By Mary Kingsley
Friends my age post on Facebook:
So quiet with the kids gone (frowny face)!
I miss my teenagers!
What will I do with myself now that the nest is empty?!
They all sound so sad! They even talk about crying. Am I doing it wrong?
When my youngest left for college, I could easily have posted:
So quiet with the kids gone (smiley face)!
I miss my teenagers (not)!
What CAN’T I do, now that the nest is empty?!!
I love my kids. I am very happy with the people they have become, and I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else’s kids. They are really great kids.
But— I felt a huge sense of release, and relief, when I finally had the house all to myself.
It was just me now. Of course, mothers who are married have to adjust to a different reality – being alone with their husbands for the first time in many years, for better or worse.
I hear from my friends that this is definitely a mixed bag. Some couples find a renewed sense of marriage – their relationship must readjust, and sometimes this is the best thing for them. Other friends confide in me that they suddenly find that they have little in common with the man they married and they worry about what will happen now that it’s just the two of them, with no buffer, no distractions.
But for me, and widows like me, or divorced women, or single mothers – the empty nest means truly that. It’s just you (and maybe a pet or two).
While some may find this sudden drop into a life of solitude alarming, I reveled in it.
Suddenly, there was nobody to pick up after, drive anywhere, or pussyfoot around. I had not realized to what extent my life revolved around my children and to what extent I had altered my behavior to accommodate them.
Granted, that was my own choice – I doubt my kids would have ever said, “Geez Mom, maybe you should stop doing that project you liked so much so you can drive me to my after-school activities and do my laundry,” but it just happened that way.
I knew that my kids were only living at home for a limited time and that I was all they had. They needed me to do a lot of the things I did for them, and I mostly wanted to do them. I wanted to be a reliable, helpful adult in their lives.
But it did mean that all of the stuff I was doing: the chores, and the chauffeuring, and listening to their problems or making myself disappear at times when they had noisy friends over, no longer needed to be done.
Secondly, I could just relax and let loose.
I could play the loud music I liked without fear of recrimination or mocking (yes, I LIKE Whitney Houston, dammit!), and I could watch whatever dumb TV shows I wanted without anybody rolling their eyes at me. I found myself leaving the bathroom door open, leaving the shower without a stitch on, singing and dancing in the kitchen whenever I damn well felt like it.
I loved my empty nest.
And I started doing all kinds of things I had either never done before (creative activities), or hadn’t done for years – like inviting gentleman callers to stay overnight.
Would my kids be shocked at my attitude? Maybe.
Surprised? Maybe not.
So if you’re facing the empty nest, don’t be sad.
Yes, it’s a new phase of life.
And yes, you sometimes miss the children you’ve raised, but the fact that you’ve raised them so that they are able to fly on their own is a cause for celebration!
The nest isn’t empty—YOU’RE still there!
To join the Hot Flash Sisters, download the free app now: