The Pain and Pleasure of Parenting

How our daughter’s move to Uni showed us the reality of parenting

Darren Matthews
· 4 min read
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Our daughter left home last month to start university. It has been a time of conflicting emotions for us as parents. We are incredibly proud that our daughter has made it to university. She is the first in our family to have taken this career path.

Our sense of pride is overwhelming, driven by an immense feeling of satisfaction. Not only for the fact that our daughter is at University but that she is ours. We did that, we played our part as parents. It’s uplifting and I for one have been on cloud nine.

That pride hasn’t been able to overcome the pain though. The pain is arguably a selfish one. It is the sense that we can no longer be the hands-on parents we were. We have to let go and allow our daughter to find her way through university.

It is a pain and pleasure I hadn’t expected. The pain is a sense of sadness. A sense that things have changed forever…

Of course, there is also the worry of how our daughter will cope. This is her first proper time away from home. Yes, she has been on sleepovers and stuff, but this is different. We got a chance to find out how she was coping when we visited her for the first time last weekend.

Our Daughter’s New Home

Off we went to visit my daughter at her new home. For my son and I, it was the first time we had been to the university, let alone her new home. Somewhere my daughter will call home for the next three years.

It was a wonderful experience to see how well she had settled and made new friends. Of course, my wife fretted about practical things. The washing, the kitchen (best we don’t go there) all the usual things Mum’s worry about.

It was a pleasant autumn day and I reflected as we had coffee together on how well my daughter had done to get here. Older people say kids have never had it so easy, whatever. Our battles are all relative.

My daughter has fought her demons and has learnt to live with them. Nothing fills us with more pride than that. She won.

The Pleasure and the Peace

With our daughter gone the home becomes unexpectedly quiet. As I get older so I value the sanctuary of peace, it seems to be a scarcity these days. So I cherish the new-found quiet in our home. Considering the peace I inwardly chuckle to myself because I thought all the noise came from my son.

It turns out it was the kids together that created the noise.

With peace comes the pleasure of happy memories. An opportunity to reflect not just on our daughter, but our son as well. They were happy together and maybe I’ve been a bit flippant of their relationship.

As boy and girl and with a three year age gap they didn’t play together much growing up. But as teenagers, they have become more socially acceptable to each other.

We would often mute the tv to eavesdrop on them talking about school or football. A shared smile between my wife and I meant we both felt the warmth of knowing they were happy, comfortable with each other.

They would argue, siblings do but not as I remember fighting with my brother as a child. I guess we got that bit right too.

The Pain of Parenting

Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

As our children grow older it’s hard to think they will have other priorities in their lives. We, my wife and I can’t help but feel that our daughter leaving home is a stake in the ground moment.

Life evolves and changes and the hardest part of life is living with the knowledge of this.

This is the real pain for us as parents. For just over twenty years the four of us have been together as a family. Our lives are so intertwined with each other, that it feels like we are being pulled apart. Separated in a brutal way that none of us wants.

It sounds harsh to word it like this, but this is how it feels to me.

We like to look at things in a positive light. To say that it is the way of life, whatever that means. As parents, it’s hard to accept that our work is nearly done. I for one, don’t want to let go just yet.

Now, we have to prepare for our time as grandparents although I suspect we’re a few years away from that happening. In the meantime, we have to come to terms with the pain of our daughter leaving us.


We will always be parents to our children. As humans, we hold a candle for our children unlike any other species on the planet. It makes us different in so many ways.

It is this parental relationship that physically changes when a child leaves home. For we’re no longer together. The acceptance of this could be one of the hardest things we’ve had to face as parents.

I don’t want pity, I want to face the realities of life and accept that our role as parents as changed. Yes, I have the pride of knowing how wonderful our children are. I know I’m biased, but I don’t care.

Life teaches us to live for the moment. What is done, is done. Easy to say, but letting go, well, that is hard when you’ve invested so much in your children.

It is the most unexpected pain to accept.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Darren Matthews

Written by

I’m a passionate writer who normally finds angst within the world of leadership and strategy. All framed within subjects such as business, politics and writing.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

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