5 days ago
Thursday, August 11, 2011
COUNTDOWN TO THE EMPTY NEST
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.