Who is This Person I Have Become?

Empty Nest

Just the other night, I turned the corner into my driveway and it stirred a memory that took me back to those first few years of being married with very small children.  It had become a sort of ritual for me, a harried mother who would use the guise of taking the garbage to the bottom of my driveway as a “mommy’s time out”, once the children were tucked into their beds.  My neighbors probably scratched their heads as I  stood there for several minutes stretching, taking deep breaths of the night air and gazing at the stars.   Every young  mother can relate to this need to reconnect, if only for a moment, with the person who you once thought yourself to be, still are,  but have almost forgotten.

Quite often a remarkable thing would happen as I made my way back up the driveway.  I  would look at my house all aglow with night lights and sleeping children and I would think to myself……Who lives there?  Am I actually a real grown up now?  And how on Earth  did I land myself  in this responsible and conventional life after swearing it wouldn’t be so. Only a few moments later,  I would collect stacking blocks off the floor, fold laundry and focus on the tasks at hand,  these thoughts/questions receding into the background.

I have made my fair share of moves in my life. Early in my adult life  I had wistfully thought how nice it would be to have that constant home to return to.  But I don’t think I’d trade that now for the adventures and the lessons about learning to adapt, making friends, coming to understand cultural differences and remaking myself.

Some darn hard work, but mostly incredible good fortune has allowed my family to live in a lovely and comfortable home for the past ten years.  It has served us well….close to work, wonderful schools and in a beautiful, safe, sophisticated and resourced community.  In my mind I could justify the scope of my home with my kids living there and their friends always around.  It has been a meeting place for both of our extended families (because we could house everyone), many guests and we have consciously used it to host friends, neighbors and other community gatherings. Yes,  this house contains cherished memories from an important era in my family’s life but it is only one piece of our family history as my older children have lived in four other homes before this one and I in 12 homes or apartments before this.

Recently, as I walk past empty rooms (or even wander about in one of my absent children’s bedrooms),  I visit a time when the house was full of chaos and noise. Sometimes I startle myself  asking similar questions to the ones I asked of myself in the dark of those nights long ago.  Who is this person I’ve become?

Certainly,  I envision a place for my children that reminds them of their happy childhoods where they feel welcomed, cherished and loved.  I want this to extend to my larger  family, hopefully grandchildren and friends. But I also yearn to shed myself of that persona who had to dedicate so much time and energy to the maintenance ( for me, pretty darn unfulfilling) of a home which  now feels somewhat wasteful.   I wonder to myself if it is selfish to occupy the unused space….when I could focus on other ventures, including sharing resources and helping others.

So my spring plans include some renovations that I have been assured will help us in the resale of our home.  And my summer promises college kids returning,  a line-up of family and friends visiting,  graduation and confirmation parties, the hosting a bridal shower among other things.  I plan to read this blog for inspiration and I  plan to remind myself to step back one summer night,  take time to walk up my driveway, and ponder “should I stay or should I go?”  Will you join me in this discussion and possibly change my mind?

About Grown and Flown

Parenting from the Empty Nest
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7 Responses to Who is This Person I Have Become?

  1. A beautiful and poignant post. I have done that same walk to the end of the driveway. For many of us, our identity is tied up with mothering and our memories as a family infuse every corner of our home. When the family moves out it can be a huge adjustment. We live in a big home that we expanded when we married and merged two families — a total of six children. All but one have grown and flown and the house has become very big, but we still hang onto it because it is hard to let go of that history. Like you, we also are improving it…and we love it more and more with each improvement. My inclination is to keep the house but invest in making it more energy efficient so that we can always afford to heat and cool it. The kids love coming back here!

  2. janfanakapan says:

    I used to use the barbeque as a hiding spot – monitoring the steaks, even on a cold winter night, with a glass of red wine and just ‘me’ on the deck.
    Leaving your family home can be cleansing I suppose but I think the most important question to ask yourself is why you are going. Simply downsizing may not be enough, but moving towards the next dream might be.
    My sister used to move on a regular basis, making a huge mess of my phone book. I couldn’t understand how she could be so uprooted but then again, I would visit her in every one of her homes and she had the same pictures, favorite furniture, beautiful things. Every place was still her home – but each location gave her what she needed at that time.
    What do you need?

  3. I can certainly identify with the mommy time out moment. My children still live at home, but the nature of their need for me as a mother changes as they age. I find myself with a bit more time now and certainly asking who am I compared to who I thought I would be. Good luck with the renovations.

  4. Karen says:

    After living in our house for 14 years with five children that have all left the nest except for one, I have had all the same questions. What are my needs? Should we stay or should we go? Is this house significant or just a place where we have lived and we would be happy anywhere? Are we being extravagant? We were all set to down size and then our house didn’t sell and then we had a wedding to plan so we were forced to think again. Our children would say ” We understand why you want to downsize, we get it” and not always in such a positive tone. So with some soul searching I have decided that we will stay. We are going to continue to enjoy this time in our lives as once the downsize is made there is no going back. I always thought of it as my decision as I knew my husband would agree with whatever I felt was best and then we became more of a team. I like this as it is a much bigger decision than I previously thought and he agrees – let’s just relax, reflect and appreciate that we can stay a bit longer. Our kids are thrilled and I am too as I know I’m just not ready yet.

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