Previewing the empty nest

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life27 Comments

My senior high school student returns today from the final school trip of his young academic life today. Both of my offspring have been educated in the Montessori method since preschool, and the school of their later years requires all students to go on trips at the start of the year that involve nature in some way or another. Nature and community.

Cole has been canoeing on the Namekagon River since Monday with 50 or so of his fellow seniors and I hope it has been a positive experience for the boy.

This week has given me a preview of what next year might look like, depending on Cole’s plans directly following high school. We assume college, of course, but one thing I have learned is to never assume anything in life.

Here’s what I’ve noticed in the past four days:

  1. There is less laundry.
  2. I feel less compelled to cook.
  3. I have to invent reasons to leave the house in my vehicle.
  4. It’s very quiet, and that’s not the worst thing.

I like how life prepares you, slowly if you’re lucky, to let each little bird test the world beyond the nest. College is one really gentle way we get to do this, albeit for that first year and that first child, it doesn’t feel all that gentle in the beginning.

That first year that Aidan left for school, me, Dan and Cole had to find our rhythm as a family of three. And we did.

And I’m sure that first year with no little birds under this roof will also take some adjustments as well.

And we will.

For now, as quiet as the past few days have been, I look forward to getting that boy back home and soaking in these days.

They really do go by so quickly.




Cathy ZielskePreviewing the empty nest

27 Comments on “Previewing the empty nest”

  1. #1

    Cathy Zielske, you gonna be just fine. When we finally removed the last tiny cherub from the car insurance a couple years ago, my husband and I literally did a dance in the kitchen of the historic house we bought after we didn’t have to worry about school districts or having more than 3 bedrooms. GLORIOUS DAY, my friend. I have three girls, all in their 20s, all college graduates, two married and the third probably will soon, and I am having a great time. I love my children, would die or kill for them, but it is important for them to see that my life did not end when they rolled outta here. I think you and I are right around the same age–it’s good, it’s good.

  2. #2

    Love my girls…but love my empty nest too! You will adjust and then thrive. I have my ‘first baby girl’ coming home from grad school this weekend for a short visit and I can’t wait!

  3. #3
    Cindy Bryden

    Oh my goodness! We are going through our oldest, Jarod going to college and adjusting as a family of three! I’m so excited for Jarod and his future! It has been weird around here with the three of us. We’re not sure what to do with ourselves. I’m sure we’ll settle in soon. I totally agree with liking less laundry and a little more quiet in the house. We work hard to turn our little people in to good and kind humans beings. We need to enjoy our new adventure as almost empty nesters. Smiles, Cindy from Maryland

  4. #4

    My oldest is the same age as Cole and I’m vacillating between grieving these last few months with him at home and counting the minutes until he’s gone (and maybe packing his bags!) because I think they naturally start to push away, to make the process easier on all of us. And that’s hard too. But still, I know when he’s gone it will feel like a punch in the gut for a while. So for now I’m bracing myself and trying to soak it all in.

  5. #5
    Beth H

    I’m right where you are Cathy — my one and only child, my daughter, is a Senior. I think having an only is a different challenge in that everything is a first and a last all at the same time! She and I are close so I’m sort of dreading her going off to college, but on the other hand I’m looking forward to more quality alone time with my husband. She traveled with a group to Australia a couple Summer’s ago and he and re-discovered each other and had a great time — so there is hope! πŸ˜‰
    I wish there was a Montessori school near by that went about K. Our daughter went to Montessori through 1st grade, but we moved and I couldn’t find a school close enough. I still miss that Montessori school! Best wishes and thanks for keeping it all real.

    1. #5.1
      Keianna P.

      This hit me hard. We have an only and I have never been able to put into the words the sadness and happiness with each new event. But you are right. It is the first and last time at the same time and it has extra weight to it.

  6. #6
    Chris H.

