There was a time when I took pride in the fact that my house was one of the busiest (and noisiest) on the street. I had four children of my own, took care of five others during the after school hours, and maintained a revolving door for all the neighborhood kids to come over whenever they chose.
My house was always LOUD. Music blasting, televisions blaring, giggling, squealing, and raucous games of basketball in the driveway --this was the norm. The chaos never bothered me. I loved my role as the entertaining "cool" mom, and was happy to provide enough calorie-ladened snacks to feed an army brigade.
I was also ten years younger with an endless supply of energy that could rival the stamina of the Energizer bunny.
Three of my four children have grown and flown the coop. The last one still at home is 18 and he'd rather have a root canal than spend an evening at home with dear old mom and dad. This allows us quite a bit of wiggle room for privacy and a glimpse of what life will be like when the last one packs his bags and heads off to college. This is why I know I'm going to LOVE being an empty nester:
1. A lower grocery bill. My supermarket expenses will finally be lower than my monthly mortgage payment. I will no longer need to buy stock in toilet paper, milk, or Axe Body Spray.
2. My car insurance rates will drop... but so will my tax deductions. Perhaps the IRS will count fostering rescue dogs with bathroom handicaps as a tax deduction.
3. My house will stay clean. No more hazardous waste piles of laundry or a bathroom requiring a hazardous materials team to scrub it clean.
4. We can travel spontaneously anywhere in the world -- or maybe just to Walmart -- without needing to hire a babysitter.
5. No more squabbles over math homework (Y=mx+b... HUH?), erupting volcanoes for science class projects or 30-page term papers on the Civil War that create tears of frustration (and an urge to hit the liquor cabinet).
6. My husband and I can finally have a REAL adult conversation instead of the usual, "Has he had a bowel movement today?" or "Did she eat her vegetables?" or "Make sure he brushes his teeth before bed."
7. No more expensive school uniforms or detailed school supplies lists from teachers. What do you mean you need a specific brand of environmentally-safe markers, made in China by three-fingered panda bears?
8. I don't have to cook for a crowd every night. The hubs and I will be perfectly content to snarf down a bowl of Cocoa Puffs for dinner while watching an episode of "Hoarders."
9. My calendar will be clutter free. No more chauffeuring kids around in a beat-up minivan to choir, gymnastics, karate, dance, soccer, cheerleading, or band. It also signifies the end of PTA meetings, bake sales, and chaperoning school field trips to the zoo where I end the day with parrot poop on my head.
10. Sex 24/7. Every night can be a date night and every moment is a Cialis moment. The only thing that's missing is matching bathtubs in a wildly inappropriate place, like the tool aisle at Sears.
As I revel in my thoughts of newfound freedom, my 18-year-old son informs me he has picked the college he'd like to attend... and it's only 10 minutes from our home. Looks like my empty-nester plans will have to be put on hold a little bit longer. But I can still dream, can't I?
Marcia Kester Doyle blogs at Menopausal Mother
In the same way that volunteering at your child's school makes you part of a community and helps you make friends with fellow parents, volunteering at your local library, homeless shelter, or with a civic group will immerse you in a new community that includes neighbors and empty nesters.
Did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't start writing books until her children were grown and with kids of their own? Take advantage of your empty nest and get involved in something that you have wanted to do and previously did not have enough time to do. Take a class, play a sport, or find a hobby.
If you've only ever done poorly paid part-time jobs while the children were at home (or if raising kids for 18 years was enough full time work in itself!), now you've got the chance to have a fresh start. Or you may have an ambition to run your own business -- the 'encore career' movement is rife with fresh faced entrepreneurs over 50. Now is the time to discover what passions live within you and pursue them to the bank!
Now that you're not responsible for getting a kid to school at 8 a.m. five days a week, explore the idea of exploring. Rejoice in the freedom you haven't had in years and see the world. Feel like seeing the pyramids? Versailles? Living in Costa Rica for a year week? Step to it amigo!
If an empty nest means anything, it's privacy. Rejoice in your long-deserved break from acting like a parent and act like an adult. Whether you're married or single, take the opportunity to reignite the sputtering spark in your relationship or get out there and carve out for yourself a love life worth living. It's true what they say, sex IS better after 50.
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