“Empty Nest” seems to occur in stages for a lot of years. Its bittersweet gnawing, once an ongoing adjustment, fades away and then swells up at odd moments. Sometimes those moments occur while you are actually with your young adult children–you are missing them horribly while they are right there with you.
When mothers talk about the depression of empty nest, we are not mourning the passing of driving around at 2 am in our nightgowns to track down errant teenagers, or of feeling solely like an ATM-in-a-taxi, or obviously existing just to embarrass and annoy them, or the early endless diapers and Mom! MA! Mommy! Mother! MA! MA! MA!, or never being able to poop without an audience.
As Erma Bombeck said “We are upset because we’ve gone from keeping them alive and breathing to supervisor of their lives to being a mere spectator. It’s like being the Vice President of the United States.”
You were once the very center of their lives, gave them every ounce of your heart and help. You grew strong with them…. and now you are sort of obsolete, like an 8- track tape or something.
My daughter and I have talked openly about our changing relationship, and I remember talking with my own mother about this when I was about 20. But it seems different with our son. He hates anything that smacks of sentimentality and with things that run this deep, I often have no other language than a sort of choked blubbering. So I don’t say anything unless it can come out in an easy going tone of voice with words of logic and humor.
Yet. Yet. There is a magic thing that is happening for me because both kids have launched and are doing the best they can to live independent lives. Agathe Christie, the great mystery author wrote in her 1977 autobiography:
“I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find – at the age of fifty, say – that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about…It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.”
Yes! Why don’t we hear about this part of empty nest more often? I have finished a book, one in a series of three, and am getting ready to launch IT! My teaching is taking new turns and going in directions I am very excited about. My husband and I are learning to live with more intimacy and less power struggles. I am enjoying my friends more. I can think and ponder and exercise whenever I want! I poop by myself.
It doesn’t mean the sadness never crops up, but it is shorter lived. Find other things to nurture with as much love, tenacity and patience as you did your children. And if you didn’t parent with these attributes, develop them now. Turn them on to yourself.
It is time.