My kids just went back to college after their Thanksgiving breaks and they’ll both be home in two-and-a-half weeks for a month or more. Their presence will refill the house with food and friends and football and ample noise, all of which I will enjoy. But, it will also mess with the empty nest mojo I’ve collected, stored and learned to love over the past few months.
Yes, you read that right. Learned To Love. (C’mon, what choice did I have?)
I did not like living alone (no offense to the dogs, they are great company) for the first two months. I thought the house was too big, too quiet, and the whole “higher education” and “college experience” thing had been grossly overrated. More specifically, I “Hated it!” (Yes, I said that like the Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather characters from In Living Color, thereby showing my 1) age, 2) great taste in TV shows. Click here if you have no idea to what I’m referring!)
So, during those two months, I wondered: How do people do this? How do they live without anyone else in the house? Who do they talk to? (I have always talked to myself, so I’m not sure why this was a question for me.)
And now I wonder—how do they live with people around all the time? Take note, I never lived alone. I commuted to college and lived in the house where I grew up, with my brother and parents, and lived there until I got married. Not something I’d recommend, but something for which do-overs are not available. The truth is, I didn’t want to move out and live alone.
And now? I’ve gone over to the other side. Let’s choose a cliché, shall we? I got into a groove, found my mojo, came to grips, saw the light. Whatever you call it, it was painful at first and then it felt fine. Even good.
It’s not that I don’t miss the not-so-little darlings. I do. But not the way I thought I would.
- I can go to bed at nine and no one says, “Are you kidding?” I always say I’m getting into bed to read but this is secret-mom-code for snoring within six minutes, do not dare wake me.
- I watch much less TV. I think I enjoy watching TV with my kids and therefore the litany of shows don’t get watched. Unless of course it’s General Hospital or a Hallmark Christmas movie. Do. Not. Judge.
- I eat dinner for lunch and popcorn for dinner. There is no guilt in messing with a family meal when the family in question is moi! I will cook for myself, but often midday as a break from writing and editing. That’s when I’ll turn on the TV (yep, there’s one in the kitchen) and putter a bit. By nighttime I want my hair in a clip and something in a bowl I can likely eat with my fingers. Dry Cheerios work too.
- I can read my work aloud without someone asking who I’m talking to, and then saying, “Oh right.” I can also flail around a bit more figuring out how to write certain character movements and actions. I call that Method Writing.
- I make my own schedule. College kids don’t require a schedule but when there are other people around there are accommodations made for them, and in return. If someone is sleeping, we’re quiet. I don’t cook food if the smell is offensive to someone else (daughter doesn’t like curry, or fish). We remove other’s clothing from the dryer. We see if someone needs something from the store. Not Any More! Not that I mind—ever—but it’s kind of liberating to go to Walgreens and NOT wonder if someone else needs deodorant.
- I realized that my primary designation as Mom (or Momma, as my daughter calls me) hasn’t changed a bit. I’m still a mom first. To them and to me. That’s who I am. I just don’t have to do mom things first all the time anymore. This was a big revelation for me because all I ever wanted to be was a mom and a writer.
- Sushi is affordable when ordering for one. ‘Nuff said.
- Inherent privacy. There is little privacy for a single mom with two kids and two dogs. Once the kids were old enough to not want to know every time I went to the bathroom, the dogs figured out the tile floor was the coldest in the house. I couldn’t go anywhere alone. Now, everywhere in the house I am alone. I don’t have to go in another room to have a private telephone conversation or talk to a client. I can use speaker phone. This is huge.
- I worry less. Before my son went away to college my cousin told me that if I don’t hear from the university, the police, or the hospital, then he’s fine. I took that advice to heart. I sleep like a rock when my kids are away, and when they’re home I wonder where they are and what they’re doing and when they’re coming home. I also wake up throughout the night. Luckily they are amazingly tolerant and touch base with me when they’re out, and when they get home.
- When my kids come home, I think they are much more awesome than when they left. Even if it was just weeks before. Cheesy, but true. I mean, c’mon. Look what they did for me. Even if someone finished the stuffing or and put a paper plate in the sink or or came home at three in the morning, there is no way around how awesome this is. (When I hit them up in a decade to do it again, I’ll let you know how it goes.)