A Room of My Own

In the summer of 1995, I stood before an auditorium of parents at the University of Oregon and told them “One piece of advice: don’t redo your child’s bedroom the moment they leave for college.”

I was a member of the Student Orientation Staff at the time, answering questions and giving advice to parents of incoming freshman. I was speaking to them from experience – even years later, it still bothered me that not long after I left for UO in 1991, my parents changed my childhood bedroom into a guest room/playroom/catchall of sorts. It left me feeling restless and untethered when I went home to visit, because “home” didn’t feel nearly as certain without a room of my own.

Fast forward 20 years, and my second daughter is getting ready to graduate high school. And what’s been on my mind more and more these days (beyond, of course, excitement for her future and the pang of knowing I’ll miss her)? Wanting to re-arrange the bedrooms for our kids still left at home.

See, right now our two teenage daughters share a room that sits over the length/width of our garage – meaning, it’s quite big. Our sons each have their own room, and my husband has a home office.

My “home office” consists of a desk in a nook of our kitchen. I am at the center of everything, which has worked well while we’ve had young kids at home during the school day. I could watch them, be tuned in, but still get work done. But now all the kids are at school, and all I’m in the center of is dirty dishes, the home phone ringing, the dogs and cats chasing each other, and so on.

I want a room of my own.

office guest room combo

Not a room in our house – but isn’t it lovely? Photo credit apartmenttherapy.com.

A place for my work, yes, but also a place to read, a place to reflect, a place to be creative. Where I can be separate from household chores still needing to be done, getting to them in another appointed time.

I have tried going to the library and other places that might simulate an “office” setting, but it’s just not the same. I want privacy, a chance to get up and meander if my mind is stuck on something, and frankly, the opportunity to grab a snack or use the bathroom without leaving my personal belongings vulnerable.

My husband insists on a perfectly reasonable plan: move our daughter left at home to one of the boy’s rooms, move the two boys into the room the girls have been sharing. Easy peasy! That opens the downstairs boy’s room for me to take as an office (which would likely also double as a guest room).

And yet, I hesitate to do that to my older daughter just yet. I don’t want her to experience the disorientation of coming back to a changed “home,” even though now as a parent, I understand the commodity of living space, and the feeling of having waited so long for my own little corner of the universe.

So, we’re currently at a standstill. We still have time to figure out what we’ll do – my daughter isn’t even out of the house yet! For her part, she has asked us to hold off on any major changes until the end of the year or so. That feels like a reasonable compromise. Until then, I’ll still allow myself the fancy of daydreaming about “my” room.

What about you? Have you had a child move out? What did you do with their room once they were gone?

  • Jennifer Donovan

    A friend of mine had 3 boys. The 2 younger shared a room, and when the oldest went to college, I asked if she was going to let one of her other sons move in. She said, “Not for a year. I want it to be his home. They can go in there for alone time or use the desk, but it’s still his room.” It didn’t make logical sense, but it totally makes sense to keep that foundation and sense of home during the first part of that transition.

  • Interesting. We’re still years away from dealing with this, and yet I’m already thinking about it. I have a funny feeling this will be an especially big deal for our oldest daughter when she goes away. She’s not a fan of change…like at all. And she hates getting rid of stuff. Good thoughts though to consider. Thanks.