    Slowly seeing this myself with my Junior girl…the nights she’s home for dinner are fewer with school, work, social commitments. In general, my days are really quiet. Trying to fill my life with solo activities, hence resurgence of card making, and reach out to certain friends to get back in the habit of doing stuff. I’m quite content alone at home with my dogs, but know I’ll need to get out sometimes. Life does have a way of preparing you, slowly, for the stage to come next.

  7. #7

    My two boys are a senior and sophomore in college. Some days the empty nest is fine, other days I feel like I am still adjusting. It’s just so weird/hard after you spend 20 years managing your life around kid activities, meals, etc. And then the change is so abrupt. I know it’s all good, because you want them to grow up and be independent, but it is a transition. I’m still waiting for the day I can take them off my car insurance too!

  8. #8

    I echo Seanna’s sentiments exactly! We’ve loved have our girls (one is 27 and the other 25), live with us and we’ve loved having them out on their own. Yes, there was an adjustment period. I have loved the conversations concerning money – “why is my property tax bill so high when my car is new, shouldn’t it be the other way around?” We died laughing! We have shared many laughs over the years and I do so love when they are both home for a meal or advice or just to hang out! The time? It does fly!

  9. #9

    Yes it can be sad, but they will return occasionally and then one day they return with grandchildren in tow and that can’t be beat. Also another perk is that you now have a bedroom you can convert into your craft room.

  10. #10

    They really do fly by. My youngest is the same age as your oldest – and so I’ve had 3 years now to adjust to the empty nest. I miss my kids fiercely – but it’s hard to be sad when they are so happy as they make their way in the world. Hardest for me has been my oldest’s move to California (we are in Michigan) for a job post grad-school…. but she calls or texts me nearly every day – which helps a TON! I wish my youngest would call/text more – but our conversations come in spurts – instead of a long ongoing conversation like I have with my oldest. (Oh – and the thing about leaving the house? I also work from home – and sometimes I go days without leaving! Such a contrast to the taxi driver days – that went all the way to the youngest’s HS graduation – as she did not get a license until after her freshman year of college!)

  11. #11

    I agree about life preparing you…and I am still holding off on convert gvine if their rooms into a craft room…but what a great idea!

  12. #12
    Jen G

    I am now in my second week of ’empty nestdom’. My only child went off to Toronto to university…so she not only left my nest but left the COUNTRY. It’s been basically just she and I against the world since she was about 3 so not having her here is very strange. It’s an adjustment to be sure, but there are perks…. less laundry, for one.

  13. #13

    We just sent our youngest of four children to college last month, and my husband travels for work for weeks at time so I’m REALLY empty- nesting it! πŸ™‚ It’s hard for me to come home to an empty house some days, but I’ve developed a new schedule which includes going to the gym after work each day, and having whatever I want for dinner! πŸ™‚ When my husband is home, we enjoy cooking together and doing whatever we we want, when we want! We also have a hilarious group text going in the family, so we end up touching base with each other, including a son-in-law, and a boyfriend and girlfriend, almost every day. And for those who live in town we have Sunday dinner and game night almost every week. It’s our “new normal” and we’re doing our best to embrace it!

  14. #15
    Toni Nuernberg

    Just remember we are successful as parents when our kids are ready to leave home and start their lives. It’s such a blessing to watch them create their future, start their career, fall in love, start their own families – sharing it all with you. We’ve been so blessed! Doug and I have been together for 41 years (married 36) and our relationship just gets stronger because we have time for just us. We bought a boat and spend wonderful hours on the lake fishing and enjoying the comfortable quiet. Each chapter in our lives has been an experience! Love the memories and we embrace the future. Take good care!

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Toni!!! I love that you read this blog. Tim and I were just talking about you the other day! (Glowing terms only, of course!) Love your comment on this post. Here’s to continued health and lives that get to be long!

  15. #16

    My daughter is the same age as Cole. As much as there is still high school drama that she is aching to leave, I am begging time to slow down. She’s my only girl, and my oldest child. I’ve often identified with your relationship with Aidan and just went back to read your post from when she left for college and the tears immediately came. I’m not ready. She won’t be far either, just a couple of hours away, and she’s hardly home now, but to see her room empty every night, I can’t breathe when I think of how I’m gonna pull away when I leave her at school. She’s so ready. I’m. So. Not.

