It’s Saturday morning, and it’s quiet around the house. You’re not complaining. Work has been hectic all week, so you’ve been counting down the days until the weekend. You decide to take advantage of this new calm and sleep in. Finally, you get out of bed. It’s still quiet. Maybe your spouse shuffles around occasionally in the kitchen, or your dog or cat. Maybe it’s all just silence. The quiet is strange, and it gets to you. It gives you two lovely presents: mixed emotions and time to reflect. This is what it’s like to live with an empty nest.
It’s hard to believe that 18+ years of raising kids can end so suddenly. You find yourself cooking less and in smaller portions. Baking cookies, pies, or other treats? You rationalize that that time would be better spent at the gym. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot less for you to clean. There’s so much more free time that it seems like anything you do is an attempt to distract yourself from that fact that your kids are gone.
Gone. That’s a loaded word. Off-to-bigger-and-better-things sounds better. You can’t stop thinking about all the memories you made with them. The smiles, laughs, fights, and lessons learned keep running through your mind. First, you look at the pictures you took of them on your phone. Then, you log on Facebook to go through their pictures. Then, you find yourself looking at those picture frames around the house longer than usual. Before you know it, you go all out and whip out those old photo albums. Those photographs are artifacts of an era that doesn’t feel too long ago. You can’t help but feel emotional.
You know what, ya done good! That’s what you will tell yourself. An empty nest is something to be proud of. You – despite the self-doubts and occasional “I didn’t sign up for this” moments – were able to raise kids ambitious enough to go out into the real world as full-grown adults. Congratulations! They’re swimming in a world of possibilities. Overall, you feel proud. You wish that there was a better word than proud, one that goes way beyond proud. Proud on steroids. Because that’s how you feel.
Those 18+ years of raising kids were all in preparation for this very moment. Thanks to you, they know how to brush their teeth – a mandatory skill in the adult world. Thanks to you, they know how to use proper manners. There’s thousands of skills that kids learn from parents, but the intangibles are what matter most. Modesty, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, tenacity, determination, grit, open-mindedness, positivity, tact. The list goes on. They learned from watching you. Your actions throughout all those years had a profound effect on their lives, and now they’ll practice those skills on their own. As they start this new chapter in their lives, you can’t help but beam with pride. Don’t forget to be proud of yourself!