What I miss most about a full nest is the kitchen door swinging open mid-afternoon followed by that familiar seagull call, “Mom, Mom” floating through the house and settling around me.
By Jeanne Rollins
What I miss most about a full nest is the kitchen door swinging open mid-afternoon followed by that familiar seagull call, “Mom, Mom” floating through the house and settling around me. When our kids were high school seniors, free periods allowed them to find their way home to refuel and refresh at odd times of the day. I did all I could to “bump into them” at those times, not so much for their benefit but for mine. I was an admitted Mrs. Doubtfire-ish caretaker with an insatiable desire to spend time with our kids — table time, car time, game time, or any time I could get with them. Like many parents of college-bound kids, I anticipated a valley of echoing afternoons in need of filling.
When our youngest headed out, instead of waiting for the fog to lift I looked for peaks and discovered silver linings. I set out answering a question that simmered beneath the demands of our growing family: “What do I want to be when my kids grow up?” After happily forwarding the lives and dreams of others, I was ready to get back to my own. I thought about how to make the best use of my new-found time. I embarked on a process of self-discovery much like we encouraged in our kids. I took a good look at my personality, skill set, interests, and life experience. And, most importantly, I acted on what I knew to be true of happy people living full and meaningful lives:
Happy people feel like contributors: I looked for new ways to make a difference outside of our home.
Happy people feel connected: I reached out to people, personally and professionally.
Happy people continue to grow: I leapt out of my comfort zone into Cyberspace via a self-help blog.
Happy people take care of themselves: I formalized my commitment to meditate, eat well, and exercise.
Happy people know who and what matters: I drew concentric circles representing my priorities and checked my choices against them.
Happy people feel grateful: I started a daily gratitude list.
As the newly-vested, empty-nested version of me took shape, I reworked the ever-shifting balance between Self-Care, Relationships, and Life’s Work. My life’s work
spiraled beyond my family and private practice. Some old friendships fizzled, while others deepened and new acquaintances took root. My husband and I had so much to talk about that we occasionally let our kids’ calls go directly to voice mail. Oops. Before long I was satisfied being happy for our kids when I couldn’t be happy with them.
This empty-nest syndrome that people talk about can be one of constriction or expansion, depending on how we choose to see it: empty of children or overflowing with possibilities. After launching our kids, I chose to launch myself. Some say that when one door closes another one opens. This was true for me. On those lingering days when our door stayed eerily shut, instead of getting lost in childless afternoons I found myself in the fullness of an empty nest.