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Empty Nest Part 1: My New Found Freedom Is Not What I Imagined

A few months ago my youngest child and I walked to the kindergarten doors, on the first day of school, for the last time. This is one of many days I turn her over to dozens of kids and adults that I know little more about than their title of Miss, Mr. or Mrs. She will have the freedom to become her own person without comparison or critiques from me. We will be apart for more hours than we are together of each day. Secretly I’ve been dreaming of this empty nest phase for awhile.

 

The Sounds Of Silence

Drop off is not easy for children and parents but our hug is long, the kisses are many, and I walk away without any tears. I am surprised to feel somewhat melancholy as I mentally process my schedule for the day. Not happy or sad but eager to check things off my todo list that have been on there for more than 6 years. I have a few more credits to finish school and get that degree. The laundry room shelf needs to be hung. There is plenty of time to clean out all of the baby clothes I’m hoarding. If I really want this home business to take off, I need to get that dedicated area organized. Something I’ve experienced about lists is they get longer and migrate to fancier planners.

Now that I have almost 8 hours without anyone asking me to play magnetix, doctor, dolls, superheros, camping or library, I should have clean bathrooms, made beds and five healthy dinners each week. I will conquer the laundry monster and vacuum the floors every day to eradicate my world of any dog hair. I’ll be able to schedule hair cuts and highlights around all of this activity. With my princess in school, I can double my client load. One might think I’m getting overwhelmed with all these worthy goals, but I am inspired and empowered by my new found freedom.

I’m in Good Company

I’m reluctant to admit that I’ve scoffed at the term empty nest and wondered why it has any merit until your children move out. And then I walk into my empty house. An ordinary moment filled with nothing. For a few minutes this doesn’t feel like home. The sounds of the dog teasing the preschooler or the cat howling because she insists on cuddling it, are gone. The pets are peacefully sleeping on my beautiful bed with perfectly placed throw pillows. My house isn’t that messy. The floors are vacuumed and dishes are done. I’ve decided to take the day off from work. This quiet house is not as inviting as I imagined. I’ll switch the laundry later. I can’t escape fast enough.

Thank goodness for pedicures, friends and a shoulder to cry on. I didn’t realize that this previously scheduled Mom date would be a necessity today. A dear friend has experienced this with her youngest child a year ago and I am grateful for her empathy and suggestions to “get through” the day. “Turn on the TV before you leave”  is a clever way to interrupt the initial silence you will experience when walking in the door. It is comforting to share stories of strength and weakness. I feel lost. I’m checking the booster and buckle without a child in the carseat.

Gaining freedom means losing purpose   

Being a stay at home Mom was an idea I passively considered with my older children. Getting this opportunity was the greatest gift my husband could give to me (he might see it a little different)! I would be delusional if I said it was arts and crafts, dress-up and baking brownies everyday. It’s been emotionally and physically draining as much as it’s been bliss. I might be using some literary freedom with the word bliss. There are a handful of times that the house was completely clean, very few healthy meals and one time in six years the laundry was caught up for less than eight hours.  I have not mastered the title of housewife, house manager or whatever is currently the non-offensive term for moms that work at home. And even now, with five adult children doing their thing, I don’t feel prepared or confident without my three foot tall super hero, side kick, mini me by my side.

Adjusting to a new schedule, over the last month is a never ending challenge. Our primary focus is guiding Miss H and her freedom without squashing her spirit. I want her to develop skills where she can cope with a variety of adults, friends and bullies, rules, rules and more rules. Then there are the obvious stressors for the mind of a kindergartner – reading, math, and finding the bathroom. 

I am eager to pick her brain everyday. Ninety percent of the time she replies with the universal answer  “I forgot what we did today”. That doesn’t matter to me. My heart melts when she says, “the best part of my day is recess and when school is over because I get to see you, momma.” She has adjusted to our separation with more joy and grace than her momma. I’m going to look into this “recess” thing. 

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