I’m hunting for another symbol besides “empty nest” to describe this part of my life after my kids have grown and left home.
I’m a single parent, and single parenting via divorce means I exposed my son and daughter to trauma they didn’t bargain on. Honestly, after we moved I doubt they thought of their new digs as a place of comfort. It meant their lives had been uprooted and irrevocably changed.
Even after we got ourselves together, more or less, and I tried to give them a stable home, I never thought I was creating a “nest.” I was just trying to survive. I didn’t receive all that much nurturing, so the “nest” image wasn’t working for anybody in my house. (But the three of us have turned out pretty well, so something did.)
Perhaps Jesus helped us understand the “nest” as a symbol of protection when he said about Jerusalem, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings….” (Matt. 23:37 NKJV). You could say I was creating an emotional “nest,” but that doesn’t do it either. I wasn’t a parent who tried to protect her kids from the world; I thrust them out into it as much as I could.
But that image works for plenty of parents to describe their feelings when children leave home. Symbols carry emotional weight; that’s why they have staying power in our language and imaginations. But I wonder sometimes if we get so locked into a meaning we don’t realize when it may be inadequate.
I need a new symbol. Any ideas?