The Re-Emptied Nest

150 150 Kristin
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Dear Frances,

It seems like as soon as I get used to Ben being home from college for the summer, he’s back to school and I’m left with all kinds of conflicting emotions and a bunch of fruit rotting on the counter.

Even though we call ourselves empty nesters, the reality is that you and I both have college kids that still call our place home. And I in no way want to rush that! I love having Ben home. And this year, he left a good seven weeks before school starts. I was not prepared for that!  (The blessing and curse of having an internship.) Will he come home for summer at all next year? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

I’ll admit that it’s an adjustment when he shows up for the summer and I leave what I think is a two-night meal in the fridge and it’s gone by morning. Or when he stumbles downstairs at noon when I’m halfway through my workday. Or when you can hear him gaming at 2 am. But I get used to that and am just happy to have his presence around the house again (except the part where he brought home covid).

It’s a whole mental and physical adjustment when he leaves again. Is it easier? Yes. Are there leftovers? Definitely. But a bit lonelier? Absolutely. And now that he’s the only kid coming home for the summer, I’m very aware these summer visits are limited.

Don’t get me wrong, Gary and I are quite happy in each other’s company. We have fun, it’s cheaper to eat out, and hey–we’ve got the dogs! But honestly, I miss having a kid around the house and am already looking forward to his next visit home.


Dear Kristin,

Will left for Clemson on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I wandered around the house, enjoying its perfectly ordered emptiness. Maybe it was callous of me; maybe I should have occasionally collapsed in fits of weeping. But the fact is, the house was as clean and uncluttered as it’s been since May, and this isn’t Will’s first flight out of the nest. 

One of the reasons the house looked so nice in Will’s wake is that his girlfriend, Sophie, came to stay with us on Sunday and Monday before she and Will shoved his things into her Cherokee Jeep and headed south. They’ve been dating since spring semester, and they seem to be in constant conversation; when Will was off work this summer, he was on the phone with Sophie.

One of the things I love about having company is that it forces me to deep clean, and deep clean I did. One of my favorite things about saying goodbye to company is that I’m left with a sparkling house (and usually a few tasty snacks leftover from the festivities). In this case, I was also left with Will’s bedroom transformed. All the clothes covering the floor all summer? Gone. The whiff of Chick-fil-A that wafted into the hallway after he got home from a shift? Gone. The wet towels, super-sized styrofoam cups still halfway filled with sweet tea, and the never-made-bed? Gone, gone and gone. 

So, no, I’m not feeling weepy or nostalgic, as much as I loved having Will here all summer–and I really did love having him here. I’m feeling light and airy. I’m feeling life simplified. I feel closer to my goal of doing big grocery shops every other week.

I’ve been thinking that there are stages of empty nesting, and we’re in Stage I, where the nest is mostly empty, but the offspring (or at least one of them) still return on a regular schedule, which is to say summer and the winter holidays. Stage 2 is when they summer elsewhere, but still come home at holidays, and Stage 3 is where the nest stays empty, and we go visit them in their nests. I wonder if I’m right about that. Darling readers, what has your experience been?

Off to skate sock-footed through the upstairs hallway!


P.S. Sophie was a delight! We’re trying not to get too emotionally invested at this point, which is hard, since we really like her, and she and Will are such a good fit. Still, they’re young, and there’s no way of knowing how long this will last. 

1 comment
  • Vicki Holloway

    Yes the college years were the times of intermittent visits home and as the kids got older that became less and less. Jobs took some out of the state, others jobs that worked over the breaks. Then the kids get their own relationships and homes then maybe grandchildren. It got easier to say goodbye and I do go and visit because it’s easier for me to travel and the money is a factor for them to see me.

    I must be in the last phase now as it’s been 10 years since my youngest graduated from high school. I am planning in the deep closet purge of the kids former bed rooms now in prep for the day we retire, sell our current home and move to our aging in place home. That won’t be for several years but with an empty nest it takes me longer to complete projects and work full time.

    Love the converstions!

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