empty nest really isn’t a syndrome. It’s more of a journey. It’s a new chapter of self discovery for both you and your child.

Lastly, let your child spread their wings and show you just what a great job you did preparing them for this experience, but also know that they are going to make mistakes along the way and that’s ok. Keep the communication open and be supportive.  Let them find their way. You are still their parent, but now instead of being an active participant in their daily lives, you are more of a loving advisor.  Embrace this new relationship.

What are you anticipating most as you look to the future for both yourself and your daughter?

I am looking forward to seeing where life takes us both.  I know that she is going to live her best life and I’m excited to watch her blossom.  I’ll be cheering her on from the sideline. I am really looking  forward to our visits and to our evolving relationship. I’ve planned a trip for us at Christmas, so I’m excited for that quality time.  As for myself, I’m rediscovering who I am, and redefining myself as an individual. I’ll always be her mom, which has been my favorite role so far, but I’m excited to start a new chapter and getting to know me.  I plan  to help other empty nesters redefine their lives as well by growing my new FB page, organizing some activities and retreats, and I’ve just started a TikTok where I’m going to document some of my fun travels trying out some new hobbies and challenges!  Stay tuned!

Check out her adventures at:

Facebook group EmptyNesters 101: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1073391163405281/

TikTok @emptynstr: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMR2NfMsE/

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