Pros and cons of empty nesting, one week in

As I recall, it occurred to me sometime during my oldest son’s middle school years that the days of our living together as a foursome were numbered. I mean if you’d asked me, I would’ve given the sane answer of 18 years or so. But before that — in the trenches with babies and toddlers and elementary kids and the 1.874 million things that come to us in those trenches — it just never occurred to me.

The core four on a beach vacation in South Padre just before dropping Sawyer off.

Of course to think the foursome somehow ends at 18 is crazy talk — and thank god! When my kids were 8 and 5 or 12 and 9 or 15 and 12, I just had no idea what lay ahead. Although my nightstand was full of parenting books, to the exclusion of all the other gorgeous books available to me, this wasn’t something I prepared for. Is it just because we’re so in the moment, as kids pull us to be? Or is it because this is something we don’t talk about enough?

Maybe both. So, let’s talk about it.

My boys are 24 and 21. We had a shit ton of together time during COVID lockdown and now — as of a flight home from New Orleans to Dallas on Wednesday, Aug. 18 — we are empty nesters. Our youngest son has transferred colleges and is starting his new journey in New Orleans; our oldest graduated from college in Brooklyn just before COVID and is finding his professional and personal path here in Dallas.

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Flying home from college
drop-off in New Orleans

One week in, here are the pros and cons I see:


• There are no dirty dishes in the sink each morning from his midnight second dinners.

• Nobody bounds up the stairs at 3 a.m.

• The pillows remain on the couch as we leave them each night. Also there are no tennis shoes and dirty socks under said couch.

• There are no leftover containers stuffed haphazardly in our refrigerator.

• All the glasses are in the cabinet. (Parents of children still living at home, you may want to read that again because yes, one day you will be living this dream!)

• All the men’s socks that come out of the dryer belong to my husband. I’ve been dealing with sock ownership for at least a decade. At some point I just started putting them all in a basket on top of the dryer except for mine. This decision was not well-received by my husband, but self-care is important and I stand by my decision. My brain is now ready to receive things like algebra and how (allegedly) a cup of flour is different than a cup of water, I think.

• I bought everything I wanted at the grocery store for the week — at Whole Foods even! — and the bill was $129. OK I get my meat from a local farmer and our wine from a wine club but STILL.

• Nobody is here to finish off all the desserts (like the birthday lemon pound cake my MIL made me) that I love and don’t need.


• Nobody is here to finish off all the desserts (especially that lemon pound!) that I love and don’t need.

• Trash & recycling falls to us (I’ve negotiated an “I’ll keep doing all your laundry if you do all the trash” agreement with my husband so we’ll see how that goes).

• Our dog Sosa (who is really Sawyer’s dog) feels there are entirely too few people in the house to meet her needs.

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Sosa, waiting for Sawyer to come running up the stairs to their room.

• There is no one to go get the ice and beer for a small gathering we’re planning for Clyde’s birthday on Friday. (Also 35 other errands I likely need done and would rather send an offspring than face the Texas heat.)

• Sawyer won’t be here for the birthday party.

• Nobody brings me an extra taco from their lunch when I announce I’m eating at home (and am instantly filled with regret).

• Nobody in this house will notice when I color my hair tomorrow.

• We have half a watermelon in our refrigerator because we ate the other half on Sunday and Sawyer can eat his body weight in watermelon.

• I miss his face and laugh.

OK so it seems there are more cons than pros one week in. Still, it feels all is right with the world. Well, maybe not Sosa’s world.

This transition from the mom of children to the mom of adults didn’t happen when Noah or Sawyer turned 18 or when we dropped either of them off at college. Nor will it end when they pay for their own car insurance, ER visits, and phone plan (although honestly, I think the latter is complete fiction). As my brain is freed from the sock dilemma (and really will never do algebra or fret over solid or liquid measuring cups), I’m going to write about this transition in this space. I’d love it if you’d follow and share if strange land between 12 and ?? makes you laugh, drink, cuss, and cry. We’re all in this together and, honestly, it’s so much more interesting to talk about than nap times or baby’s first shoe.


About Dawn McMullan

Dawn McMullan is a freelance writer/editor in Dallas, Texas. Her two sons are now 21 and 24, Sawyer in college and Noah starting his post-college career, and both interrupted empty nesting during the pandemic. Dawn helps run a non-profit in Eastern Congo and is senior editor at the International News Media Association.
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1 Response to Pros and cons of empty nesting, one week in

  1. Kamber Doucette says:

    Oh the dogs waiting for their favorite person to return. This is perfect, you rock.

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