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Redefining the Nest

Joined: 2/5/2011
Posts: 50
Do you ever dare yourself to do things? I remember 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, the bad AND the ugly- 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 it 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?
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Comment by warren

Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
Welcome to the empty nest, though it's doubtful it will ever be really empty. As for the time you took to redefine your nest, it sounds like you caught on right away and were just exploring for 3 years. Don't stop!
Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:16:47 PM
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Comment by pammlofton

Joined: 2/5/2011
Posts: 50
It's not really that empty, you're right. The husband is here. And the dog. Oh, and DD3 moved back in for 4 months...with her shedding dog. :)
Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:34:50 PM
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Comment by DarkStar49

Joined: 5/28/2009
Posts: 332
I can appreciate what your saying on most accounts. I think in general these are all real and expected emotions and feelings! Obviously each person handles things in their own way. The part about second guessing your parenting skills and ethics....they moved out didn't they?! I mean, that is proof in itself that you did just fine! Unless you threw therm out on their taught them to believe in themselves enough to explore their independence. You taught them the importance of setting goals and following through no matter the odds or levels of difficulty. Yes, the fact that the nest is empty says oodles of how well you did! We all have things we second guess. But none of us are perfect, and overall we have to believe that their successes are a reflection of our raising them! Hang in there.

Last night I dared myself to go out and relish the fact that I am alive and well, standing in a downpour during a wind storm....topless! It was liberating! ;)
Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 7:32:24 AM
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Comment by pammlofton

Joined: 2/5/2011
Posts: 50
And that's my point! Thanks! We're also on the same page about storms--- I LOVE going outside during a good storm. When Hugo came through here in '89, I was outside for some of it. Until it got way too intense. LOL
Posted: Saturday, September 8, 2012 8:57:30 PM
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