Monday, March 09, 2009

OMG. Who ARE these people?

"...the grief that has enveloped me, and it's amazing. I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my cheeks, and I need someone somewhere that could tell me this is normal..."

The subject of my rant today is people "struggling" with the empty nest. I'm talking about deep, anguished writings by women who are trying to build a life outside of their children. Stuff like this (above) and throughout, which I've edited so that the original authors can't be identified.

OMG, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? I started raising children at 19, and if you don't count a couple of my ex husbands, and the hundreds of students I've taught, I've raised three of them. Three children, who have by and large kept me hostage while they took everything I ever tried to have for myself: my favorite flavors of special K -I found three empty boxes in Mini's room while cleaning out the old house, and I've spent the weekend scrubbing boot black off stairs. This would be from JROTC combat boots.

"...I find myself wandering to his room, where I sit on the edge of his bed and thoughts of him run through my mind..."

I also found candy wrappers and old socks behind nearly every piece of furniture in his room...and also throughout the house. (And do we condone this? We do not.) Then, I packed up the car and drove to our new house, where I have cereal that will stay UNTIL I EAT IT and where, when I go to get something, it will be exactly where I left it. The only messes to clean are the ones that I myself have created.
Which carries its own challenges. But, anyway.

Am I a terrible mother who hates kids? I don't think so. I used to think I was - I tried apologizing to my grown children for their inconsistent upbringing and for being so crazy, but they've both assured me that I wasn't a bad mother, e.b., You should see some of the mothers my friends have, and they call and email me often enough to where I feel pretty assured that they don't have "issues." At least not yet.

I'll just say it: I feel like I've been let out of PRISON. Maybe I put too much into motherhood; I don't know. I felt like my job was to raise kids to be healthy, responsible individuals who could take care of themself and not need me and move on to live their lives. I stopped trying to get some meaning or reward out of parenthood long ago. I was my job, and when I enjoyed it, that was a bonus. But now I'm done.

"...As my son packed his things, my heart ached. Only a mother could know the anguish of saying goodbye, giving him wings so that the struggling baby bird can soar. I want to grab his little beak and say 'come back to your safe, loving, nest'..."

Good lord. To my children: I love you, but if you're coming for a visit, I want to see a return ticket before I let you in the door.

I come home at night, pour a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, sit on a clean couch, and look out at the foothills. Sometimes I go for a walk. I enjoy a quiet supper with Sweet Baboo. I'm in awe that life can be this good, even, and calm--devoid of any drama except that which I care to add.
There is nobody for me to ferry to an event. There is nobody to shove several pieces of paper at me at 6:45 am for my signature and/or checks to write, nobody to drop dirty clothes and books on the floor or tell me tearfully at 8 pm that they have to have 2 pieces of white posterboard RIGHT NOW or they will FAIL.

I bet this is the part where she says she misses all that.

I have a plaster cast of someone's handprint (I can't remember who) with a little poem attached that has a line or two about how much I'll miss their dirty handprints some day. I don't. Maybe that makes me a bad mom, but, that's something I'll have to live with, I guess, while sipping my chocolate wine and planning my next vacation.
I sit in my living room , watch a movie with the man I love, and there are no interruptions. The stereo has not been blown, the TV doesn't have smudgy smears on it, the cats are calm, because nobody has chased them with a paper sword that day or tried to stuff them into a box. There is low-fat ranch for my salad because nobody drank it straight from the bottle. There is chocolate milk for my mocha lattes because nobody drank the entire carton while sitting in front of the TV WHERE THEY ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE EATING followed by putting the empty carton back into the refrigerator.

"...I miss having teenagers around...I would hear newest jokes and newest music. That has been the hardest....

The phone almost never rings, but when it does, it's for me, and it's not teachers or ex-spouses calling to let me know that my son or daughter is in trouble, failing a grade, or mouthing off to them. When the TV isn't on, I sit quietly and listen to music, or read.
I'm 44. Now my life begins.

"I guess I knew that it would be here sooner or later, like the terrible twos and the teenage years. Everybody goes through it, so why do I feel like my guts have been ripped out, thrown on the road, and run over by a truck?"

OMG, woman. Go for a run, or to spin class.



