Recently our youngest son went to visit his grandmother, who is staying with my brother and sister-in-law in Montana.
The trip was for a full week and we knew he would have a blast, as they are super when it comes to entertaining in their beautiful state.
We happened to be in Nashville, Tenn., visiting our daughter and so he flew out of the airport there.
As we began the drive home to Forsyth County, it sort of hit us that we were going to be home alone for a week, something that had not occurred in a long time.
In fact, we realized we had never spent more than one night alone at our home since our first son was born, some 23 years ago. Wow!
When you have four children so close in age, you’re lucky to have a night when you only have two kids at home. You don’t even let yourself consider what it would be like to have none.
Yet there we were. What would it be like? Would it be too quiet?
Well, I’m here to report there were many contrasts between being home with just Paul and home with teenagers and their friends. Here are some of the acute observations I made.
• The kitchen is clean in the morning.
That may not sound like much of a big deal, but it is. For more than two decades, no matter how spotless the kitchen is when I go to sleep, there are bound to be signs people were in the kitchen afterward.
Sometimes (especially for the last year or so) there are just some dishes in the sink and a bag of chips on the counter. Other times (when our daughters lived at home) there were huge messes and evidence of a late night cookie-making marathon.
There would be dried-battered filled bowls, sheet trays with baked-on burnt spots and sometimes items left out that should have been refrigerated. Those mornings called for deep breathing along with ample coffee.
• The entire house stays clean.
For mothers in particular, this is nothing short of revolutionary. There are no shoes in the middle of the family room. Beds stay made.
Dishes are where they are supposed to be, meaning there are not cups and bowls all over the house. Instead, they’re in the cabinets or the dishwasher. Wow.
• The grocery bill went down.
Teenagers — especially 6-foot, 5-inch tall boys — eat a lot of food.
In addition to not having to cook for him, I didn’t have to worry he wouldn’t like what we were having for dinner. In fact, I cooked things I knew he wouldn’t eat and marveled at the freedom.
How odd to only think about one other person when it comes to dinner, one of my favorite times of day.
• Lights and televisions stay off unless in use.
After two decades of following people around, turning off lights, I can tell you this is pretty awesome. Especially when thinking about the money we would save on our utility bill when we really are empty nesters.
I loved turning off a TV, knowing it would stay off. If I was gone all day, I didn’t have to think about lights and TVs on in empty rooms throughout the house. Victory!
• There is less laundry.
I was actually surprised I still had to do laundry, since in my younger days I fantasized about what it would be like not doing laundry for six people.
Doing laundry for six people means you do laundry every single day, several times a day. It never ends. Even if you’re sick or just tired, or sick and tired.
The week as pretend empty nesters I did only three loads of laundry, and that was partially because I changed the sheets.
• I didn’t have one text argument or teenage altercation.
That is something to celebrate. Not that our youngest gives me too much grief, (quick, knock on wood) but we do have the typical relays of texts about when he is coming home, is he eating dinner with us, etc.
The only texts I got from him during the pretend empty nester week, involved a few pictures of his Montana trip. How refreshing.
• Toilet seats stay down.
Husband has long since been trained. The 16-year old is apparently still in training.
The down side? Not really any to speak of from my point of view.
Paul did have to cut the grass and take both garbage cans down to the curb. Not a bad tradeoff for a week of the above mentioned perks.
To all of my readers with young children and babies: I always try to remind you that while you are in the trenches, you’ll blink and find yourself “home alone.”
Don’t rush it, but know there are plenty of good things about being an empty nester. Now back to reality …
Forsyth County resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.