How in the heck is it mid-September already? Honestly, I feel like we just celebrated Labor Day (I guess we did) but for whatever reason the days are racing by me at a record pace. School is in full swing, schedules are falling into place, we are structured and time managed and all about jamming the most that we possibly can into the time that we have when we have it. Yippee!!!
This is a new kind of fall for me. As many of you know, gone are my days of waving little ones off to school, filling out the mountain of school forms and paperwork - which for the record I so don’t miss. No more loudly encouraging children to get out of bed or else, haven’t packed a lunch, handed out lunch money or bought a box of cereal. My car is not being driven from home to school to home to gym to school to home (no joke - that was last year). Rob and I are officially empty nesters. All of our baby birdies have been booted from the nest and are out shaking their tail feathers and setting their own worlds on fire.
So - what’s that like? Read on - cuz I’m going to give you the honest truth about what it’s like - the good, the not so good and everything in between.
I know many of you are sitting there saying, “Empty nester? How can that be? She doesn’t look old enough to have three kids in college! What’d she have them when she was 12?” Thank y’all very much for the kind compliments! Truth be told I am actually old enough to have three in college at the ripe old age of almost 47 but no, only one is in college. And, no, I didn’t give the boys away to the highest bidder…although there were days this summer where that was considered.
I’ve got oldest troll that is indeed a sophomore in college. Oldest male troll child is in fact a senior in high school and he lives there. About a 35 minute drive. Youngest male troll is a sophomore in high school and was accepted to and attends a high school that is about an hour and 20 minutes from home. And, yes - he lives there. He attended a local high school last year for his freshmen year and I drove him to and fro for nine months. Troll 3 boarding is a whole new ball game for our family.
What kind of mother sends her child away at 14/15 years of age? Not offended by those words - heard them countless times in the past six years both to my face and behind my back. And here is what I say to that. I did not send them away. I went to a public high school as did my Rob. This is something that each of the three individually worked for. A goal that they all had and for different reasons. And we told them from day one if it was something they wanted, they had to put in the work. Make the grades. Out-work, out-study, grind more than their classmates and their teammates. And if they got themselves there than we would figure out the rest. And that’s what we do.
We sacrifice in order for them to have this experience. We don’t go on vacations. I drive a tuna can on wheels that currently has 195,000 miles on it and never needs an oil change because I’m constantly putting oil in it. We miss out on certain high school experiences with them simply by proxy of the fact that they don’t live at home. I don’t get to read their facial expressions, hug them when they’ve had a tough day, do their laundry and provide those little mom touches that make a difference. We have to make do with face time and text messages and let go the little annoyances because our time is always short. If ever anyone were to think that it was easy - let me assure you it is not. But often times the easy thing and the right thing are polar opposites. And for them, this experience is the right thing.
Two People, Four Snouts
Thus far, I have learned a lot about being an empty nester. Let’s just say it has been eye-opening. Granted it has only been a couple of weeks but the future looks bright.
My bank account can breathe.
Having children at home is EXPENSIVE! Like totes money flying out the window expensive. Since the trolls have crawled from underneath the bridge, my bank account has been doing a happy dance. Food bill went from $300-$400 a week (two teenage boys - need I say more) to $150 for two weeks. I’m putting one tank of gas in one car every 5-6 days versus two tanks of gas at a minimum in two cars every week. Suffice to say we aren’t rolling in the dough but I do kinda feel like I just drew a Community Chest card that said, “Kids left for school. Collect $200 from the bank!”
This came as a bit of a surprise but I’ve dropped a few lbs since the kids left as has Rob. Now that could be for a variety of reasons - perhaps extra time at the gym, walks with the dogs or the fact that our refrigerator looks like it belongs in a frat house as it contains eggs, almond milk and alcohol. And a stick of butter. Additionally, I seem to be buying more things that entice me with the promise of 'extra fiber' and 'good for your heart'. So whether it's the quantity, the quality or input versus output, the loss of extra mouths to feed has led to the loss of some waistline inches and what isn’t to love about that!
