If all goes right in your parenting journey, there will come a day when your offspring will spread their wings and fly out into the great big world.
That time came for my happy household last year, and in the most cliche of ways, it all happened much sooner than I expected.
The good news is that our kids all headed out in ways that are moving them towards new and exciting things, even if I didn’t see those things coming quite so soon.
That’s the thing about raising children to believe in chasing their dreams~ they grow up and do just that~ and perhaps sooner than you think.
Which is exactly what our kids are off doing, leaving my SweetHeart and me with what the world refers to as “an empty nest.”
The term seems to conjure up two distinct images. Either he parental units are wailing and weeping, no longer having a life purpose, or they’re whooping it up and grateful to finally have those pesky kids gone.
For me, it’s not really either. Although there might have been wee moments of both.
For the most part, we’re still getting used to the idea that kids don’t live here, and actually, there’ve been assortments of our kids and their friends visiting multiple times in those few months.
So, even though the house has had lots of kids here, technically, none of them actually live here now.
And with that, everyone seems to be asking me just what I’m going to do with my empty nest.
We’ve just started to ponder this new phase, and it’s such a ginormous and crazy change that it's strange to even wrap my head around.
But, when I’m posed with the question of what I’ll do, the first thing that comes to mind is….
“Whatever the heck I want!!!!!!
Because I’m a grown up and no longer responsible for other people!
I can eat cake for breakfast now and I’m not even being a bad example to anyone and come to think of it, I don’t even have to wear pants at home anymore if I don’t want to!”
The response, along with the following “Bwahahahaha!” type maniacal laughter usually only happens in my head..(thank goodness for that)
In real life, I don’t actually know what to say.
It’s a strange time, and while I miss connecting with my kids on the daily, I’m also really excited for them AND me.
Since daily momming has been my job for over 20 years, there’s a bit to process and figure out, but I realized there are few distinct things I found that are really helping me in the transition.
If you have kids flying the coop soon too, maybe these will be helpful for you as well.
I feel like I can breathe this huge sigh of relief because I raised competent people that I actually enjoy!
For 2 decades, I’ve been responsible for the daily food, shelter and upbringing of other humans!!
And now I'm not....
AND they’re not just OK, they’re pretty awesome!
“Momming” is pretty much embedded in my DNA at this point, and I'll admit that it’s really weird to not have it as a part of my daily rhythm. I find myself talking to the dogs and asking how their day went more often than I should admit.
Thankfully, I haven’t resorted to giving unsolicited advice and healthy snacks to random teenagers on the street, even though I know it would be helpful. (But, be warned, I may on occasion do this to kids I actually do know)
I’m just grateful that my kids are happy and kind people with strong connections to other good people.
They’re mostly able to figure out and deal with the stuff of life (and they know they can call or text if they need help.)
Of course, I still worry sometimes, but for the most part, when they’re big and need to be making their own decisions, if you don’t have to see every single choice they’re making, it’s a heck of a lot more relaxing.
Does that mean they’re doing everything exactly the way I think they should?
They’re living their lives and they’re making choices for themselves. They’re doing their research and they’re figuring it out as they go.
And I can take a deep breath and let it go. And celebrate and give thanks, because I did it!
And now, without those 3 extra full-sized humans in the house, I have sooooooo much extra time and space to relax into~ which brings me to the next step.
The mass exodus of teens leaves a lot of openings. There’s both physical space and chunks of time that I’ve never actually had all to myself before in this way.
I do miss their laughter and comradery, but I'm also really enjoying figuring out what to do with what I have in front of me.
The best part is that I get to do it creatively and consciously.
I know some people leave shrines in their kids’ rooms for years after they move out~ but, uh...not me.
No offense kids, but that’s valuable real estate.. and I’m paying for it, so I want to use it!
At some point towards the end of the year, I realized that with all of the transitions in our home, there had been both furniture as well as people moving in our house for half of 2018!
It didn’t just feel like a year of disarray~ It actually was.
Now that the teens are off, I’ve been clearing and cleaning, restructuring and decluttering to try to make this space work the best it can for where we are now in life.
