Before my husband and I got married, he moved out of his mother’s house and shacked up with me. It was 1982 and living in sin was just scandalous enough to be called shacking up but legit enough that a goody-two-shoes like I could get away with it. His devout Catholic mother expressed her moral outrage by turning his bedroom into a sewing room faster than you can say Who wants a sock monkey?
At a bridal shower for me hosted by my aunts, my future mother-in-law was telling all the ladies about her condo, giving them the run-down on how many rooms she had. I sat paralyzed, cabbage-and-mayonnaise Jell-O salad in my quaking lap, praying Aunt Ethel didn’t ask her, “Where is your son’s bedroom?” because I was pretty sure my fiancé’s dear mother would bellow with delight, “He sleeps with your niece! Probably naked! So I get to have a whole room for my new Touch ‘N Sew with Zig-Zagger! Hip-hip-hooray!”
Thirty-three years later, I’m the newly Empty Nesting parent and I can relate. It’s not that I want my kids to have premarital sex with whoever has a double bed and a closet big enough for all their stuff, but I have more fat quarters than you can shake a stick at. And they would look so great in one of the little cubbies in Martha Stewart’s Craft Space Collection in the Home Decorators catalog.
A sewing room had long been a pipe dream for me. I never thought my kids would ever be old enough for me to have hobbies, let alone one that required a room of its own. I have a vague recollection of hearing advice, when I had babies and toddlers, that young parents should be careful not to let parenting swallow them up. Be sure to hold onto something personal, an interest, something you enjoyed doing when you were single, they said, so that when the kids flew the nest you wouldn’t feel like a stranger in your own soul.
For many of us, sewing is that thing.
Women who sew have the ability to pivot from uber-maternal, breastfeeding, homeschooling, organic-muffin-making, bleeding heart selfless Mother of the Year to the small businesswoman who can churn out a tote bag and a set of matching travel makeup and toiletry bags a day. They don’t teach you that in home ec class, but they should. In fact, they should send a guest speaker into all the college-bound kids’ classrooms and tell them that learning to sew, which might seem like a lame domestic throwback, is actually going to save their hides when they’re in their 50s.
Who has time to miss the kids when you’re turning their old soccer jerseys into a t-shirt quilt? And forget about worrying about where they are and if they’re OK.
“I’m home from Portland so u can stop worrying,” my daughter texted me.
“You went to Portland?” I answered.
“Sorry. I’m making new Christmas stockings for everyone in the fam. You still have your cat don’t you?”
Women who sew aren’t the only moms who can find some joy in their kids leaving the nest. I know women who have turned their kids’ bedrooms into spaces solely devoted to wrapping gifts. And they don’t even give gifts. A big part of the joy is clearing out their bedrooms; putting into storage all of their trophies, handing off the important things to them, and being able to see the floor.
The important thing is to find an activity that requires its own room. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the dreaded Man Cave. And nobody gets a sock monkey in there.
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Diane Laney Fitzpatrick is a humor writer, blogger, parent of three grown children, and author of two books, Great-Grandma Is on Twitter and Other Signs the Rapture Is Near and Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. She can be reached at email@example.com.