Re-Nesting Jun24

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Scholars of the social sciences call it “nesting.” Nesting, defined as an instinctual maternal behavior, is observed in women who are preparing for their child’s birth. Described as an overwhelming urge for pregnant women to clean and organize their lives, this adaptive behavior stems from our hominid evolution. These actions, characterized by unusual bursts of energy and a compulsion to organize the home, are meant to protect and prepare for a new arrival.

Recalling the times close to my children’s births, I cleaned, tidied and organized our home in preparation of their arrivals. I distinctly recall “nesting.”

In September 2013, our daughter moved out of our home to attend college in Oregon. She lived away for 9 months, and now was returning for the summer to live with us in California. I was in “re-nesting” mode in anticipation of her return. I cleaned her room, carefully and caringly made her bed so that the sheets were properly folded and without undo sheet creases, placed her stuffed animals (of younger years) in a symmetric orientation on her bed, and arranged cut flowers in a vase at her bedside. To complete the package, I did a Trader Joe’s grocery run to stock the refrigerator and pantry with her favorite foods.

There was a great joy, zeal and energy in completing these tasks. The exhilaration and apprehension experienced by a new mom, I was re-experiencing with the return of my college-aged daughter.

Her return also resurfaced childhood memories. Since her infancy, my husband and I worked full-time outside of our home. Our days involved long work hours. She knew me as a mom who worked, came home after 6 PM to prepare dinner, assisted with homework, bathed her and then, helped her with bedtime. Daycare, after-school care programs and summer camps were always arranged to keep her occupied and safe. Her developmental milestones were documented and exalted by her scheduled care providers. The mother-daughter special times were clouded by our attempt to maintain structured work and home schedules.

Today our household scenario has changed, as now, I do not work outside of our home. I am present and available. Since her return home in May, I have had the time to “do” for her. Helping her unpack, wash her clothes and prepare for her summer job. We are in an unscripted “dance” with one another as our daily routine has a markedly different flavor. This lifestyle dynamic has been difficult as it differs from what she remembers and knows.

We are working out this “new chemistry” with patience and respect for each other’s thoughts and desires.

I have revisited my nesting instinct, and hence re-nested with her return, to enjoy our time together as mother and daughter; no longer as mother and infant, but as two adult women.

A revisit and a life renewing adventure for both of us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                           — From college mom Germaine Defendi

Ms. Defendi lives in South Pasadena with her husband, three children and basset-beagle mix, Sherlock. 



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