I’ve heard of people literally “working themselves out of a job.” It happened to my father-in-law, and it’s happened to my husband – sell off all of these assets, and once you’ve sold the last one, we’ll try to find something else for you to do.

I’m starting to feel the same way about parenting. I consider it the most important job anyone can have. But in my case, I feel like the reward for a job well done is to take your kid to some strange city and leave him or her there alone. This goes against the grain of mothering, let me tell you!

So it was with enormous trepidation that we took our daughter Anna off to Boston last week to get her started in her freshman year at Brandeis University. The first couple of days were a frantic round of last-minute dorm shopping; Sunday was move-in day and parent/student orientation. We had plenty of time to tour the campus, get her room keys, get her student ID, get her mailbox key, find the cafeteria, etc., etc. I even got a little bored at one point waiting for it to be time for the next activity to start. Finally the orientation began.

Up until that point I had been quite cheerful. But when the school president asked the crowd to cheer for all of the parents in the room because of our hard work, I teared up. It has been work, sometimes very hard work. But it’s also been the most enjoyable 18 years of my life.

Finally we said our goodbyes. Anna was whisked off by her “orientation leader” and apparently has barely slept since. I’m sure they’re keeping them busy to take their minds off of being homesick. My husband and I also kept busy, walking the entire length of the Freedom Trail in pouring rain. But during one meal, I asked him, “What do we do the rest of our lives?” To which he replied, “Work.”

Not a very comforting thought.

But the fact is, I won’t stop being a parent just because I don’t need to keep the refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke again until November. This is when the real milestones start – college graduation, possibly graduate school, possibly marriage and kids. Regardless of where Anna ends up or what she ends up doing, I’ll always be her mom, and she’ll always be my kid. We’ve laid the groundwork for that over the past 18 years. It’s her chance to shine. And I’ll keep my sunglasses handy so I can enjoy her journey.