Refeathering NOT Empty Nesting

We dropped off our twins off at college this week.  For the first time since September of 1994 there are no children living in our house.  My husband and I have had countless people comment to us over the past few weeks about how we would soon be empty nesters.  The more I hear the term empty nester though the less I like it.  Webster’s Dictionary tells me the term was first used in 1962 and means “a parent whose children have grown and moved away from home.”  I’m good with that.  I think my problem is with the word “empty.”

Webster’s definition of “Empty”:
1 a : containing nothing
b : not occupied or inhabited
c : unfrequented
d : not pregnant
e : null
2 a : lacking reality, substance, meaning, or value : hollow
b : destitute of effect or force
c : devoid of sense : foolish
3 : hungry
4 a : idle
b : having no purpose or result : useless
5 : marked by the absence of human life, activity, or comfort

I don’t know about you, but when I read the above definition, there seems to be nothing positive about this word (that is with the exception of “not pregnant” which for me at my age is a very positive thing indeed.) When people ask, “Whatever will you do with yourselves now that you’re empty nesters?”, it seems the focus is on the “empty”.  My husband and I are choosing to focus instead on the “nest”.  Our “nest” is still occupied and I am also happy to say there is nothing about my life that could be defined as “empty” right now.

Instead of empty nesting, my husband and I have agreed we are entering a phase of refeathering our nest.   Refeathering is about growth and rebuilding, not emptiness.  This refeathering has both physical and mental health components.   Physically we are using the extra time available in our days to eat more healthily, exercise and continue to get into the best physical shape we’ve been in in years.  We also plan to declutter our home even more so that we are not bogged down by having to care for excess stuff.  Mentally, we are using our new found time in our days to get additional sleep and to exercise our minds by studying topics of interest to us. Refeathering is about recharging our physical and mental batteries so we can be the best for ourselves, each other and others in our lives.

Nests, like feather pillows, tend to lose feathers over the years and we are in the process of replenishing our nest to make it stronger and more supportive.  Refeathering is active and important work and there is nothing empty about it.    I always expect my nest to be full, it will just be filled differently at different stages of my life.   So, if our paths cross in the next few months please don’t ask me about being an empty nester.  Instead, please ask me how the refeathering is going.


17 Responses to “Refeathering NOT Empty Nesting”

  1. Janet Greene August 22, 2013 11:29 am #

    Great take on this subject. Our “nest” has never been empty – just filled with different people and things over time.

  2. Amy Mayr August 22, 2013 11:39 am #

    Love this. Can’t wait to pass it on to my other “refeathering” friends…

    • Andrea Sharb August 22, 2013 8:44 pm #

      Glad you liked it. Thanks for passing on to your friends!

  3. Ellen August 22, 2013 8:15 pm #

    I love your posting.

    I never related to, or liked, the term “empty nest,” yet I never gave it much thought as to why. You illuminate so well the reason why the term has such negative connotations, in a way that makes sense to me.

    Once my children went away to school, my home had fewer people living in it full time, but my life wasn’t “empty” because they were away. I’m so pleased that my children are moving forward, enriching their experiences and lives. It’s my intention to continue to evolve, help them and others, and move forward, also. That’s what life’s about.

    • Andrea Sharb August 22, 2013 9:30 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Ellen. I really appreciate your comment “It’s my intention to continue to evolve, help them and others, and move forward” and agree that THAT is really what life’s about.

  4. Ellen Faye August 23, 2013 7:57 am #

    Love this Andrea. I’m right there with you – except I have one more year to go until we get to our re-feathering phase. While I’ll miss the kids I know they will come home and leave their dirty dishes in the sink and and an empty bag of snacks on the coffee table… all that stuff. But, really our job was to prepare them to go out into the world and that is what is supposed to happen. I too am looking forward to our next phase. All good. Enjoy!

    • Andrea Sharb August 23, 2013 11:37 am #

      Thanks Ellen. Totally agree with you. Two days into refeathering I have to admit it is really nice not having to deal with the endless stream of dirty dishes and clothing strewn all over their bedrooms. : ) Enjoy your year, the “next phase” will be here before you know it!

  5. Linda Samuels August 23, 2013 8:41 am #

    What a beautiful perspective and attitude to share, Andrea. There are many transitions times in life like when the kids leave the nest. However, as you’ve beautiful described, it doesn’t have to be negative. Instead it can be an opportunity for change, “refeathering,” and growth. I love the term you’ve coined to describe where you are and how you see this next phase. It’s wonderfully positive.

    Like you “empty nest” has always seemed sad. Who needs that? As a parent with two daughters that are in college and beyond, I like to think of the phase my husband and I are in as “revolving door empty-nesters.” There has been a lot of movement (kids coming and going) during these years. Mostly though, it’s been a unique and wonderful time for each of us. Growth all around.

    Wishing you all good things. Happy feathering!

    • Andrea Sharb August 23, 2013 11:44 am #

      Linda, Thank you for your comment and your good wishes. “Revolving door empty-nesters” brings a smile to my face and harkens to what Janet said below – “Our “nest” has never been empty – just filled with different people and things over time.” Anticipating that it will always be filled in one way or another allows one to be excited about what’s to come.

      • Linda Samuels August 24, 2013 3:16 pm

        And the nest definitely stays filled with wonderful people whether it’s more time with our friends, family, or returning kids with their new friends. Rather than empty, it’s more like a time of expansion. Quite beautiful and full.

  6. Sue Sharb August 24, 2013 3:51 pm #

    I certainly enjoyed reading your blog, what a wonderful outlook on the next stage of life. You are so right, we spend all those years preparing our children to be adults who can handle the “world” and it is exciting to see them go beyond their childhood into adulthood. I have always believed that is the responsibility of a parent and to have pride when they can make their own way. That just means we did our job well!

    • Andrea Sharb August 24, 2013 5:46 pm #

      Thanks for commenting Sue. I for one know that you did your job very well – keep refeathering!

  7. Lynn August 24, 2013 5:40 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I will definitely think about it when my last child goes off to school next year.

  8. Nancy Borg August 24, 2013 6:30 pm #

    Thank you for this post, Andrea. As an empty nester, I am thrilled to abandon that sad ship, and hop on board to join the new joyful club of “re-featherers!” I no longer consider it “empty, just “different.” I look forward to my children growing, marrying, and expanding their families, and the nest will be busier than ever before!

    • Andrea Sharb August 25, 2013 1:45 pm #

      Nancy, Welcome to the Club and congratulations on abandoning that “sad ship!”

  9. Lynne Poulton November 10, 2013 3:39 pm #

    What a most excellent perspective. Thank you for blogging. Here’s to refeathering! Enjoy!

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