The Empty Pantry

Last week we dropped our younger son off at college. He’s a freshman at a school in Louisiana, a plane ride away from home here in Colorado. Our older son is a sophomore at a college in Philidelphia, an even longer plane ride away.

Time Flies

As trite as it sounds, it’s true. Time flies. The boys were in elementary school when I started writing and sharing recipes and healthy living tips here. Now they’ve flown the coop and the pantry is empty.

Cookies for No One

Who will I bake cookies for? Cookies for no one? My neighbors? So far folks in the ‘hood have gotten a lot of goodies and my husband is doing his share of cookie-consuming as well.

Two Decades of Hands-On Parenting

Two decades ago, on Labor day weekend, my older son was born. So our hands-on parenting is now wrapped up in a neat bundle of exactly twenty years. There’s still lots of distance parenting. We speak with the boys every weekend to check-in and offer our support. And I send care packages often.

The Empty Nest

I have so many feelings about this empty nest phase of life. I was sad to say goodbye to the boys. It was a physical feeling more than an emotion, like my heart was walking straight out of my chest. Additionally, I’m proud of them, and happy they’re entering this next phase of their lives. They’ve handled everything so smoothly and that gives me incredible joy. Oddly enough, I felt relief in launching them as well.

I Didn’t Mess Them Up!

The first part of my relief was a major exhale, “Wow, I didn’t mess them up!” If you’ve met me more than once, you know I’m a very neurotic Jewish woman with plenty of stress, trauma, and autoimmune disease in my background. My family has its fair share of Holocaust anguish in our lineage as well. Looking back, I’m relieved that the work I’ve done on myself over the years has cleared much angst from our family system and that a fair amount of this cycle has been successfully interrupted.

Relief from the Parenting Marathon

My next sigh of relief was physical, as in, “Whoa! I’m really tired.” This hands-on parenting thing takes a lot of physical energy. While the boys were growing up, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s, Celiac Disease, and the BRCA genetic mutation. Energy has often been in short supply. So the second part of my relief was that I will have more time to look after myself.

What’s Next?

Before I had the boys I subscribed to the New Yorker and read voraciously. By the time I had two children under the age of 1½ I let go of that subscription. It was all I could do to read our local paper every day and keep up with the Sunday New York Times. Now I’ll also get back to my creative writing practice. After I graduated from Columbia, while I was working in environmental consulting full time and teaching yoga nights and weekends, I took a creative writing class at NYU. I also took one at Naropa when the boys were really little, just to get out of the house and have a bit of time to myself. Additionally, I’ll keep working to provide you with free healthy, low-carb recipes here!

Do You Have an Empty Nest?

Are you dealing with an empty nest? If so how do you cope? Leave a comment and let me know! Also, since I have more free time, I’d LOVE to hear which new recipes you’d like to see here on the blog!

Elana thank you for all you have contributed to all of us. Your journey is amazing and I feel so privileged that you have shared so much with all of us.


89 responses to “The Empty Pantry”

  1. Oh and Elana thank you for all you have contributed to all of us. Your journey is amazing and I feel so privileged that you have shared so much with all of us.

  2. Elana, The empty nest gets better. My daughter lives on the east coast and does come visit as often as she can. It is a joy to watch her live her life and make her way in the world and know in our hearts we were really good parents. But that little empty corner in your heart hidden away never fills in… sorry. I still miss that wonderful child and running her around and being room mom and bruising those cheeks with all my kisses. Maybe someday I will have grandchildren and get to relive those precious moments. But I do pop the buttons off my blouse knowing she is an adult to be proud of and my husband and I did our best… in raising our beautiful daughter.

    • Sandy, you are a fantastic writer! I absolutely loved reading your comment and I’m so glad we are on this healing path together :-)

  3. I don’t have a typical empty-nest where my kiddos have gone off to college. But I do, for the first time, have two kids in elementary school all-day. From a stay at home parent’s perspective my world has just taken a complete 180. But I was prepared for this and am ready to find out what is next for me. I am planning on doing more self-care, more mindful meal-planning and cooking. I’ve also joined the Board on my children’s PTO, and it feels good to be contributing in such a different way.

