Reflections on Identity

Empty Nesting Before It’s Time

Finding Purpose in the Quiet Days without Kids

Laura Friedman Williams
Published in
7 min readFeb 11, 2024

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Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

This is me, learning to feel complete: sitting in a hotel bar alone with a plate of french fries and a glass of Chardonnay. I am in my own city, a mere six blocks from the apartment I now call home. The hotel bar is filled with people just passing through; being amongst them makes me feel anonymous, like I have temporarily become dissociated from the city streets where I have lived and raised my kids for the past quarter century.

I have my laptop and an afternoon that yawns expansively in front of me, no one who needs me, no one to feed or cheer up or entertain. After decades of being tethered to my children, barely able to eke out even an hour to myself, I have back the thing I gave up when they were born: time. Time like this, unspoken for, is precious — but also, hard as it is to admit, terrifying, a chasm that begs to be filled meaningfully. How do I find purpose in this time when I am free to create it, not just respond to the demands around me?

I still have one of my three kids at home. At thirteen, she divides her time between my apartment, which we call home, and her dad’s apartment, which we distinguish from ours by calling it the name of the street on which it is situated. Years ago, I…

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Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.