Nesting.

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.

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8 responses to “Nesting.

  1. I’m not sure if my Mr. really believes the whole oxytocin nesting thing, but I’m pretty sure that I have it! Four weekends ago we got a new console table to store bills and paperwork (not to mention put flowers on and generally make the living room more homey), three weekends ago we organized our entire walk-in closet (cubes, drawers, etc.) and this past weekend I bought an organizer for the bathroom, a stroller, and went on a cleaning spree in the kitchen! Ahhhh. Now, if you know my father (which, of the readers of HK Housewife, I think only Natasha might) who is a self-professed fastidious neat freek, my Mr. says that I am just “my father’s daugther,” but I’m trying to tell him that it’s because our baby is arriving in 8-10 weeks! Haha. Plus (Natasha only, again), did you ever see my Mr.’s dorm room in college? He is NOT the organizing type! Perhaps your scientific recap will convince him . . .

  2. My daughter had a closet full of clothes before she was born. My mother-in-law must have bought at least 30 of them (she still does this). I washed and ironed every piece of clothing in a nesting rage!! It was truly satisfying but in hindsight, it wasn’t very smart. Your baby can only wear so many of those pink heirloom dresses in the same size! I was left with clothes that she never even had a chance to wear. It would have been nice to take them back and get the next size up. I also had items that she never grew into for the appropriate season. Just a lesson for future reference . . .

  3. 58 flights! Wow! Nothing makes me feel better than organizing a closet. Well, maybe enjoying a cup of coffee on my couch while reading blogs, magazines or a good book!

  4. Hi there. Just came across your blog in my search for a definition of nesting but not pregnant…I’m an artist and started a body of work during a very high point of my life and self discovery, but while also anticipating a future low–heartbreak and my abandonment of someone I fell in love with. My work was fueled by my muse and out of my hands I made nests, drew nests and painted nests. Because I saw I was making nests, I assumed the word ‘nesting’ for what I was doing. I’m trying to apply what I’m learning about nesting to what I am making and your mention of the rat nesting/oxytocin is interesting and seems more along my theme than the nesting while pregnant one. I clicked the hyperlink to the story/article and found it was a dead link…do you know where that article was? Have you found any other nesting not while pregnant info? I’d love to know!

  5. Thank you for this information! I has been cleaning, reorganizing and buying stuff for my home like crazy for the past week or so. I am 100% NOT pregnant and I was wondering what the heck was wrong with me. I purchased new shower curtains (amongst $300 worth of other things, to include a $30 duster) for no reason at all and was awake at 4:45 am vaccuming and moving couches. I am glad I am not the only person going through this.

  6. Pingback: NOT preggers but nesting: Are women more inclined to be a home-a-holic? | How to Try and Grow Up

  7. Pingback: NOT preggers but nesting: Are women more inclined to be a home-a-holic? | How to Try and Grow Up

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