If you had told me when I became an empty nester that I would actually miss the piles of dirty clothes and shoes, the daily trips to the grocery store and produce market, the nonstop cooking of omelets, grilled chicken and roasted vegetables and the dirty blender bottles lining the kitchen counter, I would’ve called you crazy.
Well, now I’m rethinking that perspective. Over the past week, I surprised even myself when I discovered that not only did I miss the mess, but also, I longed for it! This meant that our family was intact once again, with both adult children home, a super-happy (albeit mischievous) dog, and a house filled with home-cooked food, animated conversations around the dinner table, laughter over the familiar dim-witted Caddyshack and Animal House jokes and, of course, lots of football & basketball on TV!
Three years ago when our youngest left for college, I launched this blog for the purpose of embracing a new phase of life, embarking upon new adventures and sharing my experiences. My husband and I have fully enjoyed– even celebrated– our empty nester lifestyle. We have relished our newfound spontaneity as we attend concerts, shows and plays, go out frequently on weeknights and travel extensively around the US and abroad. We definitely miss our children, but we stay in close touch and speak to them often. And, most importantly, we are happy that they are each on their own journeys, living their lives.
Yet, for a few brief days this past week, with everyone under one roof, our nest was temporarily full. My responsibilities increased exponentially as I returned to full blown “Mommy Mode,” juggling food shopping, short-order cooking, dish washing, laundry, and the many other tasks that I had cut way back on in recent years.
I was happy to do all of this for the reward of having my family at home. The experience was completely wonderful and exhausting in equal parts. I loved every minute of it. Interestingly, although our children have grown and matured, we all seem to revert back to our former family roles. Life at home seems so natural and easy… perhaps that’s why it’s important for children to leave the nest and step outside that comfort zone. Nonetheless, I relished our time as a family– sitting around the dinner table and just talking… taking long walks with the dog… watching sports and cheering together for our favorite teams. It is certainly bittersweet to witness our children’s transition into adulthood, but I must admit that, for a few brief days, I fully enjoyed taking care of them.
I did not raise my voice once this week. I gave no unsolicited advice. (well, maybe once, but it wasn’t totally unsolicited.) I did not stress out about the unkempt piles of dirty clothes and the unmade beds. I simply closed the doors to my children’s rooms to hide the mess. I tried to live in the moment and enjoy this quality family time. And, I hugged my son, whom I see so rarely, quite often (I think he was a little annoyed by this, but thankfully, he didn’t protest too much.)
Our five days in the replenished nest has come to a close… for now. One child is across the country back at college; the other has returned to real life and work in the city. The laundry is done. The dishes are washed and put away. Our table of four is back to a table of two. Tonight, it will be just me and my husband (and our golden retriever, Casper) watching This Is Us. And yes, this IS us.
The pace is decidedly slower and quieter, but I am good with that. I now realize that our nest is never truly empty, because it remains a warm and welcoming place where we love unconditionally and always feel comfortable just being ourselves.
Casper figured this out awhile ago…