Un-nesting. Could it be Blissfully Real?

I’m constantly searching for material that dispels my internal anti-mantra, “You are a bad mommy. You shouldn’t be so happy that your children have left the nest. You are a bad…”

What keeps that inner nag going? Guilt? Self reflection? Stupidity? I suppose it doesn’t really matter, it is what it is.

In my latest frantic search, I came across a theory that I love. Un-nesting.

Suzanne Koven, M.D. writes in her story for Psychology Today entitled “The Un-Nesting Instinct“:

“Celia’s story started out sounding pretty familiar-a cliché almost. She was fiftyish and going through menopause and, in addition to the weight gain and hot flashes, she found herself irritable and sad. Her children, she told me, were a particular source of sadness. “You mean because they’re growing up, moving away?” I asked. ‘No,’ answered Celia, ‘Because they’re not.’‘”

WOW! You bet my interest was piqued – could I finally have an answer, and from a doctor, no less?

Dr. Koven continues: “This ‘un-nesting instinct’ is the opposite of what some women experience at the end of pregnancy when they find themselves scrubbing floors, straightening drawers and otherwise ‘feathering the nest'”

Could it be that my un-nesting instinct is just as potent as the nesting instinct? Are my feelings just as valid now as when I was pregnant and wanting to feather our little home with love?

She goes on to add: “At menopause a woman may find herself with a very different urge: to get rid of stuff instead of cleaning and rearranging it, to downsize.”

THAT’S IT! The validation I needed! Of course, Dr. Koven insists that her observation with Celia is just a theory, but WHAT A THEORY! I’m taking it as fact and going on with my bad self. And this Celia chick? My kind of gal.

Then there is this survey that further bolsters my mood:

According to a Del Webb survey (tip o’ the GN hat to Grace Curtis who found these stats for us!):

58 percent (of the Baby Boom Generation) say they are or were emotionally ready to get the kids out of the house. Males (70 percent) are significantly more likely to be emotionally prepared than females (55 percent.)

The older the Boomers become the more ready they are to clear the Nest. In fact 71 percent of the Boomers between 53-58 years old are emotionally ready to be Empty Nesters.

I am not alone.

And, best of all, I have some anti-venom for the “bad mommy” anti-mantra.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Do you find validity in the un-nesting theory? Are you one of the 58% that are or were ready for the empty nest? Is my “bad mommy” mantra correct?

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39 thoughts on “Un-nesting. Could it be Blissfully Real?”

  1. Well, my only kid, a cute little daughter is about to turn 8 and I am already counting down. In ten years she will be done with school, off to college and my husband and I will be boarding a 1st class flight to somewhere.
    We LOVE our daughter and we work hard so that she has a fantastic childhood and gets to have opportunities we didn’t have. But because we LOVE her so much, we want her to grow to be an independent person and I hope she will be.
    While I know I will cry myself to sleep when she is off to college, I will at the same time regain my independence as she claims hers. It will be beautiful, only ten years to go so that mommy and daddy can have some time for each other! 🙂

  2. I am in the midst of purging: school papers, clothing, STUFF. My husband and I have bought property out of the state in which we raised our kids; and we are planning to relocate within a few years. It’s exciting!

  3. Yes, we un-nested 5 yrs ago; sold our house & bought a small condo in a city 5 hours away from where our daughter & her family lives…we’re still close enough for visits but far enough away that we’re not IN her business every day; though sometimes she has felt that we deserted her and I miss her a lot, it brings to mind that old saying ‘how can I miss you if you never go away?!’ and I think it’s good to let our kids fly on their own, build their own nests.

  4. As a person who helps people “un-nest” for a living, I have to say I have had the most amazing experiences. My “day job” consists of professional organizing/aging-in-place/design consultant. And it takes all of those pieces to help my clients get clear about their next great adventure. SO fun and hope-filled. Thank you Gypsy Nesters for helping folks see it is “OK” not to mention exciting to follow one’s dreams!

  5. Part of my “un-nesting” process is purging items. Such as tons of the kids school papers I’ve kept for years! Not just projects, but math papers etc, in-case they needed them! ha-ha! Hand me down clothes saved for the next sister… Well, it sure feels good to do some of that un-nesting! And it gives me a sense of contentment to know that my children feel grounded enough to make their own lives, one near by, two in other states, each at least 12 hours in opposite directions!

  6. I was ready for our snot blowers to move out as soon as they were old enough to feed and clothe themselves. But Nooo, we had to send them to middle school and high school and even college. And they still came back home. So for there college graduation present I bought them luggage and threw away there beds, that way if they came back home they had to sleep on the sofa. That didn’t last for very long and now they are on their own. What’s funny is when I packed up all there school year books and trophies all the other stuff they in they’re old rooms and dumped off at their house they got mad at me, they didn’t want that stuff at their house, but they didn’t want it thrown away either! Kids!

