7 Surprising Upsides to an Empty Nest.

They are gone. The last kid is safely back at college. The extended family back in their appointed homes. And the silence is deafening.

My daughter’s laugh is infectious and nothing makes her laugh more than playing Super Mario Brother’s with her brother. One minute they are laughing hysterically and the next they are bitter rivals. This is the magic of the holidays. Sibling rivalries reignited. My son insisting that there was only one night to set up the Christmas tree with his sister (family tradition) so they stayed up on Thanksgiving night putting the tree together to surprise me in the morning. It’s amazing that the act of service is so much more important than getting a new Rolex. My Christmas was made that morning when I walked out and the tree was light up and decorated with all milestones of my two kids. Think about how this applies to work. Making sure you get your annual budget in on time or perish the thought “early”. Your coworkers will appreciate the service as opposed to a new company logo t-shirt.

Two weeks ago we couldn’t find enough chairs in the house. Eating breakfast was in shifts or sitting on the couch balancing a plate on one knee. The dishwasher ran three times a day. The bustle and hub bub hummed. Visiting with nieces, I see at best, once a year. Catching up and reminiscing over childhood stories with my two older brothers. Looking at photos from the trip to Minnesota where my history loving father was in search for evidence of Vikings and the fabled Kensington stone. Countless photos of three awkward looking kids pointing at mooring holes that could have been left by Leif Erickson. Criticism of my mother for her taste in children’s clothes and haircuts. Good fun. And now it is silent. Even the dishwasher is silent along with the dog.

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So now that the nest is officially empty, I have discovered some surprising gifts in its wake:

1. I have my dog to myself. I don’t have to share my dog, Baci’s, affection anymore. It’s all about me. She happily follows me from folding clothes, to writing in my office, and most importantly, to the kitchen in the hopes I will drop something. I have to admit I was getting jealous of her divided attention for the past few weeks. Do you have resources at work that you have to share? Make sure that when you have them back to yourself that you are showing them the gratitude.

2. There is space in the fridge again. I don’t need to be stocking whole milk for my son, Almond milk for my lactose intolerant daughter and buttermilk for an army load of pancakes. I can easily find things again. Including a cream container that was 6 weeks past expiration. Whew. Similarly, it’s such a relief to have last year’s files moved to storage.

3. I sleep through the night. My son is terrific at accomplishing all kinds of chores. I appreciate him taking out the garbage, emptying the dishwasher and creating culinary confections in my kitchen. The issue is that he does these chores in the wee hours of the night. Like 3 or 4 AM late. Invariably I hear the clang of pots or see the light under my door. Now, I finally have my sleep back.

4. No more midnight rides to Cook-Out. Every time my son is home, he has to commandeer my car for midnight or 2 AM runs to Cook-Out. It’s a local restaurant chain that is not available in Miami, where he goes to school. I know this by the telltale signs of a Cook-Out Styrofoam cup on the counter and my car seat on too much of an incline when I get in my car.

5. My kitchen counters are clear. My children seem to have amnesia when it comes to the location of the dishwasher and the garbage can. There has not been a change in the location of these items since we have lived in this house for almost 14 years. My morning was spent putting empty cups in the dishwasher and empty packaging in the garbage. Now I can rest assured that the counters are clear when I rise in the morning. It’s like moving into a new office, you suddenly know where everything is because you are the one who put it there. A clean slate.

6. We are clutter free. Two adult children and my extended family visiting for my parent’s sixtieth wedding anniversary meant jackets, laptops, phone chargers, cameras, shoes, coffee cups and two rental cars to jockey around. I lost my coffee cup and water glass several times. Now the Christmas clutter is all packed up (thanks to my amazing son who packed it all up in the dead of night!) and I know where my water glass is.

7. Silence. It can be deafening. But now that everyone is gone, there is a bit of Zen in the air. Peace. Time for reflection. Time to write. Getting my groove back. Think about spending some time just reflecting. Close the door to your office and just ponder.

We had a terrific family celebration and holiday. It was wonderful to connect with extended family and even better to laugh at old photos from our childhood and watch the faces of our kids as we relived family trips and occasions. But now that it’s all in the books? I’m happy to get back to the empty nest and ready to embark on 2016.

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