Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Redefining the Nest

Do you ever dare yourself to do things? 

I suppose the first thing I had to dare myself to do when the nest became empty was to figure out who exactly I was now that the lovelies were all grown up. It may sound a little crazy, but I really did have to define myself in this new role. Maybe redefine is a better way to say it.

The kids still need us from time to time when they leave the nest. Especially if they leave to go to college. I mean, who else is going to fill out FAFSA and send them incidental and askidental money (remember The Cosby Show episode when Cliff explains to Theo that askidental money is the money they ask for when they misspend the incidental money?) when they need it?  And they also still have situations that they still bring to us to help sort out- with roommates, boyfriends, crazy professors... 

But, for the most part, an empty nest meant I had a lot of time on my hands. I was still a mother but not the volunteering, chauffeuring, managing, doctoring, nurturing, encouraging, making priceless memories, laughing until it hurt, praying, creating family traditions, etc. type mom anymore. Those days were over. And, for me, they’ve been over for the last three years. 

Filling the time proved to be a ginormous feat at first. I tried a lot of things:
  • organizing over 25 years of pictures and scrapbooking them 
  • organizing and purging the attic 
  •  got a puppy
  • started gardening 
  • started blogging
  • redecorated rooms
Yep. The first three years were, for the most part, spent trying to find out how to fill all those empty hours. I finally realized that I didn’t have to fill every single waking second to the brim. I could now read a book or watch a movie all the way through. I could go to lunch with friends. I could shop without having to stop in the middle to meet a child’s next scheduled activity. I could focus some time on myself and get ME back into shape. I could get to know myself again- as ME instead of MOM. Which is no easy feat when you've been MOM for 27 years. 

Of course, with all the free time my mind was free to wander and there were the bazillion thoughts that ran through my mind nearly every waking moment such as:
  •  Did I do all I could have?
  • Did I do all I should have?
  • Did I yell too much when I was frustrated or tired? 
  • Did I tell them everything they needed to know?
  • Did I set a good enough example?
  • Can I have a redo? I promise I’ll do it better.
Yep, the first thoughts running through my mind were centered on the inadequacies of my mothering skills. I just knew that I had messed up and what was I going to do now because it was simply too late. Funny how our minds do this. 

But we have to realize that we can’t live like this. We do the very best we can. Human beings are not perfect, we just try as best we can. Those who live with us come to know every aspect of our being- the good and the bad- and they love us still. There’s just no sense in dwelling/fretting over those things we cannot change. 

The empty nest years are redefining, emotional, self-discovery years. It’s an adjustment. And periods of adjustment take time. It’s all part of the journey. And the journey itself can be the brass ring if we let it. It doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle that keeps us from living our lives. Just look at it as a new era- different, not despairing. 

And yes, you might find yourself turning on the television just for the noise- you might even find yourself talking to it (or, if you're like me, arguing with it). But you might also find yourself outside enjoying nature or working on your fitness level or having lunch with your BFF whom you haven't really seen in YEARS because you've both been so busy with the joy of raising children. Now, you get to enjoy the pleasure of the YOU years.
As with any new phase of our lives, the empty nest era will be what we choose them to be. I decided to embrace mine as different and quite doable instead of despairing and debilitating. (I do realize that there are those of us out there who just can't seem to quite get on with the personal redefining and, for those blessed souls, I say: asking for help is always a good idea!). 

What will you choose for your empty nest years?  


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this! My boys are 11, 12 & 13 so I'm far from empty--but my role is changing drastically. I'm currently damn near holding my breath until the 27th when school starts again... lol

  2. well of course i don't really know--but i am sure i will be busy doing stuff with my kids and grand-kids---if frank could retire, i would spend lazy days lunching and shopping and if money was no issue--i also have been thinking about looking into my ancestry--other than that, i think i will sit and stare a lot :)

  3. having moments to just read a book as long as I want to are a gift. I still don't always have enough of them.

    Your lovelies are proof that you did it well!

  4. I enjoyed reading this a lot! I have an infant now, so this is pretty far off my radar, but it's nice to read about your story! My mom loves reading blogs as well - I'm going to recommend your site to her too!

  5. You have done such a good job with your girls. I think it is always like that the transitions. I maybe need to sit and email you, instead of filling your comments. :) All of it is something I have thought about.

  6. Hi there Pam! Good post today and it certainly is strange when our children leave home. Fortunately a lot of my time is now taken up with young grandchildren, and I love it. I know that I am very blessed at this stage of my life. I also get a lot of time for me, so it really is a good time in MY life.

  7. Chantel- I know it seems far away but you'll be surprised at how quickly the day comes! I know you are fully enjoying them while you can!

    LP- Ah, if only money weren't an issue for sure! But it always is, isn't it? I sit and stare too- and I look into my ancestry! LOL

    Stephanie- I know what you mean. There is a man still living here and the dog---both being of the male persuasion means they are virtually helpless. LOL

    Rebecca- Thanks! Oh but you'll be so surprised at how quickly the years fly by! Enjoy EVERY second! Yes! Send your mom right over!

    Kim- We've just got to move closer to each other!

    Diane- Thanks! No grands here yet, but I sure do look forward to enjoying them just like you get to do!