  4. Hi, I’m sitting in the hospital where my daughter is sleeping. She’s 24years old and has been hospitalized for 3days. She has a rare genetic disease named CGD and also Crohn’s disease that was brought on by the CGD and has gotten a severe infection in her foot.She originally refused to go to the hospital which we now realize could’ve cost her her foot! Young adults, (God bless them) often feel they have to fight for their independence. I don’t think I’m a hovering parent but still my 20 something children are often struggling with rhis. It just doesn’t get any easier! I heard this described once like this; your kids reach an age and think that you’re a jerk and you think they’re a jerk, and it’s nature’s way of making it easier when they move out!

    • Lisa, I’m so sorry to hear about all that you and yours are going through! Thanks for sharing your story here :-)

  5. Empty nest here as well – mixed feelings about it! Both of my kids chose out of state schools – Portland for one & we dropped our son off in CO (Boulder) late last month. Thankfully both are great paces to visit!

  6. Tip: Go clean/scrub down his bedroom closet bathroom and tell yourself: one less large man to clean up after. Make sure you handle the sweaty clothes, too. You’ll feel a little better. Elana I wrote on your Instagram about the Disney/ Pixar short film clip in theatre ‘Bao’
    only watch this alone with time for a good cry. It’s beautiful

  7. I understand how your feeling cos the nest will be quite till they are back on holiday. But it is for the best ,my daughter has just graduated from college while my boys are leaving for college as well. Parenting is not easy and so far they have not disappointed me. I would love you to suggest a soluble fiber for me apart from psyllium husk. Thanks

    • Masua, thanks for your kind words. I love flaxmeal in hot water. It provides both soluble and insoluble fiber. I have an amazing recipe for Flax Tea on pg 121 of my third book, Paleo Cooking, which you can get here:

      Have an incredible day!

  8. Thanks for sharing all of this! My heart grieves and celebrates with you! My oldest is in her sophomore year in high school. Her volleyball schedule is intense and requires SO much of my time and energy. I have found myself resenting all the travel and then I remind myself how quickly this will all be over! She’s asked me to still drive her to practice even when she gets her license. We will see how long that desire holds. ha, ha!! I look forward to your new recipes and I know I’ll enjoy hearing all about where this new road leads you! Hugs, Momma!!

    • Chrissy, thanks for your lovely comment! Your phrase, “I grieve and celebrate with you!” encapsulates this experience perfectly! Hugs to you :-)

  9. Hi elana

    Im not an empty nester yet my son is still quite young but i just wanted to say i can imagine it must be very diffacult:(
    I’ve been following many of your posts & recipes and your an amazing person and especially mom to your boys. Im sure your boys will miss you dearly as well. …..i wish you and all the wonderful mom’s who have commented here get through this tough time?

    • Nat, what a wonderfully empathic comment! You are a truly special person and I’m so lucky to be on this healing journey with you :-)

  10. As a single parent, the empty nest (empty NEXT — career) was devastating and I thought life was over. BUT, for married couples, many married friends of mine, it was an opportunity to re-bond with spouses. The men would say: “I finally have my wife back!” Some men said: “When they turn 18 and graduate from high school, they better get into college, the military, a job that supports them, and into an apartment. We have done our job” Yes, time for personal interests, more self-care, total resets in many areas of life. The Bible talks of sending our children, like arrows, into the world, knowing that HE is the “7th Hand” that will cover them and guide them in our absence. KEEP THE FAITH! – you were/ARE a terrific mother, wife, and inspiration to many. Your children are aware of this, especially when they will encounter many other students who have not had the advantage of an Elana mother! God Bless you and your future.

    • Theresa, I loved reading your entire comment and especially the part about the empty NEXT. Thanks for your wise words :-)

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