Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Empty Nest is Just Another Begining

by Amy Ruhlin

I ride shotgun as my husband drives south on a Georgia highway towards Atlanta. Day has turned to night, and I stare out the windshield at the steady glow of a star. Stability in the sky.
We’ve spent the day looking at houses, north of the city, towards trees and mountains and lakes. Towards possible homes for our newly emptied nest. Towards possible places to begin a third act.

It took me a long time to get here. To this beginning. To even wanting a beginning. I reveled in the glorious middle of my story for so many years, and I didn’t like it when I reached the end. I wanted it to continue.
We come closer to our suburb and the star disappears. I see the lights of Target, where we’ve shopped for the past 18 years. I see the red, neon open sign in the window of Kroger, where we pushed our babies in grocery carts, and bought them candy in the checkout lines. I see the lights of the dry cleaners where we’ve dropped off countless bundles of our clothes. I see artificial lights, but remember real love.

I thought our life here would last forever. I loved it all: swing sets in the backyard, bikes in the garage, crayons throughout the house. The sound of my children's voices. Everyday. My son was only one, and my daughter was 4, when we moved into our current home. I never thought I could leave it. I was too attached.
But those years didn’t last forever. Our kids grew up. They opened my heart and blew my mind and then they left. And though I am grateful and happy and free at last, I, like most parents, have struggled with the loss and grief of letting go. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve had to make a concentrated effort to move on. But somehow, despite all of the conflicting emotions, or more likely, because of them, the ending is turning into a beginning.

Today  I wasn't looking for backyards suitable for swing sets. I wasn't looking for neighborhoods full of children. And at times, what I wasn’t looking for scared me, and made me sad.

But then I saw porch swings. And backyard hot tubs. And gentle walking paths down to the water’s edge. I saw possibilities that we never could have considered when our kids were young. And I remembered the many things that we loved before we were parents.
Ageing brings the realization that there is always a beginning, a middle and an end. And that the only real stability is in the heart, down deep, where we store all the things we love.

I can’t wait to find our empty nest house. If you drive by, we’ll be the slightly graying couple on the porch swing, rocking it to and fro, reveling in our beginning.


  1. What a beautifully written post that captures so many of the emotions I am feeling right now. But what surprises me is that my nest has been empty for the past 5 years and it only seems to be hitting me now. I have waves of sadness. Perhaps it is because my kids live 4,000 miles away in my homeland, while I am still here in Switzerland, the eternal X-pat.

  2. You have touched my heart strings. My youngest is a senior in high school and I've been grieving for over a year. It seems that just yesterday, my life was so busy that I couldn't possibly accomplish my "to do" list each day. And now? Now I have limitless freedom, no one needs a ride, no need for volunteer's in the classroom, playgroups for 18 year old's don't require mothers to be present. I acknowledge my grief daily, and look for ways to get past it. Thank you for so eloquently describing the next beginning.

  3. Loved the post! I've got two grown biological daughters and two grown stepsons. The youngest turned 25 this week. I didn't experience empty nest the way a lot of people do. I literally had a ten minute "so THIS is what it's like when you're kids are all gone" moment. And apparently I have surrounded myself with friends more like me than I knew as none of us had any "longing" to have our children home once they left.