Thursday, August 11, 2011

COUNTDOWN TO THE EMPTY NEST

It is August 10th.  In one week I will be moving Ally into her dorm room and driving home to an "empty nest."  I have no illusions that it is permanently empty.  Summers will come, circumstances may cause one of the kids to move home again.  However, it will be the first time Tom and I are living alone since 1987.  Wow.

I don't think I'll feel that sense of loss that some women report.  When I took the older two to college I felt great excitement tempered by some anxiety over their safety and happiness.  I learned that the first semester is the time to remain positive and supportive and to hear their worries with the knowledge that they will ease in further in the next months.  I feel secure about that part of the equation.

I also know that immense stress and conflict entered my marriage along with the joys of parenthood.  Even with date nights and vacations away from the kids, the marriage ends up being far and away about the care, feeding, clothing, social lives, injuries, school activities, dating, grades, happiness, surliness, sports, illnesses, tattoos, fiances, driving, curfews, attitudes, teeth, weight, skin, hair, messiness, computer time, sexuality, coming and going of the kids.

Those topics will still be on the table, and new ones will arise, but they will never again be such a looming presence - once none of them are present day to day.

A small study by the American Psychological Association showed that a majority of parents scored higher on marital satisfaction after children had left home.
Researchers had hypothesized that the improvement in marital happiness came from couples’ spending more time together, but the women in the study reported spending just as much time with their partners whether the children were living at home or had moved out, but the quality of that time was better.

“There are fewer interruptions and less stress when kids are out of the house,” said Dr. Gorchoff. “It wasn’t that they spent more time with each other after the children moved out. It’s the quality of time they spent with each other that improved.”

I am sure that is true.  Without the daily care and negotiations it will be easier to enjoy the time together.  Just as a night out once the kids could take care of themselves was much more enjoyable than those when the babysitter was always on my mind.

We are still years away from being relieved of the financial responsibility of our children, but a week from now, I will be alone with my husband, again.

6 comments:

writingtowellness said...

This is an exciting time in both of your lives - your entire family's life! I love how balanced and serene you write about this topic. My parents seemed to grow closer (if possible) after all of us finally left - for good. The reunions were so much sweeter, the leavings so much deeper with meaning.

Thanks for writing about this sending off and reminding me about my own leaving home (eons ago) and how well my parents "let me go" without ever losing connection.

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

We are still seven years from being empty nesters, but my husband and I do talk about that time. Not that we're looking forward to it, but we are trying to prepare for it as best we can.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I feel the same way you do--though I've still got a year to go. There is some stuff to look forward to.

Lala said...

Oh I am SO with you! In fact we're putting our youngest on a plane for college next week. Our nest won't be totally empty as our daughter has chosen to go to college in town and live at home. But, after our vacation last month, my hubby and I got a glimpse of the old days when it was just us - and I think it's gonna be all right!

I'm looking forward to sharing our new phase of life - Empty Nest Bloggers are the new Mommy Bloggers!

Lala said...

Oh I am SO with you! In fact we're putting our youngest on a plane for college next week. Our nest won't be totally empty as our daughter has chosen to go to college in town and live at home. But, after our vacation last month, my hubby and I got a glimpse of the old days when it was just us - and I think it's gonna be all right!

I'm looking forward to sharing our new phase of life - Empty Nest Bloggers are the new Mommy Bloggers!

Lisa said...

May you enjoy your time alone. I know I'm looking forward to more freedom, fewer interruptions.