When our oldest moved out several weeks ago, I was finally allowed to come up for air after decades spent buried in the varied demands of family life. I am now seeing things without the filter that is kids and the chaos surrounding them. Phoebe got fat. Some scary looking hag now inhabits my mirror. My husband is no longer twenty-something. Our house, brand new when we moved in, needs a serious overhaul, and the wee bushes and skinny trees we planted require haircuts. At the age of 53, I am having to reinvent my life with a middle-aged man, two cats, and an elderly mother. Generally, I am not good with change, but I have discovered that empty nesting has some benefits.
For example, the laundry practically does itself these days. Five people means a lot of dirty clothes, especially when one of those people is a teenage girl. Laundry days meant trying to figure out how to fold thong underwear, checking the dryer for cats before turning it on (this only has to happen once and you are scarred for life), yelling at my daughter for having three weeks worth of clothes crammed in her hamper, and, on the flip side, begging my sons to change their socks and underwear a bit more frequently, preferably daily. Interesting how one sex overdoes it and the other thinks stains and wrinkles are a fashion statement. These days, I still have to check the dryer for cats, but there's no denying the laundry is much easier.
Although I still hate it and probably always will, grocery shopping isn't the chore it used to be, either. For one thing, the bill has been neatly cut in half. I no longer have to buy doubles of everything, like two packages of chicken or two packages of hamburger or two frozen pizzas. It's kind of cool to know that I can buy a week's worth of food without going into the triple-digits on the bill. But the best thing as far as I'm concerned is that I no longer have to account for differences in taste. My husband and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to food, but our kids were all over the map. The oldest hates vegetables and anything "crunchy". (But he loves sushi and raw fish, go figure.) The middle child was okay with veggies, but didn't like melted cheese, and I dare you to find me a "family pleasing casserole" that doesn't have gooey cheese on the top. Throw in our daughter, the on-again-off-again dieter, and it was enough to make me swear off cooking forever. Actually, I did swear...a lot.
The kids' rooms and their bathroom stay clean. I don't have to shut the doors to spare my eyes the sight of dust and chaos. Now I shut them to keep the cats from shedding on the beds and drinking out of the toilet.
I love how the kitchen, once I've cleaned up after dinner, stays tidy for the rest of the night; no more dirty dishes mysteriously piling up in the sink. And the dishwasher only has to be run and unloaded once a day, if that. Even the household trash has gone on a diet.
Less is more, and sometimes change is good.
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