I recently shared a post that I wrote right after I became an empty nester. I lamented that my house didn’t really feel like a home anymore. That walking past my kids’ bedrooms wasn’t the problem, but that the empty nest emptiness in my kitchen was soul crushing. Well, I wasn’t quite that melodramatic, but you get my point.
Each time I went upstairs and walked past the startlingly immaculate and silent kid’s rooms I ached a little. Yet, that wasn’t the toughest room for me.
Many readers said they could relate. Several thought it was depressing. I hear ya. Those first few weeks after the last birdy flew away were a low point on the happiness parenting scale.
But I’m here to tell you it get’s better. For real.
One day you will wake up and not cry into your coffee. You’ll hear birds chirping. You might even hear angels singing. You’ll suddenly feel a weight has been lifted and want to skip through the house like Cinderella after the prince gives back her glass slipper.
If it could happen to me – someone who felt like their arm had been cut off when their kids went to sleep away camp – it can happen to you, too.
I’m now on year three in the empty nest, and? It. Is. Glorious.
Why? Because after almost twenty years of it all being about them, it’s finally about me.
Yes, I am still parenting from afar, but the day-to-day child rearing that I so achingly missed in the first few weeks and months after my kids left, is gone. Hallelujah. (Remember I said you’d hear angels sing?)
This is the reward for doing a job well done.
My kids, now 24 and 27, have graduated college and are gainfully employed. I couldn’t be more proud of the young adults they’ve become. They are hardworking, responsible, thoughtful, and kind. We are still there to give advice when needed, and sometimes even when not asked. I am working on that. Learning to keep my mouth shut hasn’t been easy, but it is easier when they’re not living under our roof.
Those of you, who have kids in college who you barely hear from, just wait. I probably speak to both of my kids more now than I ever did while they were in college. And usually, it’s them calling or texting me.
Those trying teenage years are gone. We are all adults now who happen to enjoy spending time together without twisting anyone’s arms. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. How did we get here? I have no idea. It’s nothing short of a miracle.
And while I do miss those deliciously sweet baby days, my babies have grown up and those years of hard labor parenting are done. No more wiping tushies. No more nagging about homework or curfews or SATs. For the first time in my life, I can say I am glad that season of parenting is over. My husband feels the same way.
I no longer feel I have to rush home by 3:00 so I can greet them as they come home from school. I no longer feel the need to stay up or sleep with one eye open until they come home at night. I can go out on school night. We are free. FREE, I tell you.
You suddenly realize how quickly you can get used to a relaxing meal, a clean house, a weekend with nothing to do but whatever tickles your fancy. After years of sports and homework and carpooling, this is our time. We’ve earned it.
I always defined myself as a mom, first and foremost. Finally, I am me again. My empty nest has given me a chance to focus on my own interests without feeling guilty for not taking a back seat to someone else.
I started a blog, became a freelance writer and went back to school to get a master’s degree. My husband and I have date nights that remind us of a time before kids, when our conversations didn’t revolve around our children.
I still haven’t turned their old bedrooms into a man cave or new office. When the time is right, I’ll probably turn one into a guest bedroom and the other, perhaps, a nursery. Walking into their rooms brings me joy, not sadness. Nothing is missing and everyone is where they are meant to be.
My kitchen that once was a deep pit of loneliness is now a relaxing refuge where I can luxuriate over the morning newspaper, update my social media in peace and quiet and putter around in without anyone under my feet. I can do what I want whenever I want.
When our kids come home to visit, it’s the cherry on the icing. Those nights that they’re all under the same roof are rare and sublimely precious. As they get older I know they need their space. Their dad and I are always here, and this will always be their home.
I just want you to know, dear parents deep in the trenches, you will feel better. So much better. There will be a time, when you’ll think lovingly of your kids, but aren’t aching for them because your life is so full. You’ve come to the realization that your bond with them is strong and distance can’t take that away. Soon you will look fondly upon that smaller load of laundry, and delight in the ease and quickness of your grocery shopping.
What was once a place of echoing silence is now a sanctuary of blissful solitude. I am reconnecting with friends. I am relishing the time with my husband. I am blossoming in my empty nest. Life is good.
Linda Wolff lives in Los Angeles and is the proud mama of two grown kids. She writes at Carpool Goddess, where she proves that midlife, motherhood, and the empty nest aren’t so scary. Her work has appeared on the The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown and more. Follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.