For some of us baby boomer mothers the image of an empty nest when our children leave home for college or career projects a period of longed for freedom and independence for ourselves. Others of us enivision a desolate, emptied out home and heart - leaving us with the dreadful sense that the most fulfilling and satisfying years of our lives are over.
I've imagined both scenarios at various stages of my kids' development. But, the balance of my feelings falls more on the sense of dread. Most days, I love having a house full of kids, and most days I'm certain that no future period of my life will surpass the satisfaction of raising my children. Is that why I keep diaries for my children? As an insurance policy against future loss - padding for the empty nest?
Open Nest in the Wall Street Journal. I was grateful for a fresh cultural metaphor with it's more hopeful spin.
"In a new twist in U.S. family life, the open nest is replacing the empty nest.
More young adults are returning home to live with their parents in their 20s, and — this is the twist —a surprising number of parents are content about it."
I'm grateful to author Sue Shellenbarger for naming the phenomenon taking place in my own home. My son, who spent his first college year away living in a dorm, just completed his sophomore year commuting from home and seems to be settled quite comfortably for the long haul in his basement pad on his king size bed.
My middle child, my daughter, just returned home to finish high school from two years away at boarding school. Having tasted independence and dorm life, she imagines commuting to college from home as well from her queen size bed with private bath.
That was a quiet year - when the two older children left my youngest home with us alone in our rapidly emptying nest. I realize now that I had nothing to fear. The nest was established. It was built to last with room for change, and so comfortable, that even if they leave from time to time, they will return. My open nest will never be empty.