When you're just starting to realize the freedom of an empty nest and your husband reminds you he's in it, too

I spent the last 22 years of my life taking care of my children, feeding them, clothing them, getting them to school, taking them to the doctor, buying school supplies, etc. In the later years a large part of that has been providing support in their activities - rides to soccer games for which I also purchased the cleats, shin guards, and goalie gloves... or rides to orchestra practice downtown. I made sure they were on top of their college and scholarship applications, took them to information nights at school, went on local college visits, and finally, did the FAFSA and the god forsaken CSS Profile for them (count yourself lucky if you don't know what it is).

While I did all this (and volunteered or worked half the time) my husband did his part in supporting us by working long hours at two jobs. He also maintained a healthy social life which involved about 18 different running clubs.

My social life, in comparison, revolved around soccer games and orchestra concerts.

My husband knows his running buddies actual names. I knew my companions only by their relationship to their kid.

So this past week, after I moved the youngest of our children into their dorm and took part in the ritual send-off, I drove back home fighting back tears all the way. I was so grateful for the opportunities my child has been given, but I also could not ignore how much I would miss her in my daily life.

Emotions came in waves - joy and gratitude making my heart swell so much it would burst... distress squeezing my heart back down to size... sadness breaking my heart into tiny pieces...

Eventually I had to recognize what this meant for me.

After 22 years of putting other people first in practically every aspect of my daily life, I could finally concentrate on myself (whoever that is).

This was it. I was retiring! Everything would change from here on out! No more driving people around just because they ask for a ride and it's cheaper than lyft or uber. No more thinking of what other people like before I cook (in fact, no more cooking for a while!). No more being nursemaid and chaperone and house manager and personal shopper.

I'm free! I'm off the clock! Or, as I am fond of saying,

"Dobby got his sock!"

Except... that I still have a dog, a cat and a husband.

Thankfully the pets are low maintenance. The cat can just be a cat... and the dog walks have introduced me to another whole set of companions that I know only in relation to their dog.

And then there's my husband...

I'm only now realizing that my husband has been looking forward to this time as well. While I am reveling in my new found freedom and thinking of what I can finally do for myself, my husband can't wait to use this time to focus on 'us'.

It is wonderful that my husband wants to be with me. It truly is sweet and adorable (and explains a lot). I'm sure we both could have done more over the years to make time for 'us'. And we still can. And we will.

But I'm gonna put my own oxygen mask on first this time.

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