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And Then There Were None. Becoming An Empty Nester . . . Again

One by one my adult kids came back home.

From their apartments on the East Coast and the Midwest.

Each one carrying a small duffel bag, filled with clothes they’d need for just a couple of weeks.

“My manager told us to prepare for at least two weeks working at home,” explained my oldest son, “but he said it might be as long as eight weeks!”

Eight weeks?! No way, that’s crazy. Can you imagine? And how we laughed and laughed, until the weeks turned into months and the laughing stopped.

My husband and I had been empty nesters for a few years, and might I say with a bit of a satisfied smirk, we were enjoying it. Sure, there was the initial sadness and loneliness when we sent our kids off to college, but we adapted. I started playing golf – a game my husband had always enjoyed, and now we were playing together and with friends. We traveled – I could now accompany my husband on his business trips, as I had been working remotely for several years. And we often visited our kids who all lived in fun, active cities. We were quite settled into and enjoying our newfound freedom and spontaneity.

And then March 2020 hit and they were home.

We were once again a family of five living under the same roof.

This was not the first time my boys had been home together. For summer breaks and holidays, they always returned home and often together. But this was different. I had adult children living at home and They. Were.Home.All.The.Time.

Did we drive each other crazy at times?  Come on, with five adults living together again literally 24/7, of course we did. The laundry. The lack of space. The insufficient Wi-Fi.  And don’t even talk to me about food bills.

I know there were times when each one of us thought, “I cannot take this any longer; this has got to end. Everyone just needs to go back home. We need to go back to the way it used to be.”

But we adjusted. Developed a routine. And for a mom who can’t get to sleep until all her kids are home safely, not having to wait up for anyone, ever, was ideal.

We watched movies I would never have watched on my own and laughed at repeats of the shows we loved when they were younger. We enjoyed long, leisurely summer dinners on the porch that led to interesting discussions about everything and anything. I discovered that my boys could cook and (gasp!) clean. We made it work. Pretty well, I might add.

Yes, we occasionally pushed the envelope. They had friends visit at times, in small groups, and we had the same. Staying mostly outside. No one got sick. We all survived, friends included, and I believe, we are all better for it.

We had fun.

And so here we are six months later and slowly my boys are returning to their other “homes.” Honestly, it’s hard. Harder, I feel, than when they initially left for college. Harder really than any time before. I don’t understand why, but it is.

I remember when my kids were little and we made an 8-hour car ride to visit my parents, no easy task with three young, rambunctious boys. And it seemed every time we left (no matter how well or not so well the visit may have gone), my parents would stand in the doorway, sadly waving goodbye, with tear-filled eyes. And I hated it. “Don’t cry,” I’d say. “Why the tears? You know we’ll be back!”

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And here I am, helping my boys pack their bags. My own eyes are starting to fill, and my stomach feels a bit queasy.

This parenting gig never gets easy, does it.

Mindy Gallagher

Mindy Gallagher is the Social Media Manager for Your Teen Magazine. She is the assistant coach for the girls’ lacrosse team for Solon High School in Ohio.

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