The Empty Nest – Weird, but Nice

When I was first an empty nester, a friend with kids still at home asked me, “is the empty nest weird?”

I realized that weird was the perfect word to describe my life without my kids in the house. Not bad, not lonely, not sad, not even empty…but definitely weird.  It was as big of a change in our lives as it was when our first child was born – nearly everything we had been doing was no longer relevant.  Our points of reference, our focus, it all had shifted. Although parenting never ends – your kids never stop needing your guidance, even if they don’t know it all the time – the day-to-day-ness of it was over. For me, as a stay-at-home mom, the change was as subtle as a ton of bricks falling on my head.

BOOM… your full-time job is DONE!!!

To start, it was so incredibly clean.

Other than a little dust here and there, there was no more random stuff lying around in my empty nest- wet towels, empty water bottles, dirty dishes, a million computer cords just to name a few – these things had disappeared from my house. It was orderly, organized, and neat, which makes me so happy, I can’t even tell you. But it’s weird, because the detritus of my kids lives, though irritating, used to be somehow comforting to me – they were here, and that was proof of it.

Also, it was so quiet.

No loud music, no blaring TVs. I know this sounds obvious, but it was symbolic, too – when they came home for vacations, there was a rise in the decibel level that was, in a way, shocking. And this leads to another thing that I realized – I had gotten older. Obvious, right? But consider this: Remember back to when you were young, and think about how there was always some noise in your world –  who ever drove in their car without the radio on? I savored the quiet, though I know others in my situation couldn’t stand it.

There were a lot fewer people around.

If my son, the last to leave the nest, had friends over, it wasn’t just one or two.  His group of 8 traveled in a pack, and if one was here, they all were. If there was anything I missed, it was having all those boys coming in and out of my house, ransacking my kitchen, sitting in our jacuzzi, laughing and yelling at each other.

I buy way less food. Enough said.

The disconnect from the community was the biggest shift.

After years of volunteering for every activity my kids participated in, it was a huge loss to not be part of the football boosters or the show choir parents group. That was, for me, the most rewarding part of being a parent – seeing my children practicing and rehearsing, working hard,  then watching them perform and play. It was, simply, a lot of fun. I missed that. And the truth is, as soon as they graduate from high school, you’re completely finished with all of those things. Which leads me to the weirdest thing of all:

We had a lot of free time.

Our weekends were wide open – we were free to do whatever we wanted to do with hours previously spent watching, coaching, driving, feeding, cheering and adoring our kids. You’d think we would have been running here and there, doing all the things we never got to do when the kids were growing up – movie matinees, museum trips, walks on the beach – who knows.  But the truth was, most of the time, we liked being in our empty nest, in the clean, quiet house, sometimes not talking for hours, but just knowing that it was just the two of us – and it was really, really nice.  Weird, but nice.

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  • “We have a lot of free time.” Yeah, that. On the one hand, it is sort of like the Twilight Zone episode where all the man wants to do is read. Comes an apocalypse. He goes to the library to get books, he has all the time in world to read, and his glasses get broken. On the other hand, you can run around in your underwear all you want.

  • That is my favorite Twilight Zone episode! And you're absolutely right. But I still don't run around in my underwear!

  • Great point! “The disconnect from the community is probably the biggest shift.” Probably the most different, if not challenging change.

  • Morgan

    So true… all the time that we spend organizing their lives now we are… in a holding pattern. the community disconnect was the biggest thing.

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