So, no, I’m not pregnant, but I do undoubtedly have a strong nesting instinct. And I want to know where it comes from? The Mr. certainly does not have the same insane desire I do to make whatever space I am in feel like home. He does not, like me, put away all of his clothes when we get to a hotel room for even just a night. He does not like to lay out his entire dop kit on the counter, put his toothbrush and toothpaste upright in a cup, or line up his shoes in a neat little row.
(Image from She Wears Many Hats.)
Last year I went on 58 flights… yes, on one particularly long flight recently I actually went through and counted them all up. So I wonder if whatever nesting instinct I would have normally is intensified because I pretty much spend more time away from home than at home… and my home now looks and feel nothing like the one before it–and is, of course, a world away. Other expats reading… do you have a stronger desire to nest abroad than you did at home?
For me, nesting basically means this: when I get back from a trip, I literally do not want to leave the apartment–to the point where I so don’t want to leave that I would prefer to order take-out than go to the grocery store. I take on random projects (organizing closets, sorting the linen closet, cleaning out the baking supplies, making chicken stock, starting scrap books, framing pictures, etc). I swear to myself and others that I will never, ever get on another plane again. When my need to socialize finally trumps my need to nest, I send out party invitations to have people over; nothing makes me feel more at home than entertaining.
In a NY Times story about how pregnant women with big careers have taken nesting to a new level (major remodeling projects), they had this to say about nesting during pregnancy:
Obstetricians have long observed a deeply felt urge among pregnant women to focus on preparing the home for offspring. As with many behaviors associated with pregnancy, this one seems caused at least in part by hormones — specifically, oxytocin, which is thought to be responsible for maternal attachment. Without it, mammals do not bond with their young, or prepare nests for them. Women are just dripping with this hormone in the last part of pregnancy,” said Dr. Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist and director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California at San Francisco.
So it turns out that even though I’m not pregnant, I have a much higher level of oxytocin that the Mr. does. Oxytocin also fluctuates with your cycle so it could be that my “nesting” urges correlate to that time of the month… but even that was not enough to satisfy my need to understand why I feel this intense urge… so I kept googling and I did come up with this:
Humans more or less respond to things generally the same way rats do… and a team of scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital found that offering stressed-out rats nesting material (sticks, leaves, etc.) helped them to heal from wounds just as much as administering oxytocin (by injecting them with the hormone) did.
When I came across this study, I suddenly felt like my crazy was defensible–which probably really makes me sound like a total nut job, but all of this googling got me really interested in oxytocin. The blog Neurootopia did a great series of posts about all that oxytocin does–I would seriously recommend reading the entire thing, but here is his summary of all of the things oxytocin is responsible for: “contractions during labor, sexual arousal, lactation, orgasm — in both male and female, trust, facial recognition, influences memory formation, pair bonding, and probably there’s more.“