    1. #16.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Oh, Debbie. I know, and I feel you. But you can also remember that you are sending her off for the adventure of a lifetime, you know? The opportunities she will have to grow and change and learn… there is also joy in it, too. And you don’t stop being her mama when she heads out that door. I think my relationship with Aidan grew much deeper when she left. She needed her mama’s ear frequently as she sorted out her college experience, which as you remember, didn’t go so well that first year when she was in Madison. You’ll surprise yourself with your sadness as well as your strength and grace. : )

  16. #17
    Linda Matthews

    Our son attends our local community college ( Culinary Arts ). Hence he is still living at home.

    He is doing work-based learning for one of his classes this semester. He is gone a lot now.
    It is an eye-opening experience for my husband and I because it is “test drive” for us when he graduates college in May 2018 and leaves for the military ( Coast Guard ).

    He is our only child. We are “dating” again and getting to know each other all over again. It is strange in a way. Every conversation we have had for the last 20 years involves our son and what activities he involved with.

    I have enjoyed your blog about coping with empty nesting and your kids graduating and leaving home. It has helped me know that my feelings are normal and expected.

    Not sure how I am going to handle our Joe leaving us and joining the CG, but he will be continuing his culinary arts education there. The CG has an excellent reputation for their Culinary Arts School.

    Yes, we have been spoiled with his fancy dishes and recipes he tries out in school and then at home.


  17. #18
    Karen Grosz

    Cathy, i have read your blog since the beginning. Your daughter is 2 days older than my son. Your son is about 1.5 months younger than my other son. This year my youngest went off to college. Oh how I wish I had kept him home when he was young a year longer.) Anyway, those things you experienced are definitely real for me as an empty nester. I did think I would have trouble with quiet, but I don’t. I really enjoy the quiet. It has been a little easier since he is a communicator so I hear from him often. I live in Bismarck, ND and boy my boys are at NDSU Fargo this year so three hours away.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I rarely comment, but I have enjoyed watching your kids grow. I have loved your honesty with your community.

    Now go hug your boy. I think I will text mine.

    1. #18.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hey Karen! You know, I don’t know if Cole will be communicator if and when he heads off for school. I know his sister is, and I’m so grateful for that, but… I think this second child thing is definitely going to be a little easier. We ease into this time in life, if we are lucky. πŸ™‚ Glad you commented. I appreciate long time readers very much.

  18. #19

    We’re in a “nearly empty nest” phase of life. Both our boys are still at home, have graduated, didn’t go to college, and are seeking gainful employment (in between jobs). On the one hand, John and I can leave for a weekend of camping and the house and cat are taken care of, so that’s kind of cool. On the other, we still have people in our house, but they’re pretty low-maintenance. While I’m ready for them to move on with their lives, I also enjoy hanging out with them or having long talks about stuff – important, trivial, and anything else – having company for lunch, help with heavy or high-up things (strong, tall sons), but also that I can go do my own thing and not worry about them being home. It’s a season of small transition and that’s okay right now.

  19. #20
    Abby P

    My younger son went to community college for 2 years, and has recently transferred to Univ. of AZ – we live in SoCal. Everyone asks me how my my husband and I handled moving him to AZ, and if my husband and I cried the whole 8 hours home. Should I feel guilty for saying “No, not a tear was shed”? I feel like he was so incredibly ready for this move; he’s so independent, confident, responsible, and I know this experience will be so amazing for him in so many ways. His girlfriend of 2 years is also returning to Univ. of AZ for her 2nd year, and I LOVE that they live close to one another and will help each other through school and life itself. This is their chance to be a true couple (other than living together). I’m just so excited for them both that there’s no room for sadness. On my side, also, is the knowledge that they are both coming back home in a couple years – let’s face it – no one their age can really afford to move out on their own these days. #WINNINGATLIFE

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