These days, it's not a matter of if but when children will graduate from high school and head off to college. But even if higher education is the new norm, it's never easy for parents to pack up their kids and leave them in a dorm room.
Cheri Rose of Augusta is helping her fourth and youngest child gather the items on his packing list for college. With three other sons ages 25, 30, and 32, she's no stranger to move-in day, but that doesn't mean she doesn't pack her tissues for the trip.
"I cried every single time, all the way up and all the way back. I just loved having them home, and I never felt in a hurry for them to leave," she says.
For many moms like Cheri, children bring life and happiness into the home, and knowing they're safe in their beds each night is a comfort and calling.
"I always wanted a big family, and I really have enjoyed being a mom more than anything. I never wanted to be a CFO of a big company, I just really wanted to be a mom," she says.
Even so, Cheri has spent what time she did have between driving boys to practice, and laundry, lots and lots of laundry, enhancing her own education and place in the workforce. She plans to continue this with an even greater fervor after her last son moves away by taking classes this fall to become more fluent in Microsoft Office applications.
"I'm excited about going back to school so that during my review at work, I can say, 'this is what I've been trying to do to improve who I am,'" she says.
But it's not all work and no play. Cheri's going to make good use of some much-needed personal time after the fall semester starts.
"I have had children at home for almost thirty-three years. I would like to…be able to exercise, get more involved, focus more on eating well, and being healthy," she says. "I like to read, walk, and I would like to spend time with friends. It'll be fun to just go shopping and do something with girl friends. I can't even remember the last time I was able to do that."
She's looking forward to spending some extra time with her husband, too, now that the boys will be out of the house.
Cheri, like every parent, will always worry about her boys, but her advice to other moms at this stage in life is to enjoy a new chapter, but know that it's ok to be a little sad.
"It's a bittersweet time," she says. "I'm excited for them because they worked really hard all those years…but it's sad because once children leave and go to college, it's never the same."
But Cheri has laid the foundation to make sure her nest is never empty. She loves having the whole family home, and when that's not possible, she and her husband are planning to make some trips to visit the grandkids.
Written by: Erika Fifelski is the West Michigan Woman magazine editorial coordinator. She was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys gardening, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses.