It’s three o’clock. I take a deep breath and search for my keys. In my past life, I would be pulling together snacks and greeting my boys at the back door. Now, the house is quiet, an empty nest. And no one will be home for hours. And I’ve learned that running my errands late in the day helps me to not feel quite so … lost. I don’t feel that way every day, but enough.
I know I’ve either lost you, or made you cry. As you hear me talk about my empty house you either can’t wait for the day, or you never want it to come. The truth is, it’s the same for me. There are days it suits me just fine, but most, there is an ache in my heart so loud I am sure everyone can hear it. That’s the thing about this new phase of being a momma, it’s not much different than every other stage. There are things to love and things to mourn. It’s never all or nothing, and having “grown” kids isn’t any different.
It’s Not Easier, and That’s Ok
You think it’s going to be. And in some ways it is! I don’t have to drive to practice, or to parent-teacher conferences, and I’m not hawking homework on the online grade platform anymore (thank goodness). But, I am helping them to fill out their taxes, strategizing about employment options, and going over banking information. And as much as I worried when they were young (and I was a professional) the worries now come with bigger price tags. Ones that can change the outcome of their lives forever.
We may have decided as a society that eighteen is the legal age of an adult, but I’m here to tell you there’s no magic that comes all of a sudden making your adult child not need guidance, love and support–you know, mothering. So while it looks far different than it did when they lived under my roof, mentally and emotionally I’m still in the game.
Let It Be
Whether you are happily enjoying the peace and quiet or crying that no one is asking “What’s for dinner?”–or doing both!–you’re not alone. There are days I’m happy as can be to sink into my writing, in a quiet house, and others where I am lonely and miss my kids. I’ve learned to let it be. Feelings come and feelings go, and all of them are of value.
Whichever side of the fence you happen to be on in this moment, it’s not right or wrong. Finding your peace with the changing stages of parenting is difficult. We all process and find our place in different ways. On the flip side, don’t judge anyone else for how they handle (or don’t) their empty nest. Nobody needs that.
Find the Joy
There is not much I would trade in this world than the feeling I get when one of my boys calls home just to chat. Or sends a picture of the pot roast he made for dinner. I feel valued and respected when they come to me for advice with relationships, work, and school. It’s fun to talk about world events and hear their perspectives on major issues. So even on the days that I am lonely, there is joy in the little moments that my empty nest has taught me to be grateful for.
When you are knee deep in diaper changes and refilling sip cups it’s really, really, hard to believe that the time will ever come that your littles will someday not live with you. As they say, the days are long and the years are fast. Enjoy the time you have and know that there is joy in the days after as well.