November 15, 2016

The Ups and Downs of the Empty Nest

This past weekend, the girls were home early. Bags were dropped, clothes needed cleaning, and the dishwasher was full.

In the beginning, when this whole empty nest thing started, I was more than happy to resume my role as doting mother. I made them nutritious dinners. I made sure their sheets were freshly laundered each weekend they were home. After all, the whole reason they came home so often was to balance their world of tests and deadlines, stress and decision making, with a place they felt nurtured and refreshed. And I was more than happy to oblige.

But, when the house was silent once again, I began to refocus my energy.

At first, David and I were warriors. We tackled project after project in record time. I was back to my ruthless cleaning rituals. And I started to create a new schedule—one that worked for both my business and my new personal life.

Then I started to slow down and look around. We don’t get a lot of alone time when the girls are home. And there is always something that needs our attention and there always will be. Free weekends became dedicated to catching up on forgotten books, working on a left-over project, or lolling on the sofa watching a movie together.

Once the girls were home again, it was all about them.

The back and forth was a bit unnerving at first. I got rattled when they weren’t home and again when they were. It would take me a good day on either end to switch gears.

Now I’m learning to balance the in between. When they are home, I don’t worry about a tidy house or cooking each night. When they head back to school, I appreciated the time I had with them and simply get back to work. I rediscovered alone time. Time to be present with myself that I thought I would never embrace again as I had done years ago. I reconnected with an old friend and tackled an important project I longed to accomplish.

This is a huge improvement from a few years ago. If you remember, I was coming unhinged at the thought of them leaving. The contradictory emotions, from sorrow to relief, loss to exhilaration, has touched us all in one way or another. But we keep on moving forward. As everyone does.

The relationships I have with my children as adults have been more rewarding than I could have imagined. Getting to know them as they learn and grow and change, is an amazing experience. I take joy in knowing that the give and take and ups and downs are an inevitable not-so-scary-after-all part of the process.

There’s still plenty of parenting to do—it’s a never-ending job—but I’m up for the challenge. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

P.S. You may also like I'm Not Ready, Mean Girls, and It's Been Quite a Week.


Kelly said...

I have read all of your empty nest posts and they make me feel like I'm somewhat sane. Most of my friends can't wait for their kids to leave and I just want them home. We're filling out college applications with a smile on my face and butterflies in my stomach.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's good to know that there are ups to the downs. I have two children in high school right now. I'm not looking forward to this next "stage of life", but I know many who are. Funny.


Anonymous said...

My daughter left for school this past August. It's been a huge adjustment for all of us. I'm so glad she is coming home for Thanksgiving and soon, Christmas. I thought I was prepared, but I think I was in denial. I do hope it gets easier.


Kimberly Merritt said...

Kelly, Meg, and Tara... you'll have your good days and your bad, I won't pretend otherwise. BUT, it's not as horrible as I thought it was going to be. Very rough the first time around and there are all those transition times to get through, but there are lots of ups with the downs. Good luck!