Are you sick of hearing about our impending empty nest? Same friend, same. It’s not like I don’t know how to feel.
I’ve been here before. We moved our oldest son into his first college dorm just five years ago. I knew what to expect while expecting, so to speak. So why, for the love of everything good and holy, does it feel like each passing day is bringing us closer to the end?
The end of what, I’m not sure. The end of empty bags of potato chips under his bed, in the closet, the nightstand drawer, under the sink. The end of an unflushed upstairs toilet. The end of missing spoons and forks and bowls. The end of those little uneventful moments that make up a day when your kids still live at home.
But the changes are coming entirely too fast. And it has put in motion anxiety like nothing I’ve experienced before. I could pause here and say, “it’s fine. It will pass. I’ll power through and find something to consume my attention to the rapidly changing landscape of our home doesn’t consume me first. Yada, yada, yada.” But that would be a lie.
I’ve figured out that white knuckling is not the way to solve an existential crisis like this.
Part of the problem is I’ve kept myself too busy. Busy trying to be better. Busy trying to be what all those self-help gurus, social media influencers, and the like say I should be.
I should be:
1. Doing more weight training and less cardio.
2. Taking Krill oil supplements instead of fish oil.
3. Eating soy protein instead of animal protein.
4. Meditating for 15 minutes every morning.
5. Doing keto or intermittent fasting or both.
6. Drinking at least a gallon of water a day.
7. Counting my macros.
I should do all the above PLUS fight off the signs of aging using any means possible, i.e., Botox, fillers, red light filter, laser treatments, or anything with Vitamin C or retinol.
And that’s just the health & beauty segment of the stress pills I’ve been taking since my teens.
While trying to become a smaller, fitter version of myself, I also read books and blogs and watched TikTok influencers offering advice on how to be a better mom, a more relaxed mom.
The kind of mom who knows how to plan the perfect vacation, the perfect holiday party, and family portrait. The kind of mom who doesn’t ask her adult son if he’s dating anyone every time they talk. The kind of mom who listens patiently as both adult sons recite the many reasons we should consider getting solar panels for our home. The kind of mom who is effortlessly put together. The kind of mom who wears soft white turtlenecks without some type of tomato-based food stain somewhere between the turtle and waist. The kind of mom who plants the perfect garden with the perfect garden basket. The kind of mom who sounds like a character Diane Keaton would play in a movie.
I’m exhausted with the Hustle Culture that has worked its way into every area of my life.
Some folks say, Kevin Hart, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Mark Wahlberg, and Elon Musk all have the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. Implying that we should strive to be just as productive as they are. An “If they can do it, so can we” attitude.
First, Google Mark Wahlberg’s daily routine. It’s disciplined. It’s also psychotic (TO ME). Second, no. I can’t do that anymore. I don’t know what a macro is, so I refuse to count it. I’m OK with being healthy. Not skinny, not athletic. Healthy. Besides, I’ve grown fond of the 10 pounds I’ve been losing (and gaining back) for decades.
I’m OK with not having Beyonce’s or J-Lo’s body. But I’d like to point out that Beyonce and J-Lo also have the same number of hours in a day as I do. If they used that time like me, they too could waste countless hours Googling new ways to eat healthier instead of eating healthier, self-diagnosing the cause of an occasional headache, or fangirling organizational influencers on TikTok but never really following their advice. All of that takes discipline too!
There have been many times when I’m in the middle of a last-minute cleaning spree, frantically preparing the house for our family Thanksgiving or friends coming over to celebrate a birthday, when my boys or Jay stop me and say something that snaps me back into reality.
My favorite came from Jay last Christmas. “No one cares how the pantry looks. They are coming here to eat, not investigate how unorganized we keep our dry goods.”
Reality isn’t airbrushed, and just like my pantry and most of my closets, real life happens to be a little messy sometimes. While my kids would prefer I not ask about their dating life unless they bring it up, they could care less if I can’t wear a white shirt without spilling something on it. They want the kind of mom who is a kind mom. Anything else is a bonus.
So as the countdown moves from months to weeks and soon days before we move our Jackson to begin his first semester in college, I’ve decided to do something I’ve never had the mindset to try. I’m going to enjoy it. The missing spoons, empty potato chip bags, every single one of those uneventful moments that make up a day while he’s still living at home. Except for the unflushed toilet. I will never enjoy that.
Yes, we are preparing for the end of this chapter of parenting, but I hear the empty nest chapter will be a lot of fun for me and Jay.
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