I am an empty nester. My boys have both moved out into their own places, living with roommates and leading very busy lives. I am proud that they are independent young men who are out making their way in the world. I am thrilled that they are both happy and healthy and leading fun and productive lives, but this is the first summer since 1996 that I have not had one of my children living in my home, and honestly, I am having a hard time adjusting to a life that mostly is just mine to live. The house is quiet and stays clean, my husband and I eat when we’re hungry and regular meals have gone by the wayside, and I go to sleep much earlier since I am not waiting up for my chicks to safely make it home each night.
For the past 20 years my first priority has always been my boys and being their mother has been my greatest joy. I can honestly say that every move I have made in my life since becoming a mom has been with the boys’ best interests in mind. Where I lived, who I spent time with, what I did for work, what I did for fun — all of those decisions were mostly made for the benefit of my boys. I wanted to lead by example and show my boys that if you worked hard enough any goal you set could be reached. It was that reasoning that led me to attend law school. My boys were entering 5th and 6th grade when I entered law school. I tried very hard to balance motherhood and law school. That was not easy. I know there were days when I was a terrible mother and there were days when I was a terrible law student. When I talk to my boys about that time, they tell me what they saw was that their mother worked her ass off and never quit even when the going got tough. They tell me that they learned by watching me that education is important and they tell me that they never once doubted that I loved them more than anything.
I have been hard on my boys through the years, stricter than other moms I know. I believed strongly in running a tight ship not unlike the ship my parents ran with my siblings and I. My father demanded excellence and independence and respect from us, I did the same. My boys both had jobs at age 14, and they were expected to help around the house. Should I have played more and cleaned less? Should I have scrapbooked their every achievement and saved every paper? Should I have not gone to law school, not worked at demanding jobs, not done the things I always wanted to do in my life and career? That’s my own guilt talking. My boys tell me that they wouldn’t have changed a thing, because all of the things I did and the choices I made are what make me the mother I am.
I will be able to handle the empty nest (eventually) because I made the choices I did. I am fortunate to have the time now to focus on my career without a lot of outside distractions. My children will always be my main priority, but because I showed them by example how to be independent and strong, they just don’t need me anymore, and that’s ok. I left home at 18 and never looked back, and I have my parents to thank for raising me to know how to take care of myself. I couldn’t fathom being like some of my friends who ran home to their parents for every little “problem” they had. I knew my parents were there if I needed them, and when I actually did have some major problems, they were there to offer guidance and help. I know my boys know that I am here if they need me, and that I am never more than a text or phone call away. I had SO much fun when I was their ages — I was busy with working and my friends and parties and tanning and dates. I’m thrilled that the boys will have the chance to experience their early adulthood just like I did — independent and happy and healthy. It’s just how I plan to experience the empty nest. Time marches on, we all just need to march along with it.