The House that Becomes More Empty Every Day (It Seems)

It’s the last few hours of my daughter’s visit home. I am trying to not feel the emptiness before it happens. She’s at the store right now, so she’s allowing me to ease back into the emptiness. But when she comes back it will be awkward, because we both know we’re on the countdown. Her visits have become sparser and shorter, now that she is an employee as well as a student. It feels more & more every day like I’m staring down the barrel of the Empty Nest Cannon, and someone has just lit the fuse.

I have two children, a son and a daughter. Cate is in her junior year of undergrad school. Thankfully she chose a university that is close enough for visits but far away enough that she feels independent. Dan, however, seems to have shaken the dust of our home from his sandals. He’s in graduate school in New York City, but lest it seem that I’m being unfair about his ability to get home for visits, I’ll tell you that he chose a nearby campus for undergrad and then only came home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break. And that was until his sophomore year; he stopped coming home for Spring Break altogether then. It feels like he left home a lifetime ago.

So the house empties itself of the flotsam of a large piece of my life and heart a little more with each leave-taking. We pack up more odds & ends and send them along with children, or label the box and stack it with the others in the basement. Small bits of my being get packed into those boxes along with the Barbies and the books. My mission this year is to redefine my purpose, back to being centered on Self and Husband (in that order) rather than on Children.

The humming furnace and a faucet dripping somewhere are the only sounds in the bereft house now.  One of the dogs scratches & stretches, then settles back down to snooze. And I look around for a sparkle that is no longer there.



About techlady911

Still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Pictures are my lifeline, words are my wings.
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17 Responses to The House that Becomes More Empty Every Day (It Seems)

  1. So glad to see you posted today. I’m inspired. I have six kids, so the emptying of my nest has been a protracted affair. But the youngest two are juniors now, so we’re counting down–and I’m not looking forward to it!

    I was assigned to write about Empty Nest for Better Homes & Gardens years ago when I was freelancing. At the time empty nest felt forever away; now here it is. I’ll share:

    Be gentle with yourself.

    • techlady911 says:

      Allison, your article was wonderful. Talk about Speaking in Pictures! I loved the imagery of the baby birds in the first paragraph. There is lots of wisdom in your words – I think I’ll be re-reading this article a lot in the coming days. Funny thing – I left one of those “prestigious, high powered” careers to teach, so I could be on the same schedule as my kids. I even ended up in the same schools. So at least I have avoided the “what if” questions about how I spent my time when they were with me.

      Good luck with your own transition. Enjoy every second right now – even the difficult ones. You miss even those (as I’m sure you already know from releasing your first four into the wild!) Thank you for the support. Can’t wait to read yours ~

      • Thanks for your generous response. I always felt BH&G articles were hard to write because the audience was so general, vague.

        Interesting that your emptynestedness (yikes!) is not spurred by regret but by very real sadness from the loss of something precious.

        I’m tickled to have found a blog partner. What I like most about our “writing assignment” is that it makes me live with my eyes open. Looking forward to our next week’s exchange!

  2. seeliewood says:

    oh, my friend, I know this feeling…If you ever want to meet for coffee and talk, I’m only a little time away!

  3. Congrats on Freshly Pressed. My daughter returns to college Sat. She’s been home nearly a month and I can’t believe what a wonderful visit it was. No fights! Something happened between Thanksgiving & Winter Break. They do grow up! We’ve been empty nesters for a while already- found road biking a good substitute for kids and pets. But I ‘ll miss her. (She’s returning to Ohio from New Jersey.)

  4. muddledmom says:

    This leaves me with a lump too large to swallow, and my son, my oldest, turns 9 in a few weeks. Nine isn’t a big number, but I see it as the halfway mark of our 18 years together. Even that has come too soon.

  5. courtneyrae says:

    I’m not a mom, but I’ve always thought the idea of one’s children leaving seems soo depressing! Reading your post makes me hurt for my own parents. It must be so hard.

  6. Suzanne says:

    Hmm. Now I’m wondering if I’m a bad person/mother. When our two sons (now 27 and 24) left home for college, I was ready. I didn’t love their teenage years. Maybe it helped that we got a dog when my younger son was a senior in high school—a little bundle of unconditional positive regard—quite a contrast to frequently surly teenage males. Our older son behaved sort of like I did when I left home. He went off to Penn State (about a 5 hour car ride) and we pretty much didn’t hear from him until Thanksgiving. On the other hand, our younger son went off to the University of Miami (he hates cold weather), and proceeded to call me once or more per day—just to chat—even though he had friends. I would never have predicted it when he was home, but now we share interests (and even work) in Spanish, writing and travel. He even blogs—at !
    We sold our house in the suburbs in 2010 and downsized to a rental apartment in Center City Philadelphia. My husband wasn’t sure he was completely on-board with the concept, but we can honestly say we’re loving our empty nest (the birdies are allowed to visit). Even our dog seamlessly adjusted to the elevator and traffic noise.

  7. Hello, dear techlady, you are a fine writer with a lovely natural voice. I also have two kids, one a senior in college and one a senior in high school. My son chose to go to college all the way across the country, but I understand his reasons for doing so, and I am thankful that he enjoys coming home when he can, which isn’t often. Going away to college is the beginning of our children’s quest to find their own path. If they have the confidence to do so, it’s probably because we raised them to, and that’s a good thing. Keep telling yourself it’s better than have your son living in the basement watching TV all day, coming up only for food and water and trips to the comic book store! I’m proud of my son, but sad, too, because his Latin American Studies will probably lead to work in Argentina, where he studied abroad last year, and where he is right now doing research for his honors thesis.

    We don’t know yet where my daughter will go for college, but you know the old saying–if you love something you have to let it go. In anticipation of her leaving, I have been building a support group, hosting writers’ group meetings, and trying to concentrate on my writing projects, while still savoring every moment I have left with her at home. My mother used to light a candle while we were off at college, and it was a calm and quiet way to acknowledge our absence, but also our ongoing presence in her life. If I were you, I would invest in twinkle lights–not the cold LED kind. We all enjoy them together, and leave them up year round. They are so warm and cheerful, and I will enjoy them and think of my kids when they are off having their adventures. Thank goodness we have the internet, and Skype, and cell phones to keep in close touch from far away.

    I wish you and your family all the very best.

  8. cbowiephoto says:

    Wow, a little sad. I have two girls in junior high but your article made me start thinking. I am going to be literally a basket case when they leave.

  9. good and great article thanks very much …

  10. The Hook says:

    You have to find a new sparkle, young lady! Your daughter wil always be the sparkle in your thoughts and mind.

  11. I understand your feelings oh so well. I’m an empty nester and I found myself getting caught up in the memories of my children. Yes, it tugs at our hearts, but I’ve decided we must reinvent ourselves AC (after children). I’m viewed differently as “mom” by my adult children and I had to step back. I’ve had to open my hands and allow them to go forth and become their own person. I also had to go forth and become my own person…finding joy and excitement and Me!

  12. Jean says:

    Ah, just hope they remember Mother’s Day, Thxgiving, Christmas/equivalent,etc. with you.

    And enjoy your freedom again.

  13. insightful! I have not reached your age and depth in terms of experience..nonetheless, I almost felt it all 🙂

  14. Your post made me tear up. So well written and so poignant. I can relate.

    Our oldest is 13, but already he looks ahead and is excited about leaving for university. Not so much because he wants to leave (I don’t think), but because he wants to be there doing the things he hopes to do. When he looks ahead, I already feel sad for that day when he IS gone. And, so I cried when I read YOUR post.

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