I desperately missed my youngest child when she was far from home this year, studying for six months in Denmark.
But her five weeks back home this summer left me ready to pack her stuff, load the boxes in my car and drive her up to San Francisco this week for her final year of college.
Now I'm back to just one grown daughter — a college grad with a part-time job — living with me at home. And that is more than enough for this parented-out single mom.
I love my three girls — young women now, at 26, 23 and 21. I enjoy their company and am glad they still like spending time with Mom.
But there's only so much "Sex in the City," Wiz Khalifa and "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" that a mother can stand. Only so many days I can ignore the dirty dishes piling up behind that closed bedroom door. Only so many times I can pretend to be interested in the latest funny video trending on YouTube.
There's a culture clash going on in my own home, a product of generational proximity that neither I nor my daughters bargained for.
It's playing out in families across our recession-strangled country, with 30% of parents who have grown children reporting that their adult offspring have moved back home in the last three years because of the economy.
According to a study released early this month, few places have been hit harder than Southern California, where nearly 1 in 3 adults between 25 and 29 have lived at home with their parents sometime in the last few years.
It's not just economics that drives grown children back, but emotional insecurity. They find it "comforting" to return home, said study author Zhenchao Qian, an Ohio State sociologist; "to double up with their parents when times are tough."
And most are in no hurry to move on. Surveys suggest that more than three-quarters of young adults who live at home are satisfied with the arrangement and say they have good relationships with their parents.
One-quarter say they get along better with their parents than they did when they lived apart.
I imagine their parents' response would depend on the day, the hour, the moment they were asked.
These are uncharted waters for parents who spent their children's growing-up years trying to do everything right: Pay close attention, but not too much. Encourage them, but don't overindulge. Set boundaries, but be flexible. But how do you parent a grown-up?
It turns out there's plenty of advice from experts about how to manage, but much of it is contradictory. The experts are split on whether we're trying to foster our children's "emerging adulthood" or bring an end to their "prolonged adolescence."
Even AARP has gotten into the act.
Tucked in among the articles about retirement funds and managing arthritis and arranging the cruise ship adventure of your life, I found the kind of article I never imagined I'd need during all those years spent monitoring my children online and scouring their Facebook posts:
"Talking to Your Adult Kids About Privacy." Translation: Explaining your need for privacy when you want to have sex in your own home.
When I grew up, we couldn't wait to leave. Living at home through your 20s marked you as a misfit or failure; tied to Mama's apron strings, dependent on Dad's largesse.
Now there's no stigma to bunking down in your childhood bedroom, even as you head into middle age. Sixty percent of adults between 25 and 34 say they or their friends and relatives have.
In my house, the practical challenges aren't complicated. During five years of grown daughters at home, we've stuck with a few basic rules.
You pay rent, I pay the bills. When I do the cooking, you clean the kitchen. I won't watch the clock when you're gone, but text and let me know when you're coming home.
But how will I know if things have gotten a little too comfortable, when a temporary stay is headed toward becoming permanent?
When they upgrade from a twin bed to a queen and remove those N'Sync posters from the bedroom wall? Unpack that box of dishes they brought home from the apartment two years ago and stored in your garage? Or set a plate for the boyfriend at the family breakfast, and nobody bats an eye?
The emotional stuff can also be hard to manage; the issues are as tangled as the relationships.
I'm their mother, their landlord, their confidant. I'm both resident nag and cheerleader. Sometimes I'm the know-it-all, sometimes I bite my tongue.
I'm still cooking meals when I'm not hungry, listening to rehashed romantic woes, trying not to embarrass them when their friends come over. And struggling sometimes to keep my own emotions under control.
As a mother watching my girls become women, I'm replaying my life as theirs unfold. There's an awkward time-machine quality to it. Being privy to their day-to-day triumphs, stumbles and struggles makes me feel wistful, worried about them, and inconceivably old.
They provide daily verdicts on my parenting, in ways that irritate and thrill me.
I am forced to confront my failures — who didn't bother to teach these girls to properly clean a bathroom? But I'm also allowed to congratulate myself on my successes in raising three kind, hard-working and level-headed young women who return from time to time to fill my empty nest.