Funny Thing About an Empty Nest…

Empty NestFor about a year, I wept over my kids moving out. I mean WEPT. I’d be in a conversation with someone and they would ask a fairly innocuous question about how it’s going, and I’d feel the tears welling up. Sorrow was upon me like an overcast day. Granted, it was a tough year: I went through menopause, Katie left for New York, Michael left for Nicaragua (within a week of each other), and Alyssa got engaged and moved out to be with her boyfriend. That’s a lot for a woman who spent the last two and half decades in this mommy immersion called unschooling.

But eventually, I adjusted. I could feel myself taking deeper breaths. I started to enjoy my quiet house during the day, feeding the birds in the morning, drinking coffee on the patio with a little meditation music playing on my Bluetooth. Yes, after they left, I had to learn how to do all the technology in the house myself – my favorite being Pandora from my phone through Bluetooth to the sound bar in the living room. Impressive sounding, right? Anyway, I really started to lean into the idea of having time to myself to write, to think, and to relax.

Here’s what I learned from all of it:

Everything changes. The good and the bad. And if one stays longer than you thought it would, then your reaction to it is what changes.

I found everyone moving out to be overwhelming. Someone I know actually said to me, in the gentlest of ways, “It’s not like they’re dead – they’ll be back.” But that’s what my grief looked like. I surely did not feel like they’d be back. It felt like the happiest chapter had slammed shut and there was no going back to it. All I kept thinking was they wouldn’t be back to lounge on the bed and share their worries or their successes. They wouldn’t be around to make a quick run with me to the store. They wouldn’t be around to talk about their goals and their plans. Not on a daily basis, at least. But the truth that later revealed itself – they were around. They ARE around. In a different way. As the young adults they want to be.

After that year of grieving, Alyssa and Josh moved back in with us for a while. Katie came home for the summer between her NYC and LA years. Michael eventually got back from Nicaragua and found a job only 3 hours away in Dallas. There was ebbing and flowing, and then everyone moved out again. It didn’t seem to bother me at all this time.

And, after a few months with just Ron and me here in the house, we’ve had another shift:

My soon-to-be 84 year old mother has just moved into two of the empty bedrooms upstairs.

Empty nests just don’t stay empty around here… or at least not for long. 😉Sue Patterson


6 thoughts on “Funny Thing About an Empty Nest…

  1. Thank you for the reminder that things are always changing. I’ve seen this with my daughter (now 20)- she’s been far away from us at times, but now she lives and goes to school nearby and we see her frequently. My oldest son is very far away though and we’ve only seen him a little bit over the last two years, so I’m struggling with that. But I know that it won’t last forever- that we will most likely live near him at some point again, or close enough to see him more often.
    How wonderful that your mom is moving in with you 🙂

  2. Oh, I felt tears welling up as I read this. I *know* I’ve got a few years left with my kiddos at home and I *know* I’ll adjust to the change. I don’t want their lives to stall and for them to stay with me beyond what makes them happy. But man, I’m going to miss this. I find myself completely bewildered (and increasingly annoyed) by people who complain about the teenage years. I LOVE this time with my kids and I will miss the days of lounging in our pajamas, having the inside jokes that only people who live together can truly get, having company when I run into town. Each stage of their lives has been an adjustment and brought new joys that I couldn’t anticipate and I’m sure that’s true of the empty nest as well. But I can relate to that feeling of being overwhelmed. I’m glad you shared this and acknowledged that feeling of grief while still offering hope that it will be okay. Thanks. 🙂

    • Hope, I KNOW that feeling. And it IS irritating to hear parents complain about having their kids around when we are keenly aware that it’s only for a short while. Enjoy the now. Take lots of pictures.
      And you’re so right that every stage brings its own new joys.
      Thank you so much for sharing here.

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