The Part-Time Empty Nest

As of a dozen days ago, all four of my sons have been in school full-time.  After over eleven years of having at least one child home with me for at least most of the day, I am now adjusting to being home alone for over six hours each day.

It feels good.  And it feels weird.

It’s good because really my little one was needing the stimulation of school and he is absolutely loving being a Kindergartener.  My role as a parent is to nurture my kids so that they can become gradually independent and emerge as fully-functioning adults.  Going off to school is a major early step in that process of becoming more independent and self-sufficient.  It also feels good because, after all these years, my crazy schedule can relax a bit.  Instead of trying to get chores done while one or more children goes behind me ransacking the room I just tidied so that it looks like raccoons have burgled the place, I can actually get things properly organised without having to have eyes in the back of my head.  Yesterday, for instance, I was putting our filing into our new filing cabinets and I had piles of documents all over the floor.  That would have been a recipe for a conniption had I attempted it while any of my kids were home.  The fact they are in for the full day also means I no longer have to run around at full tilt to get everything accomplished in the couple of hours I have before they return again.  Already that is making a big difference to my stress and exhaustion levels.  I am now building in breaks to my day where I sit down and actually have a hot cup of tea or a piece of fruit in the afternoon, breaks during which I also sketch and draw so as to have a bit of “me time” during the day.  I can actually go around the supermarket without it being a trolley dash and without constantly checking my watch.

The weird is the silence.  It is actually quite unsettling.  I am used to a house so noisy that the walls vibrate.  I grew up in a house full of people and hustle and bustle too so I think I am somewhat hard-wired to think of volume and chaos as being normal.  The silence feels abnormal.  At times I sing out loud to myself just to break the monotony of the quiet.  It is also weird and oddly uninspiring to make lunch for just one person.  And I miss the little horrors, their noise and their chaos, their wit and their laughter.

Then they come home from school and there are four lots of homeworks to oversee, four lots of letters from school to read, all while making the evening meal.  My once tidy hallway becomes a dumping ground for shoes and backpacks and lunchboxes.  The bickering starts.  The walls begin to vibrate again.  I am learning to look forward to my oasis of quiet each day that balances this out.