I would like to propose a moratorium on the phrase “empty nest”. It causes me to cringe. I hate the image of birds moping around and tweeting somber tunes as they pick old threads and burrs from tangled twigs. Honestly, have you ever seen a bird just sitting in a nest by itself just for the heck of it, wondering what to do next?
I am utterly done with the following conversation:
“So, Matt’s off to college!”
“Yes, can you believe it? And your son (daughter) too!”
“How did this happen?” Both of us widen our eyes and shrug together. “I feel like I just brought him to kindergarten.”
“Are we that old?” Both of us shake our heads and secretly compare crows feet.
“At least I have Jimmy and Shannon still around, but YOU… Wow. Ready for the empty nest? How are you going to handle that? What are you going to do?” Like this is the first time I might have pondered such questions.
“I’m going to hate it,” she cuts me off and proceeds to wail, ” All those empty rooms. What will I do with myself? Am I actually going to have to talk to my husband? I don’t even know if we have anything in common anymore. What does a 50-something woman do then? Oh boy… Phew… not looking forward to that empty nest. Now, what were you saying before?”
Well, let me tell you, sister. The first thing I am going to do is stop hanging around with whiny, windbags like you who have forgotten that they are multidimensional. While you are dreaming up clever quips to spice up the small talk with your husband at the dinner table, I will be planning to cross the globe with mine so we can enjoy the gifts of this planet. God willing, I will have decades of time to explore life, discover new passions and affect positive change in a broken world that needs every single skill that we have honed through years of parenting.
My knees weaken at the thought of standing at the door of Matt’s first dorm room while he counts the seconds until we leave him alone, and I will grant myself sufficient time to pause wistfully in my children’s bedrooms and cry tears of salutation to days gone by, but I refuse to look at this ending as ‘job over’. Mothering never ends, it just changes like the seasons. We stand like the great, spreading maple for so many consecutive years of summer that we forget to look forward to the brilliance of our leaves in the fall.
Words can not capture the power of nurture. Imagine our collective ability to bring comfort to the lonely and fight for the bullied. Imagine the wisdom and pep talks to those in despair, the simple power of a mother’s hand on a shoulder, the positive energy of a pat on the back. Imagine thousands of children going to bed on full stomachs for the first time. Our communities need us. The world needs us. This time of life does not have to be about emptiness at all. It is about the opportunity to soar so high on wings of love that we let our homes grow dusty and our gardens untended.
So I propose that we rename this time in our lives to something more positive and life giving. Let’s leave the nests to the birds to worry about, our world is waiting…
Do you have any ideas?