I have been preparing for the empty nest for two decades. I hated it when my boys went off to nursery school. I was not one of those mothers who thought sleep away summer camp was a great idea. So when two of my three children went off to college in quick succession, I feared that this might not go very well. For me.
As I moved them into their dorm rooms, I just about held it together, yet I drove away from each of their schools with tears streaming down my face. I was sad for me but more I was sad for our family. Many moments of unalterable change are not apparent until long after the moment has passed. Within ten steps of walking away from my sons’ dorm rooms I knew our family had changed. Forever.
Friends told me how great it was when their kids had left home and how much they actually enjoyed their empty nests. They assured me that I would feel enormous pride watching them become independent adults. They promised me that, in time, this pride would outweigh the sadness. Not for one second did I believe the urgings of my wise friends, but in the spirit of seeking the elusive silver lining I have started my list:
1. Discovered youngest child
Finally discovered my youngest child who had been buried under a pile of loud large older brothers. Turns out he is a charming kid and I am glad I got to meet him once the crowd had dispersed.
2. Fewer worries
I would like to worry where my older boys are at night and when they will be home. Although I would like to obsess on every scary thing that can go wrong, it simply isn’t practical with them living in other cities. So my worrying load has been lightened considerably.
3. Reclaimed car
My car seat is always adjusted to my shorter legs and the radio station is at a decibel level appropriate for the human ear. I never turn my car’s ignition and hear hiphop.
4. No dirty dishes
When I wake up in the morning my kitchen looks much as I left it, not as if someone detonated a bomb that spread food and dirty dishes onto every conceivable surface…and then went to sleep.
5. Money’s worth
My sons are on all-you-can-eat meal plans in their dorms and are undoubtedly eating more than I have paid for. I am sure that I am making money off this arrangement.
6. Appreciation for home
When they are home their tone has changed entirely. They have gone from complaining about the one thing I forgot to get at the grocery store to marveling at the cornucopia that is my refrigerator. Home is full of newfound marvels (e.g. clean sheets, real coffee, Ben and Jerry’s, and cars with full tanks of gas) and I have been transformed from “she who nags” to purveyor of those marvels. Think I traded up.
7. Changed perspective
I see my children with new eyes. When they were home everyday I sometimes failed to notice the kindness one of them showed or the beautiful twist of a smile, but when they return they are writ large, themselves but even better.
8. Hello, friends!
I fear my friends were wrong, that life without my children is not a better version of life with them. But, those wonderful women that I love? The ones that gave me all this great advice? I have a lot more time to spend with them now.