  7. Yes – even with 4 still to leave we are getting ready to launch the 18 year old out of the nest by rearranging and paring down.

  8. If you did your job well as a parent, you should be happy to see your kids move on! Did you want to stay with your parents when you were young? We give our kids two things. The first is roots, the other is wings! I’m enjoying my empty nest!

  9. It seems to me that life is more “flowing” than about hard divides : nesting and unnesting. Of course, they are very admissible concepts; but that it excites one to implement in practice, or not, or to what extent, is a cultural matter.

    The Indian way would always keep the family meaningful to the children, wherever they might go and howsoever they choose to live. They are always welcome to their parents home, whatever their need or motivation. Sometimes it’s just so that may relive the child in them … and go back to their post to take on the world.

    On the other hand, we have the concept of “outgrowing,” which is more in the mind and in our knowledge. There is a more real dismantling of the sense of earlier attachments and ownership … a flowing out of the family memes, even while continuing to anchor the legacy in children’s expectations.

    It’s only after the final departures of the parents do they realise and accept that they can be children no more !

  10. Enjoyed the post! My husband and I are happy with it being just the two of us again. We feel our role as parents is to raise independent, happy, adjusted children. Now that they are on their own we can focus on our relationship and our hobbies – two keys to enjoying this new phase of parenthood, in my opinion.

  11. Yes! In preparation for the start of our empty nesting (youngest heads to college this fall), I’ve already started purging things from the house. It’s feeling too big, too empty and I’m longing for something smaller, cozier and more manageable.

  12. I’m an elderly gen-Xer / youngest baby boomer and I was struggling with the idea of selling our family home. That I work in a caregiving profession doesn’t help because my co-workers have told me I’ll be taking my kids’ house away from them; the very thing I was worried about. But then the kid sat me down to break the news: “I think I’m going to Canberra Australia for junior year. I hope that’s ok.” I had to resist packing his bag and renewing his passport the second after he made the announcement.

    1. Our son did something similar. Announced in his sophomore year that he was going to Africa to look for work as a pilot. He was surprised by our reaction, guess he was expecting us to freak out… we told him to go for it and it was a great experience for him even though he didn’t get the job.

  13. After several years of empty-nesting I have to admit, the idea of one of the kids having to move back home for any reason wouldn’t sit well. Hubby and I are enjoying the freedom. This is actually the first time we’ve been alone together as I had a daughter who was three when we married. We are enjoying this time of life 🙂

  14. I LOVE empty nest! Talk to my daughters all the time and enjoy their visits, but I truly adore empty nest. Happily purging as I type, too. Just chucked three folders of files a few minutes ago.

  15. This post came in perfect timing! There is nothing wrong w me feeling this way – ready to downsize when son is off to college and planning my next chapter of my life – if the hub does not want to follow I am ok w that too! 🙂 (I passed many career advance opportunities because hub did not want to move)

  16. I feel that way about having dogs. When we take him to the petsitter, I’m so happy he’s there. We’ve had dogs for 16 years now. I’m so ready to be free of the responsibility. Makes me wonder what kind of parent to kids I would have made. My dad was so happy when we left the nest. Now, I know why. Poor guy.

  17. Maube it depends on if you are still happily married, happily single or just a sad person. The happier one is being alone whether as a couple orvavsingle the easier it is to be ready to be an empty nester.

  18. Veronica,

    This is so right on. I've said that teenagers were made so that we wouldn't feel so bad when it was time for them to leave. Even though it was a bit tougher with the final bird to fly the coop, I was ready. And I want to toss out a lot more than just kids – downsize, downsize, downsize. Nice to know it the way to go!

    1. You’re right about the last one being tougher. For us part of that might have been that he was the easiest as a teenager. Guess he learned the boundaries by watching his sisters. Of course they say he was spoiled and we let him get away with murder.

  19. Great post. As a psychologist I can tell you that research indicates couples marital satisfaction increases after children leave the nest.

  20. Great post and the article is a great find. I fit the profile exactly. The day I went into labor with my first son, I found myself scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees (something I don't do when I'm not about to go into labor!). Then, two years ago, with our youngest a senior in college, I had an intense desire to divest us of our house in the suburbs and to downsize to a Center City apartment. Our son boomeranged for two months into our downsized space which I don't think any of us particularly enjoyed. I think it's true. We're hard wired to have them and launch them.

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