I’ve worked at home for 20 years and had my workspace in some open to everyone space the whole time. Now that the kids are gone, I’ve taken over the biggest of their rooms for my studio and office.
I’m ridiculously giddy about my new space, with its VERY OWN DOOR! And it shuts! The concept of a room of one’s own has been one that has intrigued and eluded me since I first read Virginia Wolff’s words about it decades ago.
And now, here I have it! I have to lean back and sigh every time I think of how wonderful that concept is.
We still have a guest room and a couple of futons for the kiddos to sleep on when they visit, but I’m expanding all over and claiming the good space for me to use daily.
And that brings me to the next step.
I am seriously enjoying so many little things~ like the ability to leave out good chocolate and margaritas right out in the open…..and I don’t even have to consider if they’ll be there when I return.
It’s a wonderful life, indeed.
One blessing I’m needing to learn to navigate is that there’s food galore in this house!
Seriously~ So. Much. Food.
I found myself eating all the time in the first months of the transition.
I don’t want to talk about whether or not I need bigger pants as a result, but I will say. I do need to figure out buying and cooking for just 2 people.
There are some real perks with the abundant food scene though, like being able to enjoy my own leftovers from a nice dinner out, and the ability to sometimes get the super delightful kind of treats which I would have felt were way too expensive to feed so many people (especially when some of those people wouldn’t even appreciate the delicacies they were inhaling any more than they would some cheap sugar fix.)
But now I can buy good ice cream! And I actually get to eat it myself!
And as I mentioned~ I can leave my treats out~ like right out in the open!
And if I leave and come back, they’ll still be there for me to enjoy!
So, I'm celebrating that I don't have to inhale or hide my Really Good Goodies by enjoying lots of them.
And they’re all right out in the open baby!
Again, bigger pants may be in my future, and I'm actually curious as to whether or not I'll feel less inclined to drink margaritas now that I'm only responsible for myself, but have no idea how that will pan out....
Anyhoo, raising humans has been an amazing journey and a heck of a lotta fun~ along with a whole lotta very worthwhile work.
So, now, I feel like my job is to ENJOY.
Are things I wish I’d done differently?
Things I wish I'd done better, more of, or sooner?
Things I wish I’d never done at all?
Of course! Like a bazillion!
But I know I did my best with the tools and resources I had. I also tried to say sorry and learn from times when I blew it, just like I'd want them to do.
And now, they're on the own paths. Some things they talk about, some things they ask about, and some things they just want to figure out on their own.
Of course, I can freak out about that at times, but mostly, it makes more sense to trust the people I've raised, to let them live their lives, and use some of that energy on my own life.
So, I’m not feeling sad about this empty nest. I'm more curious and open to what’s next.
That brings me to #4 on my list:
It’s a big and beautiful world and I’ve always been a fan of exploring as much as I can. For years, the majority of that exploring was done with my kids~ through our homeschooling and life learning adventures.
While I know we’ll still do family adventures, the reality for a few years has been that when everyone is on a different schedule, it’s not easy to coordinate such things. So, my explorations as an individual have been growing slowly for some time.
I’ve always had my own interests and passions that I follow on the side, and now I feel really open up to the possibilities of what else I can learn, do, see and explore.
So far, this empty nest life has been pretty full. Travel, creating, work, play. Good Stuff.
And I know that there’s lots more where that came from.
I’ve said before that of all the jobs I’ve ever done (and there have been quite a few) raising humans has by far been the most meaningful. I’ve gained skills and learned lessons that will serve me always. I’ve done a lotta things and gone a lotta places with them in the process, and most importantly, I’ve had a heck of a lotta fun.
I’m proud and I’m relieved, and now, I’m ready to explore for myself what else I can find in that great big world out there.
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Until next time~ Enjoy the day!
Writer, Artist, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, FunSchooling Facilitator / Former Goat-Herding HeadMistress for our Mostly Happy Homeschool, Semi-Crazy Chicken Lady and Mamacita Extraordinaire to a couple of Cage Free Kids.