Never Again Will I…a View from an Empty Nest

My youngest son heads off to college sometime in August. When he finally slams the screen door, he will be emptying the nest my husband and I began to fill 22 years ago. With his departure, I reflect on a few things that, frankly, I am more than a little ready to let go. While everyone I know is already sick of hearing how much I will miss him, here are a few things that I will never have to do again:

View from an empty nest:13 things I will never do once my youngest leaves for college.

Sit in a car outside a school, gym or private home, waiting. In my car, in the dark, by myself.

Quiz anyone on vocabulary words. My husband has all the words he needs.

Worry about who is in whose bedroom, which door is opened or closed, and what other parents’ rules are for their kids who are in my home. Once you have lived out from under our roof, your personal life is your own.

Eat meals, often once, sometimes twice and, on a bad day, three times, in my car. If humans were meant to eat in cars, God would have installed tray tables in the steering wheel.

Ask anyone how their day was. My husband tells me good news and bad, unbidden. Only teenagers need to have information extracted like teeth.

Buy a new television set. I was good with 25 inches of low-def, and even okay with medium def, and I am pretty sure I will never see a reason to upgrade from 60 inches of pore-magnifying clarity. I might have said this about dial-up Internet.

I will never again utter the words, “Do you have homework?” “Why aren’t you doing your homework?” “When are you going to do your homework?” “I don’t see you doing your homework.” “You call that doing your homework?” My nagging days are over and that is a wholly good thing.

Spend so much money at the grocery store that, even though the cashier recognizes my face from my five trips a week over the last 11 years, the manager needs to okay the transaction.

I will never make plans with another mother. One thing that I could never have anticipated about parenthood was the deep and abiding friendships that often devolved out of constant convoluted arrangements for our kids.

Sleep on the family room couch with one eye propped open listening for sounds on the driveway.

There is a better than even chance that I will never cook dinner again, there is precedent for this in the 1980’s.

I will never again fill out the twenty forms required per each child per year which, as far as I can tell, simply said my kids are healthy, my cell phone is unchanged and go ahead and give them Advil if they have a headache.

I will never speak to a teacher again. This is both good and bad news.

As my youngest stands on the edge of our threshold, with one foot almost out the door, I can either begin my empty nest lifetime of grieving (a possibility that, I will be honest, I have considered) or simply focus on the fact that three wonderful young adults have entered my life.



  1. says

    I also sent my youngest off to college last year, and echo your sentiments. Great post! Thanks for the smiles.

  2. says

    Ugh, the homework and the food. I feel some days my life is completely taken up with thinking about homework and food. I will try to remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel for this!

  3. Sarah Hughes says

    Really enjoyed this blog!

  4. says

    Definitely things to rejoice about!!! Great to remember when you are preparing for their flight. No dinner? Wish my spouse were that accommodating… :)

  5. says

    I like the one about the grocery store.

    In my case the cashier asked me “Madame, est-ce vous avez une famille nombreuse?” (loosely translated – How many children do you have!?) I would buy 24 liters of milk and 24 of orange juice at least twice a week. She was wondering – what did I do with all of that milk & o.j.! — Awe the good ol’ days when they were running around in diapers!!

  6. says

    I have a long ways till this will happen to me but I know i will be a mess. Life definitely changes when the kids are grown. Just think of it as a new chapter in your life :)

  7. says

    So good! This made me chuckle: “Worry about who is in whose bedroom, which door is opened or closed…” I had forgotten all about those days and warnings to “leave your door open!” Too funny.

    Having been there, done that, and thought I was all done with that… well… never say never. 😀

  8. says

    My husband and I weren’t ashamed to say we enjoyed our empty nest when our youngest went off to college, for all the reasons you mentioned above. Thanks for sharing, Lisa.

  9. Emily says

    Like you, as a future empty nester, I will NOT miss the endless grocery shopping as well as cooking dinner!

  10. Suzy says

    Quizzing them on vocabulary is the worst when the words are in a language I don’t speak (Spanish is hard enough but Chinese? or worse, AP Biology?) That said, when my son, then in second grade, spoke at his grandfather’s funeral, he told everyone that his grandfather helped him learn spelling words, “and he spelled everything starting with a K,” which, of course, prompted the child to say “NO, Papa! It’s spelled…” I guess we have to be careful when we say “never”! There may be another generation to quiz.

  11. Pam Anderson says

    Spring semester of our first year – so happy to be done with our local public school system! Love not even starting dinner ’til my husband gets home!! Who cares if we eat at 6, 7 or 8 o’clock!! I can’t believe how fast those 25 years went for us but glad (most of the time) to be where we are!

