Saturday, August 17 marked a turning point in my life: my husband and I became Empty Nesters after we delivered our youngest of three children to college. Maybe that explains why I’ve had Aprons on the brain. One of my few remaining apron strings has been cut.
When my children were itty-bitties, I never dreamed that I’d be celebrating my Silver Anniversary the same week my nest emptied; I couldn’t project my life that far ahead. Friends with chicks at home wonder what I’ll do with my new-found freedom and spare time. My empty-nesting friends chuckle and say the years ahead are the best. Part of me is excited, and the rest of me wonders how I became old enough to be at this juncture. As we chugged down I-95 in our pick-up all day Saturday, I had plenty of time to contemplate our new status.
It’s What is Supposed to Happen
My son and I drove together on the way to campus. Y’all know I treasured that car chat. As I expressed to him my mixed feelings about the empty nest, he also revealed the changes that he foresees. We found unexpected common ground there: both of us will be feathering a new nest and adjusting to a new routine.
Until our drive, I had assumed that he was itching to fly our nest, feeling outgrown of his bed and desk and our rules. Beneath his confident exterior was my only son wondering how he will establish his new life away from his known comforts of home, school and friends in RVA. I was wondering how I will adjust to the quiet house.
After an easy move-in and (calculated) tear-free good-bye to our son, we pointed the truck north and mulled over our new status. LDB, my wiser-half, said we’ve done our job to prepare our children as best we can to grow up and live happily on their own. That is our measure of accomplishment, bittersweet as it is.
As we slogged through the rain up I-95 last night, I googled “Empty Nest” on my iPad. Not surprisingly, Google had much to offer on the subject. Full-time mothers seem to face the hardest adjustment, followed by career-consumed parents who wish they’d spent more time with their children. Couples who had marital issues before the EN find those issues exacerbated. The loneliness is challenging for single parents, but they are often relieved to have the heavy parenting duties lifted. Many mothers and fathers, no matter their status, discover that if they stay active and engaged, their lives remain full even though their nests aren’t.
After reading plenty of coping strategies on-line, I am counting on the following ones to sustain me.
Reconnect with Your Spouse
The timing does seem perfect with our 25th Anniversary later this week. In preparation for our new status, cHl shared her thoughts with me:
Empty Nest…Love having time to do things with my husband. It’s fun to reconnect! Many times, I set too many places at the dinner table and cook too much food, too! The grocery bill is much smaller!! My advice is to find hobbies you both enjoy; we play golf and scuba dive.
bFt echoed similar sentiments:
It’s a roller coaster ride. You go from really missing your babies to enjoying more spontaneous outings with your hubby. It was very easy to adjust to less grocery shopping, fewer dirty dishes and lots less dirty laundry!! It takes a while before you get used to the house being so much quieter.
My first draft of this post, written before the Move-In, contained a smorgasbord of things I had big plans to do with my new EN-status: taming the clutter beast, refreshing and renewing the decor of our well-worn home, and traveling as much as work schedules permitted. LDB‘s take on the situation is not to do anything drastic with the new freedom for 3 to 6 months. Don’t blow a bundle on a cruise, climb a mountain or sell the house. We have decided to compromise and tackle the clutter beast first, but I will hold his feet to the fire about the travel!
For half of our lives, most of our identity has been associated with our children, and our social lives have been inescapably intertwined as well. As much as I will miss my children, I’ll also miss the constant flow of their friends and parents as we cross paths at home, sporting events, school and related social functions. Much like our children will have to work at maintaining those hometown friendships, we will have to work at keeping up with the parents without the built-in activities to facilitate those treasured relationships. I plan for holidays and other school breaks to be filled with “speed parenting” activities – as many family dinners and other multi-family get-togethers as my brood will tolerate so we can reconnect.
The Virtual Nest
My husband’s grandmother had 5 children. When I was a young mother, I recall asking her, “weren’t you sad when they all left home?” to which she responded, “nature has a way of taking care of that sadness.” I would rephrase that today and say “Nature and Technology.”
With the numerous ways to connect with my children, I’m beginning to realize that although my physical nest is empty, I can maintain a Virtual Nest. Text messaging, Skype, Instagram, Facebook, even old-fashioned email and phone conversations allow us to stay in touch with our offspring like no parental generation before us. Our daughters have made us learn this new style of parenting-from-afar, and it has allowed us to be a part of their lives without smothering them. Although my son promises an old-fashioned Sunday afternoon phone call, I know by embracing today’s technology I’ll never feel too far away.
Turn to Your Posse
We pulled into the driveway late last night, greeted by our faithful Labrador. LDB noticed something in our darkened garage on top of my car. Leave it to posse pal aMl to know just the right thing to do at a time like this:
Got any other ideas for surviving the Empty Nest syndrome? Your posse anxiously awaits.
August 19, 2013