Monday, October 12, 2009

Empty Nest? How far do you have to move?

By Jacqueline Wales

I’m the mother of five children, all of whom were raised by me in fits and starts.  Technically, the first one wasn’t raised by me at all beyond three months, and the second was raised by his father.

But by the time I was on number three, I was hitting my stride because I went on to have two more in my life, one of whom was my stepchild.  It’s a long story, and one I don’t want to go into here, but suffice to say, at some point or another, they all left home.

As a global nomad, I used to think the empty nest was a crock.  We had been picking up and moving for the last fifteen years, and it seemed every time we moved, a child went off to college.  It was quite funny, really.  The first time,we left Los Angeles for Paris, and my stepchild went to college.

The second time, we moved from Paris to Amsterdam, and the second one went to college.  The third time, we were already ensconced in New York City and when it came time for the youngest to leave for college we were considering moving back to California.  She was not amused.

My youngest always felt I was ready to boot her out the nest years before it was actually time.  She wasn’t far wrong.  She was the most challenging of my children emotionally, and there were times!!!

I think I really hit a home-run though when I told my then 12 and 15 years olds that I no longer wanted to be a Mommy-Mommy anymore. With great dismay, they asked what I meant by that.  I said I was no longer interested in PTA’s, dinner on the table every night at a certain hour, and showing up every time they needed me to do something for them.  I would decide on my own terms what I was willing to do.  At that point, I was writing a book, and that seemed more important to me.  After all, I’d devoted a great deal of my time to raising the girls, and I was ready for a break.

So when it came time to finally say goodbye to my daughter at Hampshire College a few weeks ago, I was overcome with the emotion of saying goodbye to her.  “What is this?” I thought.  I was ready to have an empty apartment, to stay focused on my work, and in a way, nothing would change.

But it did.  She was no longer available to bother me with her “don’t speak to me,” attitudes.  Her “I’ve just woke up,” complaints, and her dirty dishes in the kitchen instead of being in the dishwasher.  My mother used to say to me “What do you think this is, an hotel?” and I felt the same way.  She was hardly ever home except to eat and sleep, and she usually did the last part for at least 10 or 12 hours!

So the empty nest!. What was that?  No more kids?  Well, I took care of that immediately.  I hired a new full time assistant.  He’s 26 years old and he’s working in my daughter’s bedroom next door my office.   He doesn’t argue with me, and he doesn’t leave his mess all over my apartment.  I like this.  Plus, he’s a terrific worker and I’m getting a lot of stuff done that I didn’t have before.

But just in case I get lonely, my daughter seems to be coming home every other weekend.  I keep asking why?

Jacqueline Wales is the author of The Fearless Factor and When The Crow Sings.  She has been motivating women for over 30 years and is currently Founder and CEO of The Fearless Factor motivational programs.  For more information go to or pick up a copy of her book at

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  1. Your honesty is humor. When my nest became empty, I quit cooking--most of the time. Yet when I hear my daughter is coming in for the weekend, the pots and pans come out and I am preparing all her favorite things.

  2. Love how you hired a young person to empower your upward spiral, Jacqueline - love yr humour too. You will enjoy my song, 'Empty Nest Blues' on my blog - (+ songs like Gravity, on wrinkles). I would love your comments! - visit thank you and enjoy! We uplift each other.