How does it feel to be an empty nester? In the 7 months since we became empty nesters I have probably been asked that question a hundred times. My answer is still the same, we're figuring it out. It is taking a while to get used to it. After almost 20 years of a life that revolved around the kids and the four of us, it is now just us two at home and them each in their own lives. At this point we have made some progress, meaning, we have developed some new routines, learned how to manage weekend time differently and figured out how to stay in touch with our kids' lives. We certainly haven't mastered it yet. No doubt we will, because there is no other option.
Why a blog? My hope is that when my experiences resonate, you will add your comments, personal experiences and thoughts so that we create a community of empty nesters. If you are a veteran empty nester, you might be able to provide us rookies with insights from a longitudinal perspective. For some of you, this might be a preview of coming attractions, so you might be better prepared than the rest of us who went into this cold turkey. Empty nesterhood is non-optional, eventually the kids fly the coop and we are left navigate from a different perspective. Let's share.
I will start with some of our story for the new visitors who are joining our lives.
My nuclear family is my wife Susan, son, Michael (20) and daughter, Jodi (18). We have been married since December 1987 and live in suburban NYC. I work in media publishing and have intentionally structured my life to stay local, so I never had to travel much. Susan is a business professional and around all the time when not working. The kids were home for almost all summers, so for the most part, we have always been together as a foursome. We are very close and the two kids are devoted to one another. Until the the kids went off to college most weekends revolved around their lives, lots of sports for both, car pooling, family activities or just hanging as a family. We made family a priority and explained during the teenage years it was a responsibility to one another and shouldn't be viewed as a burden. Everyone mostly understood, but there were times when the concept was challenged.
In September of 2008 Michael went off to college approximately 4 hours away from home. From the start of his senior year of high school a small part of me had a lingering sadness that this would be his last, High Holidays or Halloween or President's week vacation, etc. The ache diminished as the year progressed and by the time we dropped him off at school we were both ready. During the next two years Jodi and I sauved the pain of the missing brudder/son by breakfasting most mornings and dinners when both our schedules permitted. When he returned for the first summer life resumed where it left off when he lived at home full time. The foursome was reunited. When her time came in Sept. 2010 to leave for the University I was more emotionally ready to say goodbye to her because I knew we would have summers, holidays and breaks.
Our journey begins, we are empty nesters.
How does it feel? At first very strange. As two working professionals with kids, Susan and I didn't have much twosome time. Other than the occasional dinner out together, we almost always had others around us, the kids or the friends. Now, every night we come home, try to dinner together, which we rarely did before and talk to one another. People said, "you will rediscover one another and remember why you got married." There is truth to that. We talk to each other now more than we have in the previous twenty years.
Weekends are still a little strange. We have 48 hours on our hands, there are far fewer chores to do, we can only get together with friends for so many hours, and daily activities, eating, sleeping and exercising only consume a limited amount of the day, so how do we pass the time? Honestly, we are still figuring it out. We try to do some exciting things together like go food shopping, weed the garden or clean the house. But, there is an awkwardness between individual time and couple time. Also, we are not in total sync on this topic. Susan values her personal time more than I do. I would prefer to hang out more, but need to respect her quiet time. So, we are learning to balance, compromise, adjust and tolerate. I can say, 7 months into this, we have made good progress.
The answer to "how does it feel?" we getting used to it. Just like some of the nagging, recurring pains we have as fifty somethings, we are learning how get adapt. We adjust to having the kids mostly connected electronically and to each of us being around one another without any interference to insulate from unwanted interaction at that time. It's OK.