  8. I'm right there with ya sister! Sometimes all this introspection makes me a little bit queasy : )

  9. Such a great post! My girls are 11 (almost 12) and 9, so it may seem like I have many years before they'll be gone, but I know those years are going to fly. I homeschool my girls, so we spend a lot of time together, and I often wonder how I will adjust when they are suddenly gone one day. I know it will be a major transition.
    Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. This is a great post. I think we have all asked ourselves some of those questions. I often wonder who I will be when I am not taking care of Mom. Sometimes it scares me.

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, I am doing many of the same things as you are. Except the redo thoughts. It was sometimes hard enough I wouldn't want to do it over again, even if I could do better this time.

    I enjoy having the time to myself, but also enjoy family get-togethers or even time just with a grand-child. I made a lot of changes when my children moved out and learned quite a bit about myself.

    I questioned myself almost daily when the kids were very young, nearly drove myself crazy so I didn't have much to re-examine when they became adults. Like I told my oldest one day: Your doctor lost your instruction book, I had to figure it out on my own. Life is like that. The little things like how to operate the vacuum come with explicit directions, it's the big things in life we have to muddle through

  12. I don't know yet Pam. I think I've been lucky because I've had daycare fill the space Mike left when he left but this too shall be ending and then what? I just don't know. I really don't. But you will be the one I contact when I'm lost because I know you're there to help.
    I love it when you share like this. I am really lost at times but Jim and I have really connected in the evening so that's been wonderful.
    Take care Pam. Have a great evening.

  13. Pam, this was very nice. Sorry my comment is a little late, but it takes this long for fb signal to cross the ocean...lol. I don't have an empty nest cause i never had baby birds, and the chis never leave the house, but <i totally agree with you, this is your time and you can choose to do with it what you like. You go girl, how about canning some more tomatoes?

  14. I love this bit - "As with any new phase of our lives, the empty nest era will be what we choose them to be. I decided to embrace mine as different and quite doable instead of despairing and debilitating."

    It applies to any stage of life, really - choosing to be positive, to grow and to learn and to challenge ourselves. Great post, Pam. :)

  15. This post was exactly what I needed, as I have been moping around and feeling melancholy because my baby boy just started his senior year in high school. My empty nest days are right around the corner.

    Thank you for the wonderful, timely post!!

  16. Three flights of stairs and you could still talk?! That says a lot for you :)

    I'm so ready for the cooler weather of fall...only us southerners would understand!

  17. Yep...redefining is a good choice of words to describe what one encounters when the kids are "gone" (but not really gone...:)JP

  18. I always get inspiration here; today too.
    Redefining who we are is difficult, and I'm not that far off it. You're inspirational in how you live your life, so I hope to emanate some of your ways.
    I do look forward to more time for going to concerts and walking in the park! Oh, and to being able to go on impromptu holidays!

  19. I'm so glad I found your blog! My third bird just left the nest and the last one is starting College.

    Those questions are Dead On!! I felt sooo guilty. Did I tell them everything they needed to know? Did I prepare them to be Good Citizens? Drugs? Oh Lord, please don't ever let them. I was driving myself crazy.

    You/We Empty Nesters are a Great Bunch.

    Thanks for Blogging!!

  20. Joyce- I’m glad I have you along with me! You’re such an inspiration to me- and others!

    Shannon- They sure are going to fly! I homeschooled the two younger girls during middle school but it still flew by. It will be a major transition, but you will get through it and make some wonderful discoveries about yourself!

    Kim- Thanks! I hope others are asking those questions. LOL Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought about the situation of taking care of an aging parent. That is an interesting take…

    Lois- Thanks! True, it was hard at times. But I still think I would accept a re-do should one be offered. It’s funny how we can see what we did wrong AFTER the fact. The family get-togethers are something I look forward to with much enthusiasm! But I am learning to appreciate the quiet when everyone leaves. You were smart to question yourself then instead of now…regret is not easy to live with.

    Julie- I know girl! And I am here for you through it all! I’m so glad you and Jim are reconnecting! That will help so much! If all else fails, just move yourself right down here! Hugs to you my sweet friend!

    Alessandra- Hey! You’re in Italy! Lucky duck! Canning tomatoes? Maybe. But a trip to Italy sounds much more enjoyable. LOL Have fun. Safe travels home!

    MMS- Thank you! Exactly- grow, learn, challenge…that could be a fantastic mantra!

    Lisa- They are just around the corner. But there’s lots of support out here in blogland! Please let us know if you need a shoulder or an ear or a hug!

    Kathy- Yes! And it’s the first time in YEARS! And I mean over 10 years! So I was quite proud of myself! Let’s join forces in our prayers for FALL!

    JP- Gone but not really gone…love that! Thanks!

    Mimi- Thank you! There are good things about an empty nest- it will just take time to truly appreciate them. It’s not easy switching modes. And, even though we know it’s coming, it’s still hits us like a slap in the face. Nevertheless, it’s just different and we can adjust. When it comes, I’m here for you!

    Jackie- Yes!Yes!Yes! Me too! But I’m pretty sure the answer is that we did it right. I mean, just look at our kids, right? Thank you for you kind comments!

  21. It was quiet empty for a while, but as you say you need to find your own things to fill your days with. I love your post! Enjoy your day!

  22. I wish you could come over and help me with my photos and other things that need organization.
    Honestly blogging has made me lazy and lazy breeds lazy. I have to pull myself out of this hole.
    You go girl!


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