  12. says

    Clearly, the author has boy children. Groceries was a different issue in a girl zone. I will never watch food go bad in the refrigerator because they don’t show up to eat the food prepared or bought for them. It’s all so trivial, isn’t it? I love the notion that soon I can “simply focus on the fact that (two) wonderful young adults have entered my life.”

  13. says

    Oh Bravo, Bravo, Lisa! I loved every word of this. It undulated from poignant to funny and had me nodding my head and smiling throughout. Your image is so very, very sweet. I’d have that on a canvas and enlarged and touch it with one finger hand as I passed it each night before bed. It’s priceless.

    BTW – happy no cooking days to you! Like I’m having cottage cheese and a sliced apple for dinner tonight (right now) followed by some popcorn a little later and watching whatever I want to on a flat screen tv tonight with no homework to consider or quiz about either.

    Ahh the sweetness of an empty nest and yes, the amazing richness of the adult children who inhabit our lives.

  14. LL says

    Love this! Bittersweet indeed, but as I’ve said, the empty nest “doesn’t suck”. Our little birds flew back recently for visits, and it was just enough rejuvenation to satisfy all our needs. And even from someone who was known as the master chef, my kitchen has not seen a lot of action these past couple of years. Love it!
    Also got a chuckle out of Becky Blades’ comment re: girls. I never overloaded grocery carts with gallons of milk or vats of chips; rather, I was buying organic vegetables and fish that went bad because my girls’ plans “evolved”.

  15. says

    Great list, I can relate to them all. And gotta say, it’s quite wonderful to not feel the pressure to “cook” dinner every night.

  16. Carpool Goddess says

    I am so thrilled not to have to be doing so many of these things. Especially nagging about homework. I can probably count the number of meals I’ve cooked since my nest has been empty on one hand. The freedom of a night out on the town on a “school night” is fabulous! There is a grieving process, but ultimately, you do come out the other end. And once you start getting used to the empty nest they come home for the holidays. Bonus, one of them might actually move home for a while, as ours has while he’s working for a year before grad school. If you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m here for you!

  17. Helene Cohen Bludman says

    This is wonderful. Hard as it is to let go, there are some things that we won’t miss, and I think you’ve nailed just about all of them. Also, and I know you can relate to this one, there’s the cheering on the sidelines in 30 degree weather.

  18. says

    I loved the honesty of this post and also the view into parenthood that I missed by not being one.

  19. Pat says

    As hard as it is to let go, there are some things that you will welcome like time alone and freedom from the constant demands of parenthood. Although you will probably find yourself lying awake, listening for sounds on the driveway when they live back home during summer holidays. Once a mom, always a mom.

  20. says

    You nailed it with this one. I don’t miss any of those things. Especially, the waiting for my daughter to come home at night.

  21. says

    I’m a boomer, but my youngest is only 12, so I’ve got a while. But as always, I appreciate people who are blazing the trail ahead of me. I will miss them, but not the taxi work or the big grocery bills.

  22. Estelle says

    Wow Lisa. Even though you and I are compatriots I am decades away from some of the items on your list. So touching and what is with meals and the car? Not a fan–but I might have to be when my preschooler is older.

    • says

      Estelle, It was the constant driving, grabbing food on the run, taking one kid here and another there while we all tried to stave off hunger. I hate eating my car, and I am done!

  23. Judy says

    Yes, homework drama is over, but mine DO come home, with major appetites and seven friends.

  24. says

    Love this post, Lisa. What a bittersweet process! I was just contemplating this same thing, except on a different age transition. My son is on the cusp of being a teenager and there are so many things I don’t do anymore: wipe noses, supervise his every move, have more of a central role in his life than his friends…so many changes and even more on the horizon. Thanks for reminding me there are joys and sorrows at every turn of the clock. ~ Bobbi

  25. says

    I can so relate. My son is 16 and daughter 18, but I semi-long for and semi-worry/obsess about the fact that one day pretty soon, they’ll both be out of my hair forever. Part of me can’t wait, part of me dreads it. The whole eating in a car is such an annoyance, I’m so sick of eating granola bars on the baseball field. And the nagging about homework, and telling them to clean up their room and the forms and the grocery shopping……it’s all so familiar and yet I too worry that soon it will be all over and I’m miss it terribly. Thanks for capturing it so well.

  26. says

    I am surprised how well I cope with life after children left home. I was worried for myself at the beganning but realized that they will keep coming back. And they will keep coming back possibly in twos and threes and fours. We were discussing the other day, if our home is big enough for those big occasions. So, we have son/daughter in-laws and grandchildren to look forward to.