  1. OMG-I am so with you!! When my last child left I was shell-shocked from the trauma of raising 4 teenagers-H and I had never had a minute without kids before. It was like our second honeymoon and was fantastic!! I think I wept a bit when the first one went off to college because it was all new but emptynesting is the BEST!!

  2. I can't wait until they are gone. Really --I can't wait.

  3. Hilarious, and at times feel the same way. Last night especially when the 12 year old decided to mouth off and I wanted to rip her hair from her head....I did'nt!

  4. Best post ever! I was really sad when my first left home. I still have my 3rd coming and going a bit but mostly she is gone. My son is back and it is not sitting well with me. I'm ready to send him packing even if he has no money.

    I live with another adult male now who is not my husband or even lover. TOTAL PAIN IN THE ASS!

    I'm SO ready to be all alone again or, better yet, with a good man who loves me. So ready.

  5. BTW - whenver I see 'tears are streaming down my face' on the internet I think - bullshit. Tears are not streaming down you face any more than someone really spewed coffee all over the keyboard and no, it isn't cute to say so.

    And another thing 'grab this baby bird by the beak' - bwahahahahaha... what that lady needs to do is go to writing class - or step away from the keyboard.

  6. I’m somewhere in between happy they’ll be gone someday fairly soon and sad about it too. I already do a lot of things on my own, so I’m not craving alone time and the truth is 80% of the time I truly enjoy having my daughter around, enough so that I know I’ll really miss her when she’s not here on a daily basis. Yeah, it’ll be nice to have all that couple time and I certainly won’t miss the drama of school assignments, but our relationship is so much more than that, I’ll know I’ll be a little lonely without her.

  7. "Homer, don't forget your promise to the kids."

    "That's right. When you're 18, you're outta here!"

    Empty nest syndrome? Bring it on.

    Somebody drank low-fat ranch dressing from the bottle? You can't make this stuff up.

    I *will* miss my daughter when she moves out. She makes great pie. ;)

  8. All I can say is AMEN SISTER!! I have my oldest child at 21, I'm now 41 and my youngest is almost 15. I recently started college classes at a community college so I can decide what I want to "BE" when I grow up. I completely agree with you - I'm ready for MY life. Time to enjoy my husband and have a career and do whatever I want to do. Sounds selfish, but that's just the way I feel. Soon, it will be my turn.

  9. Okay, I've lurked for a while but just had to say - you've earned it ENJOY IT!! You and I are only 2 years apart and I read your post while cleaning up dinner, yelling at twin 8 year olds to do their homework and trying to teach a crash course in cursive. I guess I had my chance to "live a little" before my kids were born but I wasn't smart enough to really enjoy it. I've got great plans for 2018 and this time I'll appreciate it! Meanwhile, have a chocolate latte for me!

  10. I had my daughter at 18 and from the time she was 2 years old if you asked her what she was getting for her 18th birthday, she would tell you luggage. I love my daughter to death but I could not wait for the day she left. I too had a good relationship, we still do, and I missed her company but she's still around so I still see her. I literally said on her 18th birthday, my work here is done. She still lived with us for a while while she attended school but I was done. That's when I went back to college to figure out what I was going to do with my life. Yeah, anyone who has tears streaming down their face really needs to get a hobby. I bet their kids couldn't wait to get out of there.

  11. Ok, now I feel really bad...because I know I've crashed my mom's life with my kids...even though I already know...but this drives it home.

    I think I had such a difficult time when the kids would to to CA every 2 weeks because it forced me into a part-time parenting situation. It was tough to flip that switch: 2 weeks mom, 2 weeks off. A giant mess, perfectly clean. Run/bike whenever I want, plan around naps and jogging stroller.

    I guess I kinda laugh when people can't imagine a day without their child. It's good to have an identity. Feel good about it.

