August 23, 2016

The Nest has Emptied: Week One

The Empty Nest

After nearly 21 years of stay at home parenting, the second child has gone to college. When we said goodbye to her in Chicago, the excitement and pride was so strong that there was no time to be maudlin. But now it's not just the quiet, it's the anticipation of unending quiet.

It's the understanding that there will be no more back to school photos. And that all the things that kept my days and nights busy will still go on, but not with my participation or my child's. I thought I was ready for this. I knew it was coming and I had several plans in motion to manage the quiet. Though I've never cared to be asked if I was going back to work (mostly because I don't feel like I ever was not working), I planned to begin working full time again.

An opportunity had come to me a year ago and I tried to juggle work and the last year of active parenting, but ultimately wound up resigning for several reasons, though one of the unspoken ones was that I just couldn't miss any more of those last moments. The luxury of staying home with my children was something I never took for granted and I enjoyed every day of it. Well, almost every day. There were times in any parent's job that could be trying, but I was lucky that my children never gave me grief or worries. Being their mom is the best thing I could have ever done with my past 21 years.

Now, while I'm not fired, my worst fear seems realized. I don't feel needed. I know my kids will always need their mom, but not in a necessarily useful, ongoing, daily way. I talked to a friend of mine last night who doesn't have children and she helped remind me that people get married to have a life partner and that I still have that, even if we are no longer raising children. It made sense and has lifted some of my overly indulgent feelings.

I am very proud of the young adults we raised. I don't want them to need me for their every move, but I just don't know what *I* am supposed to do. Those instructions didn't come with the What to Expect When You're Expecting book. Which I devoured and could have memorized, but honestly, I've about forgotten what it felt like to have a swollen tummy because a baby was inside, not because I gained weight in my 40s. In the absence of that, I suppose I'm substituting my swollen eyes or something equally silly.

We chatted with my daughter the other night and she mentioned her leaky window (which I noticed the first day). I asked if she had talked to maintenance about it and she said, yeah, but they won't do anything. I started to talk about sending caulk, or weather stripping, a million and one solutions, but the fact was, I was creating a problem to solve mostly so I could feel like I had something to do. I realized the absurdity of it when my daughter kept insisting, "Mom, it's OKAY", not to worry about it, etc. I think it was more my way of finding something useful to do.

Yesterday, I started to take photos and post things for sale online. That should keep me busy for a while. It will pay for some textbooks and it will help keep those long forgotten items moving along and finding a new well-loved home. The trumpet is gone, the hand-painted play table & chairs is on its way. Those items will bring joy to new families.

I don't recall the last generation making such a big deal out of the "empty nest". My parents took me to college and were happy I was somewhere I loved. I certainly don't recall any grief, but maybe that was also an era where we weren't encouraged to spill and talk about our every last thought and emotion. Feels rather self-absorbed the more I go on.

I'm writing this because that's how I process my world. That's how I communicate best. I'm an outgoing person, but I still feel like I organize my thoughts better in writing than speaking. I also figure if I put this out there, I will find some kindred souls who understand or can also tell me how silly I'm being. I do feel silly, to be honest. I know that I did my job and now am seeing the rewards of that job first hand. But for now, I'm going to mourn and beg indulgence as I work through all this.

I am going to post as I traverse these new waters, with the hope that in a few months I have a really solid guide to perhaps publish as a book. I am inspired by a friend of mine who turned her own journal into a book, Diary of a Future Ex-Wife: Yeah, I'm Pissed.

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