Our Own Space

Picture of a handpainted birdhouse with the opening enlarged by chewing squirrels.
Once the holder of the nest, this birdhouse is now the center of activity for several squirrels who run in and out all day.

My daughter made this birdhouse with her grandfather. The first year it housed a family of sparrows. The next year its purpose changed as a family of squirrels used it for a playground. They chewed it up, made it theirs, and spent each day running in and out and over it. I think our homes become like this as our children grow.

Today I spoke with a friend, who also has busy teenagers, about moving past the mothering stage. She expressed frustration that she’s never alone in her house anymore and how she’s desperate for some time to just do her own thing. We considered the possibility of converting a spare bedroom to an office or more accurately a “personal space”.  We both wondered why this seems to be necessary. We both used to consider our home to be our castle and therefore, why do we need to escape it now?

We realized it’s mostly because when our kids were little the home was the nest, or nexus of our lives. We spent our time taking care of the kids, the home, the meals, the very fabric of the family’s existence. The entire home was our studio in the creative enterprise called “family”. But as our kids have grown up, we no longer are the tenders of the nest. The home is just a much theirs as ours. They no longer are visitors to the adult world who are quietly shuttled off to bed at 8pm so the adults can relax and read. We no longer have times or space where we are free from interruptions and the needs of others. We no longer have “our” time or place.

Is this common? Do most mothers start to experience this phenomenon when their children grow past the intensive hands-on phase of young childhood? How do we compensate? I have some thoughts.

Some women maintain a space of their own by creating a zone of domain rather than space. Think of the woman who won’t let others use her kitchen. It’s her domain. My own mother uses time to create space. Lunch time is her time and you’d better not talk to her while she’s eating. Yet other women become heavily involved in church or community affairs. Or a hobby. Or their grandchildren. Many of us had a grandmother with a favorite rocking chair that nobody else dared sit in.

In my case I’m pulling back from needing to tend every aspect of the home’s operation. And I’m feeling the need to create my own space in a studio. I need to make it mine. Safe from the squirrels.

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