This article investigates the ways in which potential migrants in 1950s Ireland negotiated motility and in doing so it attempts to unsettle the workings of the modernity/tradition binary which tends to map easily onto the binaries of migrant/non-migrant and men/women. Focusing on the stage of young adulthood when many imagined potential homes elsewhere but in the event found themselves making homes for themselves in Ireland, this article considers the re-making of self and home in the absence of migrant family members and friends. Family, friendship and community relations have to be reappraised as those who stay wait in the mode of hope for a liveable outcome, or life plan. This is 'waiting-as-event' or 'active waiting'; being alive to the world and the possibilities for making a future. Waiting here is a social norm or aspect of the established family and community relations which, in 1950s Ireland, involved negotiating over time who was to stay and who was to emigrate. The narratives constitute women as women and men as men through relationships to potential migration and associated everyday temporalities of waiting mediated by family obligation (in relation to gendered norms of inheritance, caring and negotiations of autonomy). Moreover, the unpredictability of the outcome of waiting and coming to terms with staying produces unexpected self-encounters in the familiar place of a home changed by the absence of others, but also by their presence in new ways via letters, remittances, return visits and potential return.