One of the benefits of the empty nest is that when you clean a room, other than the kitchen, it stays that way for days or even weeks except for the dust that settles there.  For you young moms with little ones, that fact sounds like nothing more than a fairy tale and for you moms of tweens and teens it sounds as unlikely as understanding quantum physics!

But I can assure you it will happen some day.  For the most part I enjoy this new sense of order in my house, having battled and lost the war of teaching my kids to keep their rooms clean.  I enjoy walking by their now-empty bedrooms and seeing beds made, pillows neatly plumped, and floors inviting safe passage.

Today, however, my daughter’s room is rather messy and I’m leaving it like that for a while. My youngest and only unmarried daughter came home for Easter weekend and her room came alive again. I enjoyed the sound of her old and very loud ceiling fan, her stereo playing some CDs from high school, and her footsteps echoing on her bedroom floor above the kitchen.  She left her bed unmade every day and I loved it. She deposited her towel over the stair railing and I left it. She covered her floor with the contents of her suitcase and it was a lovely sight. Her room was alive again with her presence.

During her stay, she messed up the kitchen making her famous pound cakes, left her flip flops in front of the couch, and found various surfaces for her laptop and books and purse.  We cleaned the screened porch from all the spring pollen and invited over several of her high school and college friends for desert and coffee.  Dennis and I sat in the living room and listened with delight to the familiar sounds of girls giggling and laughing. Our whole house was touched by her presence.

When she left for the airport after three terribly short days, she apologized for not cleaning her room up more.  I said I didn’t care and I meant it. I wonder if it ever occured to her that I’m the same mother who used to ask her to pick up her stuff all the time.  Now I’m wanting her things in sight, her fan and light left on, hoping she’ll return soon and breathe life back into this house.

Knowing what’s ahead when you are still raising a house full of kids who could care less about their rooms gives a mom a moment’s pause to remember to enjoy the presence of her kids, but then some crisis or argument breaks out and the savoring is gone, replaced by the urgent challenge at hand. But perhaps understanding what we empty nest moms feel from time to time will help younger moms better appreciate the situation their own mothers face in their empty nest years.  Or it might help with a mother-in-law  who seems to call too often.  Maybe these moms are like me, just missing their kids.