When I was in my third trimester of my pregnancy with my son, just about 19 years ago, I went a little crazy in my nesting phase. I washed the precious baby clothes several times in anticipation of the baby’s arrival. I vacuumed incessantly. I was in graduate school and desperate to finish my papers at the end of the semester and complete my grading. My then-husband didn’t quite know what to do with me as this was nowhere close to my usual behavior, and by “nowhere close” I mean I was a slob.
One Saturday morning just before I went into labor, I stood in the middle of our large kitchen on the verge of tears. He had just mopped the floor a couple of days before, and I was soooo upset that he wasn’t mopping it right then. Again. To appease me he got busy mopping. He asked me why I was so worried about it, and through my tears I sputtered, “Because what if we never get a chance to clean anything ever again after we have the baby?” At that moment I actually believed that. (This turned out to be a fairly accurate prediction.)
The nesting instinct is a powerful one. It compels us to prepare a home for something new.
No one is more surprised than I am to find myself “re-nesting” now. I have my moments of stereotypical empty nest syndrome. I miss my son who is quite happily enjoying his freshman year at a nearby university. Some days my apartment is too quiet without him. I see pictures of my friends’ kids at ball games and miss going to my son’s games and watching him cut up with his friends. These moments are fewer and farther between than I would have expected, though.
After a whirlwind year–a career move, relocating to a different city, my son graduating from high school and starting college, the loss of my grandmother, and the end of a relationship–I was anticipating the angst of the empty nest. I was also looking forward to life slowing down a little and a little more peace and quiet. I wasn’t anticipating, however, how much I would love nesting again.
Nineteen years ago nesting was about preparing a home for a new little person. Now this re-nesting seems to be about preparing a home for another new person . . . me. I’m the new person. Pretty much everything in my world is different and new, so I get to decide exactly what I want my nest to be. For the first time ever, I am compulsively keeping my closet organized. I do the dishes as soon as they get dirty. I keep my clothes picked up. The top of my kitchen table is free of clutter. These are such foreign concepts to me that I’m sure anyone who knows me must think there is someone else ghost writing this right now.
Besides putting my domestic life in some kind of order, I have been staying at home. I’ve spent so many years chasing after my son and investing myself in so many parts of the community and in my career that I have forgotten how nice it is to just be at home and at rest. I’m a social creature, but I’ve always had an introverted side that has been malnourished for a long time. Staying at home is nourishing my quiet self in a way it hasn’t been in years. I revel in the quiet and order. All of the fervor and activity of 2014 took its toll, and now I get to rest and process all of that by filing, organizing, reading books, lingering over The New York Times on the weekends, and thinking about my shifting priorities as I enter this next phase of life.