  12. What a brilliant post. How lame to have no emotional identity separate from your kids

    I especially liked this bit "I stopped trying to get some meaning or reward out of parenthood long ago. It was my job, and when I enjoyed it, that was a bonus"

  13. you are in the second phase of your life and you've earned this time so enjoy it. Be glad you're kids turned out so well. I'm still in the phase where I'm not sure how he's going to turn out. I think he's a great kid but seems the teachers don't think the same thing...sigh.

    sometimes I can't wait for the empty nest when he's successfully been raised and flown the coop. a happy, healthy young man

  14. I'm 35 and have an 11 year old and a 9 year old. I will be 43 when the youngest graduates from high school and I cannot wait. I already have plans for their rooms. I already know that my son's graduation to myself is a convertible Mustang. I tell him that and he says, "Shouldn't I be getting a convertible Mustang for my graduation." I just laugh and say, "Nope, mommy will not have to tote you around anymore I'm getting a cool non-mommy car after you graduate." I will miss them, but will enjoy having them visit. I am trying to raise them to be good, responsible, successful adults. Once I have done that there is not much more I can do. Thanks for making me laugh and that line about grabbing the baby bird by the beak just had me laughing. Where do some of these women come up with this stuff. It's really sad that they have no life outside of their kids. These are the ladies that invest so much time in their kids that they don't even know their husbands either. Once it is just the two of them alone after the kids are gone they don't even know what to talk about. So unhealthy. Anyway, thanks for the laugh.

  15. I think empty nest falls into 2 categories - yours and the other ones you've written about. (I fall into yours and was also a mother at 19.) Some people just spend too much time HOPELESSLY DEVOTED to their children so that when they are finally left alone with their spouse, they don't know what the hell to do. Which is also why the divorce rate goes up again for folks who have been married 20-25 years. As I said, I had little adjustment and while I haven't done everything I thought I would, I've been rocking and rolling through the last 10 years. I can't wait for the next 10!

  16. Superpounce: I lover her to death while she's here, and she's a great, easy child to deal with. No drama--yet. But I'll also love it when she's gone and I no longer have to maintain a bigger-than-I-need house in the suburbs that is 35 minutes' drive from my job and most of MY friends. She's already independent enough, at 11 1/2, that she give me the "peace, out" when she leaves the house. I consider that a parental badge of honor.

  17. Don't these women have JOBS? careers? Friends? Hobbies? SOMETHING TO DO?????

  18. I too have been lurking... and I laughed so hard, that I just had to respond.
    I thought I was the only one out there who forced the kids to move out the summer they turned 18. I am 45, my man is 52 and our last kid moved out 2 years ago.
    I don't mind having milk in the milk carton or cereal in the box, gas in the car, air in my tires, hot water for a shower, no phone calls from the school or the ER, no one asking if I can "lend" them a $20, the house left the way I leave it....
    yes I could go on and on and on. Dont get me wrong, there were great times, but we have SO moved on from that and we have never had this much fun.
    It is great when the 3 of them come to visit, but 1 week tops is about all we can handle.
    Thanks for the laugh, I really needed it today.

  19. Ugh. I was minding my own business this morning, having a great time skiing, when the Beak Lady popped into my mind.

    Her poor children probably couldn't flee the "nest" quickly enough.

  20. I have tears streaming down my cheeks... From laughing so hard!! Truly one of your best posts. Maybe because we can all relate to it so well.

  21. Love this post! But, I have a LONG way to go since my kids are only 5 and 3. Hoping I won't be a sappy pain in the butt when they leave. My mother was and it annoyed me.

  22. Obviously written by women with no other part of their lives. Or maybe regretting all the things they didn't do with their kids. Who knows. Hopefully they find themselves soon.

  23. Very very funny. My kids are pretty small - 6 and 10 - and I had them starting in my mid-30's so I had plenty of life on my own first (and still do.) I adore them, and I also adore time to myself and never have enough of it. I don't live vicariously through them and am raising them to be independent, but I love a good bedtime snuggle too! I think I'll be somewhere in between the two extremes when they leave. I may feel differently once they hit their teenage years, of course!

  24. bwahahah - i can't relate, not even a little bit. but I'm sure congratulations are in order! I can hear a tuned playing in my head.... "ding dong the witch is dead..."

  25. Well, last week I did kind of miss my son when he was gone.

    I think I would fall in the middle on this one. I would certainly not be crying! I would feel some loss but I also not feel like I have been let free from prison.

    People need to have an identity other than mother/father and couples need to have an identity/purpose etc in addition to their kids. And the kids need to know this. As an example, sometimes my race schedule comes before something on their schedule and sometimes their schedule supercedes my race plans.


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