You know how it goes. You date, you marry, you have children, you raise them, they grow up and go to college or enter the workforce, and you find yourselves at home, twiddling your thumbs.
So say some.
We love our kids, don’t get me wrong. We dote on them and help them with anything they need. But they’re happy. They’re at college with their friends and significant others, and they’re having the time of their lives. So why shouldn’t we?
Everyone loves to talk about empty-next syndrome (ENS) as if it’s a curse of sorts. I say, let freedom ring! Don’t you remember that feeling of being able to do whatever you want whenever you want? Welcome to empty nest syndrome for beginners! You’re older, for sure, with a hip replacement, more wrinkles, and a few extra pounds, but really, it’s a good time to find those hobbies you loved, reconnect with friends, plan outings, visit family, take a vacation, drink some (or a lot of) wine, read those books you’ve wanted to read, watch those series you’ve wanted to watch, have some fun, and not have to “be home at a certain time.”
And the dinners! Whoa! Now I only have to make dinner for my husband and me and not have to worry about who’s going to be around for dinner with their crazy schedules. (Side note, if you detected an ounce of snarkiness in this paragraph, it’s because I despise making dinner). My kids know I love them enough to cook a second turkey on New Year’s Day for them only days after hosting company for the holidays—as I did—when they are home, and I’ll gladly make them whatever they want (including reservations at a restaurant), but to not have to do it every night of the week??? (Cue George Michael’s song Freedom.)
Look, it’s tough to watch our kids grow up. They need us less. (Wait…let me alter that, because these texts still arrive regularly on my iPhone: “Hi, Mom. Could you put some $$ in my food account?” And I say, gladly! One less meal I have to make! Ha ha.) But seriously, isn’t this what we were tasked to do? Raise them well so that when they do leave the nest, they are competent and happy on their own? Our jobs are for life as parents, but seeing them find their own way is part of the letting go process.
To those of you scared about ENS, let me assure you of something. Remember right after we had kids and we used to say to ourselves, “What the heck did we use to do with all our free time?” because every minute was devoted to raising good kids? Well, you get that time back now to do what you want to do. And guess what else? Sometimes it will include time with your precious kids, and other times, you’ll be doing something that’s been on your bucket list, because Father Time comes back to you, and he doesn’t expect an elaborate dinner.
We’re not full-time empty-nesters yet. We’re empty nesters in training. And when the pandemic ends, I hope my husband I and will excel at it.