by Monica Brancheau

Saying goodbye is always difficult. Whether it is a goodbye you welcome or one you don’t, the finality of the goodbye may bring up emotions that would otherwise remain dormant.

I remember the first time I dropped off my infant daughter at daycare when I went back to work for the first time. She was so tiny, all of 8 weeks old. Leaving her there, in her car seat, with my pumped breast milk and all of her blankies, was excruciating. It was my first time being away from her for 8 hours. I did not want to say goodbye. When I drove away, in tears, I felt like I had left a part of my body at her daycare. All day long, I could only think about her. A week later, it became a bit easier and then a month later we had established a solid routine. She was excited to go to daycare and I was no longer sobbing during my drive.

Fast forward to 18 years later. This time, I was dropping off my daughter at college. After I gave her a final hug, walked down her dorm hallway, and sat in my car, I stared at her dorm window for a while. I thought about the adventure she was about to embark on. I cried as I drove away, thinking about how I’d no longer be able to spend time with her every morning or easily pop into her bedroom to see her. When I visited her a few months later at school, she was fully immersed in her new life and new space, and I was no longer sobbing as I drove away.

Now here we are again, in the month of August, where I will be saying goodbye yet again. Goodbye to my oldest son who is going off to England, goodbye to my daughter who is starting her junior year of college studying abroad, and goodbye to my youngest who I will drop off at college for his freshman year. This last one will be especially difficult. One would think that with all of the practice I’ve had, this would be “old hat.” But this goodbye will be different. He is my baby, the last to leave the nest. This goodbye is also a goodbye to my daily parenting. This goodbye will lead me into a new phase of life, and redefine who I am. I don’t yet know what that new phase will be, but I know it will be very different from my last 23 years of daily mommying. When I drive away on that day of saying goodbye to my youngest, my eyes will need windshield wipers. Yet, I find reassurance knowing that when I next visit him, it will once again be easier.

Goodbyes are difficult. Goodbyes are timeless. They always are and always will be bittersweet.


Monica Brancheau is a mom of four who has had multiple careers. She’s a Michigan native and graduate of the University of Michigan who then never left Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience working with children’s issues, from education to non-profit work in teaching in urban settings and non-profit management, marketing, and fundraising. When not working, you can find her gardening, reading, writing, listening to music, and spending time with her treasured family.