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Home Alone: Her Only Child Left for College

Inward Focus
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Brooks Freehill

Instead, she focused more on what she wanted to get out of life. She started going to the gym regularly, something she'd rarely had time for before. Gone was the guilt of a two-hour workout.

There were other big changes, too. Elizabeth returned home from Washington to a pile of work and she tackled it in a newly energized way. "Not only do I have more time, it feels like I also have more brainpower. Before, I was preoccupied with Ella's schedule: Where is she, does she need the car, what's for dinner? Now I don't have to worry about all that."

The newly "lowercase mom rather than capital-M Mother" thinks of Ella often, looks forward to her weekly phone calls and enjoys every moment of her visits. And on her mother's 50th birthday, Ella flew home to surprise her. "She planned it and paid for it," Elizabeth says proudly. "It was entirely her idea."

It's moments like these that make Elizabeth realize she's taught Ella well and can move on to new challenges. "College is a time for her to experiment with who she is," she says. "And now it's my turn, too, to learn about myself."