Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pondering an Empty Nest

Late next summer we'll be empty nesters. But instead of easing into this stage of our lives one child at a time like most parents do, we'll watch three kids leave at once.

How did this happen? How did we get ourselves into a situation in which our whole brood would up and leaves us within a span of a few short weeks? Certainly, birthing twins 18 years ago has something to do with it. And the fact that we had four children within five years plays some role, no doubt. Why did we do that again?

I'm not sure there's any good way to prepare for such a dramatic change, especially since we've only recently begun to really enjoy the kids as adults who are just plain a lot of fun to hang out with. We've come to terms with the fact that it's time to stop the incessant parenting and just plain enjoy the fruits of our labor -- and oh what fun that's been! While there are evenings when only Tom and I are around, there are also evenings when all four kids (plus Danelle, of course) are home and we all "chill" together, enjoying each other's company and even sometimes (gasp!) knocking back (or even making!) a few brewskies together. These days, I don't know on any given day who will be home for dinner; it could be only Tom and me or it could be all seven -- or even more -- of us. As crazy-making as that is, it's also wonderful, and I'm trying hard not to dread the rapidly approaching day when I'll know for sure each evening that we're on our own and that the noise level in the house will be deafeningly quiet.

So (I ask myself), what are the really cool things about having an empty nest? I know there are some; there have to be! What can -- no, should -- we look forward to? And, of course, what do we dread? (That one's easier...) If I'm going to work through all this, I might as well begin right now, right here. Won't you join me in my little journey?

The 10 really great things about an empty nest:

  1. A consistently clean house. If I clean it one day, chances are good that it will still be clean the next day. This includes three clean bedrooms where four-walled heaps of clothes, junk and (grrrr!) wet towels currently stand.
  2. A vastly decreased grocery bill. (See #2 below)
  3. No more pounding on bathroom doors, begging and demanding shorter showers. I swear, the length of showers around here is inversely proportionate to the length of the showerer's hair.
  4. Decreased auto costs. Once the kids are all in college, we'll dump one car which will result in lower insurance rates, maintenance costs and gas costs. (Yeah, they pay for their own gas, but remember Mr. Soft-Heart? He fills up their tanks pretty regularly, just to be nice.)
  5. Predictability. I will no longer wonder, on any given evening, how many people will be home for dinner. Sigh.
  6. A house to ourselves. Tom and I will be able to do anything we want, any time we want, in any room we want! ;-)
  7. Each meal will only come in one variety. We currently always include a vegetarian version of everything we cook because Kat is a dedicated vegetarian. (Try making vegetarian sauerbraten; Tom just achieved that feat a few days ago.) Hey, this is easier than when Kat and Elisabeth were both vegan!
  8. No guilt when I work late or go on business trips. (If I ever work late or go on biz trips again...)
  9. A good excuse to visit the Palouse!
  10. The ability to just up and go -- to travel when we please, where we please, for as long as we please. (This is counter-balanced by the absolute financial inability to do anything except pay for college for the next four years!)
The 10 really crappy things about an empty nest:
  1. A house that is suddenly entirely too empty, too quiet and too big.
  2. A huge dorm bill -- times three. Oh, and a huge tuition bill -- times three. And of course, a huge book/supply bill -- times three.
  3. It's not much fun to cook for two people. (But going out is more affordable for two than for six!)
  4. No more impromptu evening gatherings with the kids and their friends. Sure, they'll still happen, but they will be neither frequent nor impromptu.
  5. We'll be out of touch with a school system that we've been part of for 16 years. Come to think of it, we'll be more out of touch with many aspects of our direct community. Hopefully that will be replaced by a sense of joining the college communities that our kids will be involved with.
  6. We won't have our regular fashion police to confer with and as a result we will become hopelessly dweeby.
  7. I, being a typical woman, will probably react by talking more, while Tom, being a typical man, will probably react by talking less. Notice that this falls under the "crappy things" heading.
  8. We'll be poor for at least the next four years. And that's if everything goes well. If not, substitute the word "destitute." And panicky. And terrified. (Did I cover that in #2? Oh well, there's enough fear here for two slots.)
  9. Shasta will miss her "mommy" (Kat) immensely, and neither Tom nor I could ever be an adequate substitute in her eyes.
  10. The realization that our own youth and our own college days were a full generation ago! What??!! That absolutely can't be! Didn't we just graduate from high school and head off to college? Didn't we just meet, and date, and marry? Didn't we just start this family of babies and toddlers and hopes and dreams for their future? How can that future possibly be here so damn soon??

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Blog Antagonist said...

I both long for and dread being an empty nester. Right now, I'm pretty irritated with my kids, so it sounds pretty good. I am a neatnik, but both my boys have ADD/ADHD (one of each) which is not condusive to neatness.

They are driving me INSANE with their slovenliness and it seems to extend to every. single. room. of. my. house. ARRRRRRRGGGGHGHHHHHHHH.

But I know I will miss them like crazy when they are gone. I will miss summer nights at the ballpark watching them play, I will miss cozy evenings having family movie night, I will miss travelling together and discovering cool new places.

Four at once. Gosh. That's kinda brutal. But also kind of cool. I pity/envy you!

Anonymous said...

I guess being an empty nester wasn't all that hard on me - might have something to do with having been a newlywed at the same time! In any case, it didn't last very long, as my niece moved here from Minnesota and lived with us for a couple of years.

vailian said...

Nice list.
I am officially an Empty Nester now since L moved out of town a couple of weeks ago, and can confirm many of your items.
But I have discovered that I can on my own make the house just as messy as the kids ever did. I keep expecting the maid to clean things up, and it is only when I remember that I don't have a maid that I realize I am probably causing the chaos myself.
You could solve several problems at once by selling the house and moving into a nifty trailer home. You would be surrounded by many of your peers, have lower heating bills, and a whole lot of cash to do all that travelling you always wanted to do!

swenglishexpat said...

Carol - Somebody once told me that bringing up children, is the art of letting go. How true, a very difficult task. But you do have them near, hang on to them in a different way. When they return to the nest on a quick visit, you will treasure the moment so much more.

Jen said...

Sounds like you might need an exchange son or daughter next year. (Or the year after - you might decide you LIKE having the house to yourselves.) ;-)

Anonymous said...

I am a soon to be father (5 wks). I don’t know what it is like yet to have children for several years in your home, and then all of a sudden have an empty home. I can understand were all of a sudden there is a lot of extra time. I can also understand were it could end up being lonely. I wonder in these satiations why people don’t take a few minutes to become involved and share their experiences with new and soon to be parents? It seems like not only a great way to add something else to your life but to somebody else’s as well.

My wife and I are apart of a number of online communities which to some extent encourage this type of interaction. Our favorite right now is We just have a lot of questions about what to expect, and how to handle it. For us, with no experience, its great to have people to learn from. It also seems to me like a great way share, remember, and fill extra time.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of your posting the vegetarian sourbraten recipe? Like you and Tom, I end up trying to create vegetarian equivalents, and I have saurbraten on the menu for next Wednesday.

Carol said...

Basically we either use Tofurkey or just don't make meat, making only gravy!


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