Shedding Labels


When I became an empty nester, a long and happy chapter of my life ended. I miss my kids all the time, but what’s even harder is figuring out what new directions to take and what new things to add to my life. While I had kids at home, the structure of schedules and rules limited my options. Nurturing children left little to no time for focusing on who I am and what I want. I’m not the same person I was before I had kids, so it’s not as simple as reverting to an old version of myself.

One of the vestiges of my child-rearing days is a set of plastic plates – unbreakable, inexpensive, whimsically decorated dishes that we used out on the patio or in the family room in front of the TV. When all our “real” Pottery Barn dishes are dirty and the dishwasher isn’t full enough to run, I’ll reach for a plastic plate. I’m not picky. At least, I didn’t use to be.

Last week I reached into the cupboard for a plastic plate and felt repulsed by the feeling of plastic in my hand. It was thin and hollow. It lacked substance and weight. My aesthetic sensibilities, awakened suddenly and offended at the same time, demanded the feel of cool, smooth porcelain.

I banished the kid-friendly plates to a lower cabinet with the picnic ware and told my husband about my new aversion to plastic plates. He failed to appreciate the significance of the moment – I had become too good for plastic plates – and nonchalantly reminded me that I purged plastic cups from our kitchen some time ago.

This weekend I found myself at an upscale store where childfree people perused beautiful and expensive dishes, glassware, cookware, and linen. I fell in love with thick, heavy dishes adorned with blue fleurs-de-lis and didn’t let myself wrestle with guilt over the price. These were serious, grownup dishes befitting an adult with no children at home to break plates. These were my coming-out dishes. They would announce to the world that I can have nice and impractical things in my house, and I can use them every day with reckless abandon.

It seems a little pathetic that I had to give myself permission to buy new dishes simply because I was sick of plastic plates. My guess is that I’ve been changing and growing without realizing it, and I want my surroundings to reflect this. The label “empty nester” also seems a little pathetic, so maybe I’ll pack this away with my plastic plates. Here’s to finding out who I am without the labels “Mom,” “Parent,” or “Empty Nester.”


© Living off Island, writingwahine, 2015.



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