Empty nest. The time when parents learn to live life without their offspring under the same roof. A time where life changes, somewhat drastically. Whether it be college, marriage, or just moving out and moving on, the changes can be traumatic for some parents. But for others, its the beginning of an adventure!
My daughter was 13 months old when I met my husband. By the time we were married, she was almost 3. Then came our son shortly before my husband adopted her. We have always had children. Always. I threw myself into their lives full steam ahead! My days revolved around them. We have always been a tight knit family. I often used to joke that we could be in a 10,000 square foot house and the four of us would all be standing in the same 5 square feet. We were always together. Not in an unhealthy way, but a lot. It’s who we were and are.
Our daughter has flown the proverbial nest a few times. Maybe five or six… but who’s counting? Each time she has returned, we have been here. It’s what parents do. Our son left right after high school to become a Marine. (Oooh Raah!) Each time they have flown away, a little piece of my heart has gone with them.
And then it happened. I saw glimpses of my grown children starting to soar. Not at first, but eventually. I see it in my daughter, when she stops by the house to do laundry or say hello on her lunch break. (It’s ok that she doesn’t separate her light, dark and color clothing. I get it. She’s in a rush. But she’s doing it!) And she likes to cook some of our favorite pasta recipes and asks me to come help her decorate her home. Our son, who recently told me that when he gets out of the military, whenever that is, he’ll need a place to stay for a couple of months. That’s a long time from now, but its good that he feels comfortable coming back to the nest. Even if its only for a while.
You see, it was difficult for me at first. I was sad–downright depressed when my children left. Sometimes, I feel like they got the best part of me and then stopped needing it. Just. Like. That. I had many questions and doubts about what would be next. What would I do? How does a self-proclaimed helicopter mom stay in the nest instead of flying after her children if they falter? Would my husband and I even like each other after being so integrated in our children’s lives for the past 24 years? What would we do? What would we talk about?
We are fine. In fact, we are better than fine. I miss my children. I loved hearing about events in their daily lives. Sitting around the dinner table, asking them each to tell me the favorite part of their day. Laughing with them. Praying with them. I am thankful that they feel they can ask us for help, guidance or even just a recipe. But… if I slow down enough, I stop and look at my husband of 21 years and see him. I mean REALLY see him. The man I fell in love with so many years ago, the man who has been an incredible father to our children, and the man who I GET to spend the rest of my life with. He’s loved me through it all. I like what I see! We aren’t the young kids anymore starting a family. We have a few gray hairs, most of mine are from the kids… and we are a bit older. I like to think of us as seasoned parents, who have been there, done that, and are going to keep on doing!
What is different without the kids in the nest? I work from home, so now I get to enjoy a cup or two of coffee with my hubby each morning that he’s home too. There is less laundry (which I’m only guessing at, because my better half has always done it). There are usually no dishes in the sink. Well, almost never. I joke with my children that our grocery bill is smaller, the house is always clean and quiet, and the cars have less miles put on them each day! When in reality, I love having the kids here for dinner once in a while, I enjoy a messy house that is full of their laughter, and I never really minded letting them use the cars to run errands and friends around.
Retirement is within sight! Its just around the next corner and it marks a new chapter for me. The nest has recently become home for just the two of us. It’s all about my husband and I now, and I think we are finding ways to embrace it together. We will walk through our empty nest together, holding hands and smiling at one another. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be.