What They Don’t Tell You About Becoming An Empty Nester

S u m m e r t i m e ……..


…and the living is….


I have taken a self-imposed sabbatical from my blog and as much as it has affected me not to write for sometime, I just couldn’t. I fell off the wagon of sorts. I had so much going on in my mind, so much going on in my house and my regular life seemed to take a detour. Through the summer I realized that life is about detours, especially when you have children and aging parents or relatives.


Now I can write. Now I can get my life organized. I have officially become an empty nester! 

For the 10th time. 

Spoiler Alert! 

If you are a newly minted empty nester because your youngest child just started college or some new venture after high school, you may not want to read this. It might scare you though if you want to be prepared, you might want to read.

Yes, that is right. I am an empty nester for the 10th time.

Why? Here is the truth.

The nest is empty until they come back.

And they come back.

And not only do your kids come back but you may have other family members that need your help and come to live with you too. This whole empty nester thing is misleading. I watch everyone posting on FB about their new status and I smile to myself and think. Just wait. This isn’t as clear-cut as you think.

I remember the blog I wrote when my youngest went to college. My Baby Is Off To College

My emotions were all over the place. I was sad and reminiscent, feeling out of sorts because my life was about to change drastically. My plan for the immediate future included somewhat lofty goals. I would reinvent myself, complete years and years worth of projects that I hadn’t had the time for. I would take classes, make new friends and engage myself in work that I hadn’t been able to do because I was home raising my boys. We would reconnect as a couple without the distraction of kids in the house. I now wonder if my expectations were a bit unrealistic.

The first few months were invigorating and not as scary as I thought. I felt free and not as tied to a schedule, planning meals, shopping at the market and as each day passed, I adjusted a bit more to a quieter (and cleaner) house and began to embrace the experience. 


Here is the good news and the bad news.  

The good news is they come back. 

You miss them so much and this is a transitional time where they are not necessarily out of the home for good. They are in the house, safe and sound and you feel this relief they are under your roof again.

The bad news is they come back. You prepare yourself and them to be independent and away from the home. They embrace their freedom and independence. And then they come back to the place that represents their childhood. Their home offers comfort and includes their parents who have rules and advice and structure and they have been living on their own and not wanting that. Therein lies the struggle. They have changed, you have changed and there is no turning back.

Of course, I miss my boys so much and am always so excited to see them. After the excitement of our reunion wears off, realty sinks in. We must find a way to live together and it isn’t easy for anyone. We all need to adjust. I am pulling so hard to continue in my parental role, to save them from all the dangers of life and the mistakes they might make. They are pushing me away. Pushing me hard. Pushing to make their own choices and their own mistakes. 

In the last 3 years I can honestly say that many of my lofty goals have not been met. I realized my expectations were unrealistic. Between holiday breaks and summer vacations, I was an empty nester about half of the year, each year.

And here is the other thing no one tells you. Life happens. Your children leave and your parents or other relatives need your help. We are the sandwich generation. I had no idea what that was. I am caught between caring for my children and my aging parents. It is all a balancing act and continually causing a shift in priorities.


I became the guardian of my aging, autistic uncle and my father moved in to my home for months until he settled in a new home. Life is constantly happening and I have learned that uncertainty is certain, if that makes sense. 

Emotions tug at every turn. There were times that were stressful and times that were wonderful. The house is empty again which is bittersweet. I miss my chats with them over breakfast, lunch and dinner and having them close to me, where I know where they physically are.  Now I have to text or use the phone, unsure of their every move. That said, it is less stressful knowing their every move.

This time, I think we are all feeling good about being on our own.

I leave you with a brief summary of life in our house this summer. Maybe you can relate.

The Top 10 Things You Learn When Your Kids Return Home As Adults



1. Graduation from college often means you have a new roommate. And the roommate is your son.



2. Sleeping through the night….What’s that?

 I sit up in bed, heart racing as I am awoken by a loud sound. It is 3 am. The clanking and banging that wakes me up out a deep sleep turns out to be the boys returning home after a night of partying and they are dropping their phones on the floor above and making egg sandwiches in the kitchen.

