When my children were close to adulthood and fantasizing about life on their own, without Mom, I continually wrestled with my own thoughts about what I would do with all that time and freedom from worry. Just like parents of toddlers wonder what they’ll do with all the money they expect to save when their kids are out of diapers. Just like parents of young children drool over the money they’ll have when they no longer pay for daycare. Little did I know that my little nest and my big imagination would lead me to discover that just because my birds were taking flight didn’t mean my self-worth and peace of mind had to go with them.
It’s amazing how much time you spend thinking of other things and other people when you are a partner, or a parent. Not much time for yourself, and a teenager certainly commands a large part of the family budget, even when they head off to college or other endeavors. It took work, lots of tough love, and letting go of the intertwined involvement in my children’s lives, but I finally got to a point where I began to think more about me – not just a resource for my children but as a person who was free to rediscover herself. Parts of my life I’d suppressed in my mom life, I was able to regain with the understanding I was focusing on the here and now.
So, as my spouse and I live our empty nester lives, pursuing our professional and personal interests with renewed vigor – I have moments at home when I wonder why it’s so quiet. No more bustle, no more kids in and out. Then I realize this is a gift – my time to breathe. This is my time to pay attention to every moment and the minutes in between them. I find myself lost in the act of rinsing dishes, sewing a button on my clothing, and rearranging the flowers on the table. The house is not empty, but is now becoming filled with the focused moment of doing little bits of nothing.
I no longer feel the need for the background noise to keep me company. Sure, I still work and play and love my family as I always have. I just don’t need the bustle of kids and pets that stressed me years ago when it was difficult to separate myself from them. I enjoy the quiet moments of dishes and brushing my dog’s fur. I enjoy the coffee on the deck and watching the cat stretching itself in the sun. I have finally learned that my nest is not empty but filled with a lifetime of potential peace, measured one breath at a time.