Last spring my kids spent a week in Florida with their father. The whole time they were gone the house was obnoxiously quiet, my heart-felt hallow, and I was counting down the days until they returned.
I kept busy, I had fun and went away for a few days with a friend and would spend evenings cooking only for myself. There was no extra mess to clean up, fighting over the bathroom didn’t happen, and I wasn’t late once that week because I was waiting for someone to find their ear buds or socks. I only had myself to keep in line and, in a sense, it was glorious and I felt refreshed when they returned.
But I kept thinking, Is this what’s it’s going to be like when they are all gone? Because I kind of hate this.
The feeling I had all week didn’t sit well and I knew they were coming home. How was I going to feel when they left for good?
I had my kids very close together and I am a single mother – the years are creeping in on me and it won’t be long until I am living sans kids.
Maybe I will be partnered with someone by the time they leave, but maybe I won’t. And while I’m okay with either scenario, I don’t want to just be with someone so I won’t be sitting alone every night watching dramatic television, it makes the reality of empty nest feel scary.
While some couples may be excited to get their kids off to school or into their own place so they can travel the world, or sail more, or simply just focus on each other and their relationship, I’m so aware of the years and months I have left until they leave the nest, my nest, and it’s painful at best.
Since my separation almost two years ago, the relationship between me and my kids has shifted and we’ve formed our own tight clan. In some subtle ways, they have become more of a support system for me than they would have if I was still married to their father.
I’ve heard this transition for all parents is hard, even for those who weren’t expecting it to be an issue are left feeling more wounded than they thought they’d be. And I can’t help but wonder how it is going to feel to go from sharing a house with my kids, to being in a house with just me in it.
I’m not going to put unnecessary pressure on my children to stick around longer so their mother isn’t lonely, I’m very capable of taking care of myself and I have purposefully created a social life for myself, outside of my kids, and do lots of fun things when they are with their father because of this very reason– I don’t want them to leave and feel completely depleted.
And I want to show them I don’t depend on them living here for my happiness. I want to show them happiness is an inside job.
But I do feel as a single mom, having my house empty is going to be especially hard and feel more like a punch in the gut than freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want.
I feel that truth looming over me when they are at school and I’m home alone and the house is quiet for the day. It’s funny how something that used to seem so luxurious to me has lost its luster because I know what’s coming.
I think about it each and every time they are with their father, and when they are returned to me I want to soak up every second I can with them.
I’m not looking forward to having an empty nest. In fact, I am dreading it. But I do know this: I will still be a mother, my kids will still need me (and probably drive me crazy at times), and just like many other first parents have to face, I will get through it one moment at a time.