This note is directed to all of you who are facing the graduation of your first/last/only child, and the looming empty nest. You are about to enter uncharted waters, where the guideposts are few, and the advice is all suspect. Welcome to the world of former Mommies and Daddies.
One year ago, I was in your shoes. I was planning the High School Graduation party of my youngest child. His older sister was living happily with a boyfriend, about to embark on her first job as a professional. His older brother was getting ready to start his first full time job, and was packing to move out of our house, and into his first apartment.
I was a wreck. I couldn’t fathom how on earth I would manage to move from Mom of three to “retired Mom”. What did that even mean?? How was a person supposed to buy two gallons of milk a week in June, and a quart a week in September? What did it mean to have two entire bathrooms free every morning for only two people? Who would ask “What’s for dinner?” Who would need a ride, a meal, a doctor’s appointment, some help with laundry? What on earth was I supposed to do with myself in the evenings?
Now please understand; I have a full time job which I truly enjoy. I have an active social life, friends and family whom I love, some hobbies, some interests, some goals in life. But even with all of that, my heart was breaking with the realization that my “mommy” days were coming to a close, well before I was ready to let them go. I yearned with all of my heart for the sound of little voices in the night (“Mom? Mommy? Mo-0-0-m!”), the feel of little hands on my face, the sweet scent of a baby in my arms. I mourned the end of Santa and stockings and Easter eggs and birthday goody bags. I was just plain NOT ready to move on to the next phase. Outwardly, I did everything that was expected of me, but inside I kicked, I screamed, I pouted, I cried. Nothing helped.
August came, and within a week, both of my boys moved out.
I found myself in the empty nest, a tired, bedraggled wren without any eggs or baby birds or fledglings. It was not a happy moment.
A few weeks went by, and the predictions of my older and wiser friends came true. My girl found herself suddenly cast adrift when her relationship ended badly. She came home to recover. My boys were living away from us, but they called, texted, emailed and used Facebook. Mostly to ask for money or help or advice, but sometimes just to say “I miss you!”. I wasn’t “Mommy”, but I was still “Ma.”
And my husband and I, somewhat to my surprise, found ourselves thoroughly enjoying those quiet dinners for two. We enjoyed our weekend dog walks and our peaceful morning showers with no one banging on the door. We missed the kids, and we spoke nostalgically of those bygone days of hands-on parenting, but we liked the clean playroom and the comfy sofa by the fire, now that it was no longer covered with guitars, sleeping bags and old coffee cups.
It may have been against my own heart’s desire, but I adjusted and relaxed and even got a little bit comfortable with my organized, calm, clean nest.
And now the summer is fast approaching. My oldest child is home once again, temporarily, so that she can take the summer to travel without paying any rent. My youngest is on his way home from college for the summer. The middle one is hoping to move out of the city where he lives and move to a better location in the fall. There is a pretty good chance that August will find all three of them home again, under our roof, leaving dishes and Tshirts and guitar picks on every available surface. But I know that by September 1st, this nest will empty out once again.
And here is the secret that I offer to all of you who are mourning right now, knowing that your babies are leaving you:
The empty nest is kind of sweet. You get to control the clicker, and choose the kind of coffee that you will brew. You can go to bed when you are tired, without keeping one ear on alert for the 2AM key in the lock. You grocery shop in half the time, for half the cost. And best of all?
They still love you, and they still come home.