Empty Nesting 101

When considering the reality of Empty Nesting, we thought we were well prepared as aging parents. Despite some bumps in the road last year, we found that we generally were confident about life together post-children and, while our senior daughter was trying her best to stall her preparation for departure, once that college decision was made, we were on a whirlwind to departure date with a summer sojourn to our home in the Seattle-Tacoma that provided a much-needed buffer to the moment of truth.

We tackled our object of attainment as any couple would – a few extra date nights, a long car trip the prior summer to test our aloneness resilience, and lots of discussion about the things we could explore together when we didn’t need to balance child schedules and interruptions.

Here’s the hard truth – we seem to be failing in the early stages. For reasons we couldn’t predict, it seems that the vacuum that is created by sending your kids off to college sucks in many other activities that consume any time you thought you were going to reclaim. Little did we know that work would somehow find it’s way into our free time. It seems, without the responsibility and excuse of our child at home (even though she was seldom at home) let us escape from work to some degree. Without that tool, we far too easily rationalize staying a bit later at work since there are no children at home depending on us to be there. Dinner can happen – whenever. The dog can wait – after all, he’s just a dog. And, it’s not just one of us before you blame me and my responsibility as the culprit. In fact, the 1st-grade teacher seems all of a sudden content with working in her classroom until all hours to be sure that she is more prepared for the next day, week, month. Funny when you think about it.

In actuality, the dog statement above is not quite accurate. In reality, he has become the new child in our family and seems to need more care than I remember. He’s certainly an attention hog and I’m also amazed that we somehow have to care for him more now because we are worried about the emotional trauma he might be suffering as a result of the children being gone. Not sure how it happens that were are now worried about his social and emotional well being when a few short months ago the most important thing was whether we should give him another treat or not.

Also, I had an interesting reflection the other day. If the minutes are totaled, it seems that we are actually talking to our daughter more now than we did when she was living with us. She seems to be “checking in” more often via facetime and often forgets that we are still at work when she is lounging at home between classes, particularly on Fridays. I love the contact, but it does seem odd that we talk about more right now than her social schedule would allow when she was living here. Go figure!

So, what with the other general frustrations in life, what is my general review of empty-nesting? Not impressed. I value that this is an early review of something that will be our bridge to someday retirement, but I’m not as happy as I had hoped we might be. That being said, there is potential on the horizon and I do enjoy some of the relaxed nature of things. Writing cute notes to each other without fear of the kids finding them has re-emerged as an enjoyable pastime. Always nice to place a few lines on the mirror for the steam to find, or a note on the kitchen table to let someone know the dog is fed.

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