In the mid-1990’s I was welcomed into the wonderful world of motherhood. I had a son in March 1995 followed by a daughter in January 1997. Those two beautiful babies became my heart and soul. Through them I learned about unconditional love, they were my everything. Being the best mother I could be to them got me through my separation from their father in 2001 and our eventual divorce a few years later . Continuing to be their mom is what got me through my battle with colon cancer in 2008.
Flash forward to today. My oldest, my handsome 6’2″ son (aka “little buddy”) is a senior in college. He plays lacrosse and is double majoring in criminal justice and sociology. Currently, his eyes are firmly planted on his May 20, 2017 graduation date. My youngest a petite young lady that I still call “baby girl” is in her sophomore year in college, an Alpha Delta Pi, who’s studying music production and promotions. She’s currently head chairman for promotions at her college’s record label. What about me? I am remarried, cancer free (yay) and…our nest. is. empty.
There are many and sometimes ongoing emotions towards my empty nest. My initial feeling was sadness. Their bedrooms are finally neat for once, but their beds go untouched for months at a time. Closets are mostly empty, expect for few pieces of clothing and shoes that my kids did not wish to take with them. But it doesn’t end there, I didn’t realize how heartbreaking the first trip to the grocery store after their departure was going to be. Not until I went down the cereal aisle and realized that I didn’t have to buy fruit loops anymore. No need to go to the snack aisle to buy “little buddy’s” favorite snack and it doesn’t matter that “baby girl’s” favorite was on sale. There’s was no need to buy the pudding or the fruit snacks, because my kids are not home to enjoy them. It took all that I had to not run out of the grocery store with tears streaming down my face. Then there’s the rush of memories when I ride my car by the school my children once attended or the ball field that I spent countless Saturday afternoons cheering them on as they played their hearts out. A parking lot full of cars signify that their is a new generation of parents doing what I did so many years ago. And I am so happy for them all! I hope that they are enjoying each and every moment of it while it last.
There is also worry. Being an empty nester means that you worry quite a bit. Both of my children attend colleges out of state. Their freshman year I had the same worries for both: “are the making friends, are they homesick, are they studying enough, are the partying to much?” They have both done very well with their grades, so I know they are studying enough. Which also means they must be balancing the study/party life pretty well. As I stated earlier my son plays lacrosse and my daughter is in a sorority. They both have created a “family” at their home away from home so I no longer worry about whether they have friends. Now I just have the “Oh my goodness why didn’t he/she answer my call just now? I hope he/she isn’t lying in a ditch somewhere. Where’s the nearest hospital to their campus? It’s going to take me hours to get to them.” It sounds a bit over the top, but I have gone to that place and driven myself crazy with unnecessary worrying.
But there is the happy side of being an empty nester. If you were to look in my refrigerator right now, there is most likely bottled water, beer, wine and bar-b-que sauce in there. The freezer only has ice and a bag of frozen vegetables. There’s some rice and oatmeal in the pantry. You see, the beauty of empty nesting is that you don’t have to make dinner anymore! Well you can, but with a few less mouths to feed, really what’s the point. When I get off from work, literally anything can happen. Happy hour with my husband and friends, or shoot some pool and have pizza and wings at the bar, or a bowl of oatmeal for dinner in my pj’s and in bed by 7 pm. My after work possibilities are endless. I have replaced driving my kids to practice or games, sitting in recitals and the homework, bath time, bedtime rituals for some time for just my husband and I! As long as we have a dog sitter overnight getaways, long weekends and childless vacations are our new rituals. Believe me, I miss my kids with all my heart and I cannot wait for the holidays and semester breaks, but I admittedly enjoy my freedom. And my kids have earned their freedom as well. It’s time for them to learn, explore and grew into adults and (well, this part hurts a little) stop being my babies.
So if you are an empty nester, embrace it and all the emotions that come along with it. You’ve seriously earned this time to yourself though. You did, your child did it, you took on the roller coaster of family life together and you made it! Now it’s time for you to enjoy your life!