Fatten up the hounds
My doggies have benefited from the trio of trolls absence. Cuz with all this extra dough in the bank momeez can spend it on the pups! Organic peanut butter treats after their dinner, vegetable wrapped peanut butter sticks twice a day, a little extra helping of kibble - all of the above and then some have allowed me to share a little extra love for my four snouts that haven’t left my side since the kids left.
Effective communication is key
Now that we just have to be accountable to each other’s schedule, Rob and I have had to adjust our communication skills. Because he is coaching football that impacts our evenings. I’m used to it but I always had mouths to feed and athletes to run around, etc. Now I don’t. So we have had to find a new rhythm to our evenings and be very clear about what our individual schedules are so that we can find joint time together. And I have every confidence that Rob - sorry, I meant WE will continue to improve our communication.
Clean is king
Oh my good Lord I didn’t realize how much I missed things being clean and orderly! Honestly. Laundry is done and then put away. Dishes are used then put in the dishwasher. Beds are made. Throw blankets are folded and put back. Doggie duty is taken care of without stomping and complaining. My iPhone charger is in the same place where I left it. I miss my tri-trolls tremendously, immeasurably, without question. But I am loving everything being in it’s place and the tidiness that comes with a smaller household.
Soon To Be E.N. Advice
It hasn’t all been roses and butterflies. But all in all, our transition from five down to two has been with relative ease. Given that we knew back in March that this was on the horizon we have taken steps to get ready, to prepare, strategized on how to make it hurt less and work efficiently. As I know that many of you will be in our shoes in the next year or so, I will tell you what worked for us.
Fall in like
This sounds really stupid but is probably the most important factor. Fall in like with one another again. It’s great to be in love and blah blah blah but man, you really got to like the other person that’s going to be staring at you across the coffee table. You have to be friends because love does not sustain you if LIKE is not there. Start taking steps now to reconnect and get to know each other as individuals, not as the role you fulfill within the family.
Figure out what you want
You need to figure out what you want to do. Who you want to be now that you’re a grown-up that’s grown up. Take a class, get a job, take up a hobby, do something that is going to fulfill that void in you that was filled up by taking care of your children. Something that is yours. I don’t care if it’s home projects that you’ve been putting off for years, repainting one room at a time, doing a tile backsplash in the kitchen. Whatever it is, find a passion that is yours and yours alone.
I am just starting to get what this is and adjust my pace to it. Slow down. Enjoy the extra cup of coffee, treat yourself to an hour of reading every day, take things down a notch and embrace the gratitude within your life. Let me give you an example: when I walk with the dogs, it’s like I’m walking down a dark alley trying to not look like I’m scared but wanting to get out of there as fast as I can. I don’t walk to enjoy the walk with the dogs - I walk to burn a few extra cals. Last night we walked the dogs and just walked. Let them sniff what they wanted to sniff, talked about life and work and walked in silence. It reminded me that not everything has to have some purpose - that sometimes just being is enough. Put the brakes on, ease off the gas pedal.
Take care of business
Now is the time with the extra time on your hands in the future to think about taking care of those things that you haven’t taken care of. Follow me? Update the will. Schedule the appointments. Make the phone calls. Take care of the business in your life that you have put on the back burner because life gets in the way. It’s not necessarily enjoyable but you and I both know it is necessary. Make a list, commit to checking a couple things off a month.
Make time for one another
Make time for each other. Take up a new hobby together. Dive into a new Netflix series. Take turns making dinner. Take a date night once a week. Go for a Sunday drive, a hike. Clean out the basement together (hint, hint Rob). Whatever it is, make time to be with one another and to feed your relationship in a way that is positive and helps it to grow. May mean you have to give a little in some ways but what I’ve found is if I truly invest myself in what is being asked of me, 9 times out of 10 I end up being glad I did so.
It has been a great segue into becoming an empty nester. I’m grateful that we took the steps to start preparing for it months ago because it truly has made the transition not too painful…even enjoyable. You can fight it but eventually, even in Stepbrothers, all of our little birdies leave the nest. Reconnect with your new old self, your significant other and embrace the new chapter in your life. Slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor and set yourself up to tackle those things in life that have fallen by the wayside.
Roots to grow. Wings to fly.