The Upside of an Empty Nest

“I love you Emma, and I’ll miss you when you go to college,” I tell my youngest child, holding out her crumpled coat, festering soccer socks and encrusted fruit smoothie glass from the night before, “but I am not going to miss your mess.”

Emma smiles and breezes past me, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder. “Yes, you will,” she says, secure in the knowledge that everything she does is precious and adorable in my admiring eyes.

“No I won’t,” I mutter to the dirty pile in my arms, and I mean it. When Emma follows her brother Nick off to college in the fall, it will be a big adjustment, but there are parts of becoming an empty nester that I’m distinctly looking forward to.

  • Free to be me. For years, being a mom has been my number one job, but once Emma goes to college, I’ll be given my parenting pink slip. What a relief! Moms have to be so well behaved. Untethered from those confining expectations, I’ll be free to be indulgent and silly and even weird if I want. Not only can I devote more energy to my oft-neglected roles of creative genius and ripe peach vixen; I’ll be free to pursue new callings like wild turkey hunter, crystal healer, and poker maven.
  • Better sleep. No more waiting up late for Emma to come home or setting my alarm to make sure she’s in before curfew. Come September, I can turn off the light and drift into a deep, uninterrupted slumber all night long. Bliss.
  • More passion with whatshisname. All those years, while I focused on my children with the intensity of the Hubble telescope, there’s been someone patiently waiting in the wings for my attention. Why, it’s my husband. Guess what honey, I’m going to be turning the spotlight on you once we’re alone. Nothing like free time and privacy to rekindle a couple’s connection.
  • Less drudgery. No explanation needed here. Kids require loads of care and feeding, and they can create chaos in a house as effectively as a tsunami. I’m already fantasizing about my sparkly clean, perfectly organized, serene abode.
  • Travel wherever, whenever. Liberated from the school calendar, my husband and I can travel whenever we like—not just at peak times like spring break or President’s Day weekend. And bonus! We won’t need to find a babysitter or chaperone when we want to have a weekend getaway.
  • So long, Sports Mom. I love that my kids play sports, but as a spectator, I’m a fair-weather fan. I won’t miss soccer season huddled under blankets on gusty sidelines in frigid temps or pretending to be interested in the game when my kid is subbed out.
  • Adult relationships. When Nick came home the summer after his freshman year, he complained about how much I nagged him. Wait, I protested, that’s what moms do! But he and Emma had a different vision of my role in their lives, which they expressed by giving me the lovely cake below.FAMILY_Parenting_Empty_Nest_1

I see that as my kids get older, they still need me to care about them, but they don’t want me to control them. It’s not that I’ll be a bad mom by being more hands off, it’s that the parenting job requires something different from me now. As I form new adult relationships with my beloved offspring and they assume responsibility for their own lives. Which opens up the chance to….

  • Party! My Irish husband and I used to host the most ribald St. Paddy’s Day parties—Irish dancers and bagpipers and all—until we realized that we were making quaffing a few pints look temptingly fun to our budding teenagers. We shut those parties down in the name of good parenting, but next year? Slainte!

Come Fall, if I find should find myself alone in my silent, clean house, staring at Emma’s perfectly made bed and Nick’s immaculate bathroom, and if instead of feeling glee, my heart should throb with longing for my precious children’s noise and smells and laughter and dirt, and if I should sigh, mourning the passage of time and fearing the transition to a new, unknown stage of life—well, I’m just going to reread this list, damn it. And maybe pour myself a pint of Guinness.

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