I’m not one of those women who dreamed about “doing nothing” in an empty nest. Truth be told, in some ways I’d been doing nothing for 15 years (well, except for raising 2-5 kids). Waking hours involved laundry, food prep (including grocery wars), (very) light housekeeping, Oprah (then, Dr. Phil), and seasonal gardening or snow shoveling.
There were days when my husband would innocently ask, “So… what’d you do today?” and I would become inwardly enraged. (...I worked my ass off all day buddy! What did YOU do?!) Simultaneous with my inner rage, I’d see myself as a cartoon stick figure with a text bubble above my head and an inquisitive look on my face, asking What did I do today?
To avoid self-flagellation, I’d break the day’s activities down to justify my implied laziness…Morning hygiene = 10 mins…breakfast = 10 mins…empty dishwasher = 5 mins…drive to the gym = 12 mins, workout = 1 hour …grocery-store-drive-home-put-groceries-away = 1.25 hours….dinner prep = 45 mins… make beds = 20 mins…ETC. Exhausted at the end of this mental exercise, I’d give myself a congratulatory pat on the back acknowledging how incredibly busy I had been all day. Guilt gone… take THAT Husband!
The point? My pre-empty nest days were pretty effing busy. They may have looked lackluster, but they were full of very important activities. I just didn’t hold a “real job.” The highlight of my mommy days ranged from shopping at Target (alone), to lunching with the girls. The super-highlight of the day was my 5:00 whine… (glug, glug).
Enter – the Empty Nest….. Sooooo quiet and relaxing….What’s a mother to do all day? Glorious free time …No agenda or schedule….Mani-pedis and margaritas…
Turns out, raising kids was the easy part. Schedules and routines kept life perfectly predictable…organized chaos that ran like clockwork. My laser focus on the kids left little room for insanity, and I could auto-mom through a day.
Not so in my now empty nest where “opportunities for growth” just won’t quit. Things I didn’t anticipate in my days of anticipation? 1) Kids returning to the nest, and 2) Aging parents aging.
Who knew I’d be so statistically defined? Apparently, I’m in good company with a bucket load of other Baby Boomers whose adult kids return home for an assortment of (mostly valid) reasons. Reputable sources say 36% to 45% of millennials move home after college, aptly calling them the “Boomerang Generation.”
Over the last five years, four out of my five offspring have reclaimed their home address post college. Number One picked a major that doesn’t actually produce jobs, requiring her to move back in and reevaluate her future – thankfully finding a new track and gaining employment after a year. Number Two returned right after graduation and, although we braced for a possible failure to launch, proved us wrong by moving to Nashville (with every other 20-something) and doing the corporate ladder thing. Number Three is presently pitstopping at home while waiting for her new apartment to be “finished” (whatever that means). And finally, Number 4 has returned for a “semester off” from college which is apparently de rigueur these days. (Number Five is safely married with two children and has no plans to return home. Pray she’s in the 50% of married couples who don’t get divorced…)
And then, there’s my Mom. Augmenting my status as a Sandwich Generation statistic, my 91 year old mother is aging in place Right.Next.Door.
Suffice it to say, her needs (hence my time), are directly proportionate to her age. No complaints, but there are only so many hours in a day, and mothering a mother takes a lot of time. (See how much time at 50 Shades of Aging)
Alas, so far – the whole empty nest thing seems like a myth to me… an un-reality about a relaxed retirement. I often read about empty nesters who actually experience the emptiness of the nest when the kids are gone. (I’m pretty sure those are the same moms who cried on the first day of kindergarten…) But now, in my 50s, I am decidedly NOT one of them. I can only hope that my personal Act III will be decidedly different.
Emily is a post-menopausal, Baby Booming, empty nester who’s not sad at all that her 2-5 kids have flown the coop. She’s currently living life-on-hold, while her 91 year old mother (Right.Next.Door.) decides her next act. Emily’s days are filled with retail therapy, peddling real estate, and watching her friends on Bravo TV. She’s committed to throwing in the towel at 60, at which time she will joyfully end hair dying, weight watching and, working out. Find her (and Mom) at 50 Shades of Aging and on Facebook.