My son flew the coop on Sunday leaving a trail of empty water bottles, dirty dishes, wet towels and other male detritus in his wake. Until his return for the summer, the house will be much quieter, but on the flipside, there will be less laundry to sort and fold. The physical transition is abrupt, but the loss of memory-making time with the beloved child hangs in the air.
Fortunately now I can purge and organize without being questioned about my logic or interrupted for food. As I go about my projects, I’ll remind myself how quickly four years of college fly by. Being blessed to be able to send our children to college, we need to allow them to enjoy this gift without guilt that they have abandoned us (my son’s favorite term for when I choose to be gone overnight while he is left at home with his dad).
Your thoughtful comments to Ten Strategies for Thriving in an Empty Nest have had me thinking all weekend. I was particularly struck by sWg’s words,
what I really miss is the daily people connection. No fields to stand by and chat with friends, no class and teacher meetings to attend, no carpools… It seems like such an effort to ask friends out to lunch or to do something. Especially since I feel like I’m the only one feeling this way… And maybe everyone else is seeing their friends… I feel alone… So I guess I am reaching out to see if there are other “me”s out there???
sWg is so right. When our chicks filled the nest, we had play dates and athletic events and calendars filled to the brim with activities and meetings that brought us in almost daily contact with loads of similarly situated folks. I now consider the long days and weekends that I spent perched on wooden benches in the stands at swim meets a gift because they ignited friendships with other moms whose children attended different schools than my own.
Since the week after my son first flew the nest, I have made the effort to get together with his classmates and teammates’ parents. The women who have watched my children grow up still have an interest in keeping up with their latest endeavors, and I feel the same about their children. So we do make the effort through lunches and girls’ nights out (or in), and in doing so, several of these friendships have deepened as our interests in each other expand beyond the bounds of our children’s shared lives.
Leave it to cSw to figure out a clever way to stay connected with her fellow high school parents. Always my coolest college friend, she started celebrating #emptynestcocktailtour when her younger son flew off last year. Through her snapshots on Facebook and Instagram, I have delighted in her weekly outings savoring her freedom and friends while sipping the latest libation from one of the hip new watering holes in Nashville. Living in a booming metropolis has its perks, but even if you live in a smaller town, there is bound to be some place to gather with friends for a weekly ritual that keeps you in touch.
Subconsciously I have continued some of my filled-nest habits to maintain daily people connections. Though not on the sidelines anymore, I still find myself at the market close to my son’s high school alma mater between 3 and 6 when other moms are popping in to gather the evening sustenance. My inability to plan for dinner more than a few hours in advance actually provides a convenient opportunity to at least exchange smiles and brief pleasantries with many whom I’ve gotten to know through my children.
Keeping connected to other people is key to our survival and happiness. Yes, it can seem like a lot of effort to make arrangements to see other people, but think of all the effort that you used to put in to maintaining your children’s schedules … all those hours spent behind the wheel hauling them, their teammates, equipment and schoolbooks. Sending a text or email to meet up for coffee, lunch or a cocktail takes a lot less effort than the juggling of schedules that dominated our once child-centered lives.
If your fellow parents still have chicks in the nest, it may be harder to arrange a get-together, but your fellow empty-nesters will welcome your efforts. Perhaps together you can organize a care package party this semester, maybe even with cosmos. It’s a great way to rekindle parent friendships and share stories of surviving empty-nest-dom.
The start of 2016 makes the perfect time to spread our wings and get creative about how we live in our empty nest. Let’s make the effort to find ways to keep in touch with those who share our children’s history while also deciding what makes us happy. Why not make this the beginning of a glorious new act in our blessed lives?
January 12, 2016