3. Your alcohol is not your own. That beer you bought, your favorite vodka, all gone when you go to reach in the fridge or cabinet to make your favorite cocktail.

4. Your grocery bill triples, and if you don’t feel like cooking those nights out at a restaurant nearly bankrupt you with cocktails and food you wouldn’t have ordered for yourself.  “Just so you know, I am really hungry, so I am going to order a lot of food.”


5. Self improvement (apparently) becomes a priority for me.  I receive constant feedback on all my flaws and all the ways I could have done something better. 

6. Things are different today and I don’t understand anything. My comments are as annoying as a bug you are trying to constantly swat away.



7. I can’t focus. On anything. Routines change, priorities change and I keep hearing “I am not sure why you think us being home should change anything.”

8. Our deck is so wonderful that it is the perfect place to entertain. We find ourselves being asked to leave – find a restaurant to hang in while the kids party on the deck with their friends or dates. Can we come back yet? One night we return as the party is in full swing. Girls are lying on the couch and the floor, phone in hand while the guys are drinking beer leaning on the island. No one looks up as we enter. We are invisible. 


9. The house is in disarray. Shoes are scattered throughout the first floor, and drinking glasses, soda and beer cans become part of the decorI am now 3rd in line for the washer and dryer. Every time I go to use the washer/dryer it is filled with clothes and if they happen to be empty it means the clothes are in piled up like mountains of clothes in the bedrooms.  “What’s the big deal?”

10. In the midst of the chaos, there are also so many great moments. So, many things to be thankful for. I appreciate having the opportunity to see my sons develop into wonderful adults. It is fun hanging out with your adult kids. (It is especially fun for them when we are paying the bill.) We enjoy each others company and can laugh together. In the end, it is clear we each need our own space and our overall relationship seems better apart, living our own lives.

So, for now we get our house back. Until we don’t.

If you liked this blog share with others. I am guessing they can relate!


About Shari

I am a two-time cancer survivor and patient advocate. Diagnosed as a young adult, at age 25 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I had to quickly face the reality of life’s curveballs. My treatment offered a potential cure while at the same time, underestimated the long term side effects including a secondary cancer (breast cancer) nine years later. Shortly after my breast cancer treatment ended, my youthful, seemingly healthy mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and passed a year later. I have lived the cancer experience as a patient and a family member/ caregiver and understand both sides. Life after treatment is often challenging emotionally and physically and there is a gap in providing needed support. I don’t consider cancer a gift as it is not something I would ever want to give to someone. Rather, I view cancer as an opportunity; one I received at an early point in my life to live intentionally, understanding how things can change at any moment. I live without regrets, fully understanding the gift and fragility of life.
This entry was posted in empty nest, life in your 50's, parenting, Resilience and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to What They Don’t Tell You About Becoming An Empty Nester

  1. Your life feels a lot like mine was until just recently! Great post. Looking forward to more.


  2. edith kaplan says:

    shari, this is fantastic and funny and true. keep writing,love,edith


  3. Laura Brown Watkin says:

    Loved this – every word is so true! Can’t begin to count the times I was a practicing empty nester – this “real” time doesn’t seem real yet. So now that you can think – can we make a plan? 🙂 xo


  4. Pam Chick Paterson says:

    Great post Shari! So true! My 2 girls come and go like the wind!


  5. Pam Shepard says:

    You always make me smile. I relate to you so very much and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us all. Thanks for making my day Shari!


  6. Barbara Dab says:

    Great post. I like your Top 10 List, very accurate. My nest has been empty for awhile but, yes, they do come back. Sometimes for a short visit, sometimes as a place to crash in between. For me, it’s also a love/hate time. Love to have them around, hate the intrusion. I just try to stay the course of my own life and let them try to fit around me. It takes practice. Keep writing!


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