Reflections on an Empty Nest

My nest feels empty at the strangest moments.  Like when I open the refrigerator to see a half-consumed bottle of wine, some coffee creamer, leftover Chinese food and way too many individual packets of soy sauce instead of a refrigerator overflowing with homemade and healthy foods, sandwich fixings, power drinks and granola bars that you packed ever so carefully your child’s backpack daily.   I mean, nowadays,  it’s cheaper to eat out or call in then to shop and cook for one.   And when your children were young, of course, as filled as your refrigerator was, there was always something one or the other needed that you didn’t have, and as a dutiful mom, you would run out at store closing to make sure they had exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it.  That was then, and this is now.

Okay, so now that they’re gone,  I promised I would write something everyday, just for me, as I would have so much more time on my hands not having to cater to boys’ the daily needs, but I have been sorely remiss.  I had been feeling joyful and happy  in my phase of  life after kids,  loving not having a strict routine, and loving being more in the moment.  But in the past month, that seems to have shifted a bit and with all the time in the world to write, it was the last thing I wanted to do.

Having moved seven times in ten years, I had accumulated more stuff than any ten people should be allowed to collect in one garage, so with my bad back, I decided to hire someone to help clear the clutter out of my life.  She would do the heavy lifting and I could sit there and pass judgment on every item.  Keep. Toss. Donate. File. Shred. Maybe. Keep. NO – Toss!

But as we dug in, the more we tossed, the heavier a fog of melancholy weighed me down.  Was it the impending milestones my sons were about to reach tugging at my heart?  My eldest was going to graduate from college and my “baby” was going to graduate from high school. Where had all the time gone?  Why are they so grown up and I am still so young? What am I to do now?

Oh the joy and the pain of it all.  I miss my babies.  I missed having them depend on me for mostly everything.  I missed feeling like  I was the only one who can give them what they wanted and needed.  But of late, the heavy lifting  as a parent is done.  I have loved, nurtured and guided  my boys in the best way I knew how. I have hoped and prayed that I have supported them and taught them enough to fly the coop and someday make a nest of their own.  I have given them everything from the bottom of my heart and sometimes from the very bottom of my wallet.

So while the media swears my nest is empty and I will attest to the fact that my cupboards and refrigerator are pretty much bare, the fact remains that my nest will always be full.  Maybe not with the pitter-patter of little feet or the wretched smell that emanates from a soccer backpack after a big tournament, or teary faces to be wiped, but full of the promise of what these boys have now become as they take the next step on  journey to become men and the pride in knowing that I didn’t do such a bad job after all and maybe I did help them a bit along their way!

Originally posted 6/9/09

Comments

  1. John Casper says:

    Marla,
    To say I was brought to tears by your ‘empty nest’ is an understatement. It all comes home so hard and brutal, yet with a feathered edge that reminds me of what we have left.

    Our ‘empty nest’ turned into a household with 5 kids (16 to 7 y/o) and 4 adults in the blink of an eye 5 years ago today. It is a transition that can make one question reality and really makes one realize that life really IS just a dream that appears real to us.

    You are so dead on.

    Isn’t it amazing,
    It is all right in front of us.

    You just love what you have right now,
    And find every bit of good that it has to offer.
    The page may turn tomorrow,
    And you are not allowed to know ,
    What may be on it.

    And one thing I have found,
    If that we ignore the road signs of life,
    We just may drive off of the drawbridge.

    Love you,
    John (& Nancy)

  2. Marla;

    Cleaning out all your accumulated stuff is liberating. I have a good friend who does that for a living. She really pushes you and if you’d like her contact info, I’d be happy to give it to you. I think you’d enjoy my column, “Will The Kids Ever Leave,” on my website – http://www.brucesallan.com. I still love having my boys around, though having teens is certainly a challenge. I was a single guy for a long time before marrying and having kids, so I still like the tumult of an active house. As I recently remarried, I won’t be alone when they finally leave, but it will feel terribly empty. Like you said, just the shopping routines will be different. No need to go to Costco twice a week (my favorite store).

    Anyway, good blog – keep it up!

    Bruce Sallan

  3. So well-written and heartfelt, I enjoyed reading your post but it made me fell both sad and relieved. I have two teens in high school and in the recent past, just thinking about empty nest made me tear up. Then my long lost boyfriend and I rekindled an old flame a few years ago and now I’ve added a gorgeous 16-month old to my little family.

    Phew! I get to start all over.

    It’s tiring and I know I’ll be a much older mom by the time he reaches high school but it’s worth every minute. I have another 16 years before I have to start worrying about all that again.

  4. Marla:

    Beautifully written. Heartfelt and real. Your honesty and openness about your feelings conjured up memories (all too long ago) when my three boys “left the nest”. I guess dads sometimes look at things a bit differently than moms, especially when it comes to sons, but the underlying emotions and feelings of change and milestones are the same. Thanks for sharing your experiences and feelings. And one more thing…they never really “leave”. Get ready for a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.

    Hank

  5. Hi Marla,
    I enjoyed every word of your post. Indeed, children are going up pretty fast. Have yet had a kid of my own, but looking at my nephews and niece… it’s amazing how time flies. I’m sure that’s how every parent would feel. My parents are living by themselves and although missing us all, they had a pretty fruitful and content life doing what they love, and treasure every moment. I hope the best for you too, and a satisfying and joyful life ahead. It’s another journey ahead. Being young and still able to do things you’re passionate about, it’s a blessing. You’ve done great job, and now might be the time you cater for your own needs, pamper yourself. Looking forward to follow up on your stories that could be inspirational to all of us.

    @wchingya
    social media/blogging

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