Cara Sue Achterberg: Filling My Empty Nest

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My 16-year-old got her license. Which means that I find myself at home more. This is the kid who has always had practices, rehearsals, lessons, meetings, and shows that fill up her days, and until this week, filled mine with chauffeur duties. I didn’t anticipate how much her getting her driver’s license would alter my own days.

Filling up the unused hours will be no problem for me, but facing the further emptying of my nest created by my daughter’s independence is another thing. My oldest left for college this past fall, which leaves only my baby – a six-foot-tall 13-year-old who is itching for his own independence and has taken to walking upwards of ten miles in a day exploring our countryside and town with his buddy.

Maybe I knew this was coming, even if I didn’t verbalize it. At least that’s my husband’s explanation for why I began fostering dogs last winter and have steadily increased my involvement from fostering one adult dog at a time, to entire litters of puppies for weeks on end. I thought nothing of applying for a kennel license when our numbers went above 25 dogs per year and the County laws required it and didn’t hesitate to rearrange furniture to accommodate a third large dog crate in our living room. Who is this woman?

To his credit, my husband has been supportive on the dogs and mute on the reason for the dogs. It was only when I mused, “Maybe I’m taking in all these puppies because I miss being needed by my kids,” that he said, “Ya think?”

He humors me. That’s why we stayed married.

For so many years, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, but productive, working in the trenches of raising three kids with no end in sight. And then seemingly out of nowhere, the finish line appeared.

I can just make it out on the horizon there, beckoning me.

I can’t imagine days when I won’t have to plan a real dinner, fill my cabinets with Cheezits, grumble about the belongings left on the counter or trip over several pairs of large sneakers when I enter the house. But maybe it’s time to start envisioning that life. The life where I can cook anything I want, instead of something they will eat.

Of late, I’ve pretty much given up the fight in terms of getting anyone to help with the cleaning, or even the dishes. I have no idea where the me went who made lists of chores and filled the kitchen chalk board with meal assignments and pet care duties. She seems to have run off into the night somewhere and whenever I run into her and ask, she says, “Oh, they’ll do those things when they have their own place. I’m tired of nagging. I don’t want that to be my legacy.”

Instead, I’m putting my caregiving and training efforts into random dogs who enter our lives for only a few weeks and hopefully exit our lives happier, healthier, and a little closer to being housebroken. Basically, I’m still raising children – just on a smaller scale.

After all, that’s the same goal I have for my kids when they move out, right? We all want to raise kids who are happy, healthy, and more or less, housebroken.

#emptynest #parenting #fosterdogs

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On January 27, 2016

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