Monday, October 10, 2011

Empty Nest Syndrome? Pffffffft

Back when I thought he'd never leave -- or I'd never want him to leave

My son moved out this weekend.  A week and a half ago he sat in his bedroom buried in three feet of quick-drying cement so that we couldn’t blast him out of the house.

Why would he want to?  Hi-speed wireless for streaming movies.  HD channels on television.  A refrigerator filled with yogurt and berries.  A mom who liked to cook full dinners most nights.  Even if he paid us rent (oh yes, he did), he still got to put most of his paycheck in the bank for his own use.

Finally, however, my husband said, “Get in the car.  We’re looking at apartments.”  Voil√†, the dam broke and they found an efficiency that cost not much more than the rent he paid us, plus it included heat.  He rounded up a friend from work who had a truck to move his mattress, he went out and bought some basic supplies (“I just spent 88 freakin’ dollars on bathroom curtains and stuff, Mom.”), he grabbed three rolls of toilet paper out of the hall closet, and then he was gone.

So basically we are now empty nesters, what with our other child far away at school and with no inclination to return home.  No sad songs here.  No feelings of emptiness that extend beyond figuring out what to do with the extra bedroom we just acquired.  No longing for my children to stay young just a moment longer.
Proof that he's gone

About this time last year I was talking with a woman at church who has six children.  Her oldest had just started college and my friend was in distress over her firstborn leaving even though she had five others at home to keep her busy.  She wanted to know how I had handled it when my daughter had left for school.  I told her, “Enjoy it.  Your job is done.”

Yeah, I’m not dancing a jig that my son is gone, but I’m not in mourning.  I did my job.  I raised a young adult who went off to make his way in the world.  Even as I type this I can feel my brain space emptying out like his bedroom upstairs.  Where it had been filled with worry as I listened for him to come in at night, concern that he wasn’t eating enough “real food,” or frustration over household chores left undone, I now have new space in my own upstairs chamber to fill and decorate as I please.

I don’t have to waste any more emotional energy getting mad because he sat at my dinner table eating my food and using my hot water but refused to listen to all the sage advice I showered on him like golden confetti.  He’s paying his way.  My job is done.  His choices are his.  He’s made some lulus.  But he’s made some good ones.  He has a job.  He wrote a check for the down payment without asking us for money.

I gave him some grapes, a box of cereal, the yogurt, and a hug.

So sue me.  Having my children gone doesn’t fill me with “what now?” angst or send me in search of online support groups.  I’m excited for me.  If I couldn’t imagine a brand new path for myself at this third stage of my life, how could I really imagine the possibility of one for my own children entering young adulthood?  It will give us so much more to talk about when he comes by to do a little laundry, or see what I’ve cooked for dinner, and watch the baseball playoffs with his dad (Go, Cards!) because he’s too cheap to get cable TV.

All I can say, though, is he still better pick up that phone when his mother calls.  Some things will never change.  And don’t forget to eat your vegetables.
Have you gone through this yet?  Did you dread it?  Are you looking forward to it?  Share your reaction to being alone in your own home in the comments box. 


Anonymous said...

I completely understand. When my oldest moved out I missed him terribly. But he was the one that would sit up with me until all hours of the morning and talk. When my youngest left, it was originally a vacation that ended up, 'Dad sell my car and send me the money. I'm staying in Ca.' Yeah all the way from NC. I didn't have empty nest syndrome when he left. I also converted the oldest's room to my home office for my writing.


Anonymous said...

It's a relief to just have a teenager son old enough to not need attention 24/7. I have time to write now while he's putting in long hours at band practice. He's sixteen. WIll I miss him in a couple of years -- yeah, but I'll move on just as he will.

Lee I said...

Right on, Julie! (That dates me, huh?)

Anonymous said...

I'm the stepmom, so maybe my opinion doesn't count. I can say honestly, though, that my husband had zero empty nest syndrome. I was a little sad because I had just gotten to know them -- I got them their senior year in high school (twins).

It's wonderful to watch them start to lead their own lives -- and we are leading ours. We are close (visiting one of them as I write this) and spend time together when we can, but we are all enjoying our individual adventures. It's a wonderful time of life!

Tele said...

Coming from a very small family that emphasized self-reliance and not being a parent myself, maybe I just have a hard time relating to the empty nest angst. But I agree with Nadine above (whose opinion as a stepmom certainly does count!) that you can still be close while enjoying your individual adventures, and that you worked hard to get to this very moment. Good on you for raising a healthy, self-sufficient, independent human! So I'm excited for you, too.

Now, about that empty room... Do you already have a writing space that's just yours? :)

Chloe said...

I did struggle mightily when my children left home, but I got over it and am happy as a clam now.

I think an empty nest can mean different things for different women. As my children were leaving home, my mother became very ill with cancer and needed me to care for her until she died.

So I didn't get an empty nest so much as a change in caregiving duties for awhile.

My children leaving represented the end of my own youth and brought up issues about my own mortality.

brenda said...

My daughter left for college in August and I am still unsettled. I knew it was meant to be, helped her pick out the school, shop and pack, but I am happy she is blooming and finding her own place in the world, but my heart has a long way to go before it beats without worry. For me it's a process that I am slow in moving through.. sniff sniff (yes, I know I have pull up my big girl undies and get on with it).

Julie Farrar said...

Well, Brenda. I still worry because my kids have given me plenty of opportunities. But my husband and I said that we had taught them everything we knew (whether the kids learned it and followed it was another thing). It was time for the world to knock 'em upside the head. I might miss them, but it's nice to have my day my own.

Scrollwork said...

Yay, Julie, congratulations on your new empty nest!

It was my husband who cried when our youngest of three girls left the nest at 17 to attend college in the southern part of the state (CA). She's lived away from home ever since (she's 24 now). It was my husband who insisted that our middle daughter pay rent when she moved back home briefly in between leases. I'm the stepmom who raised her since she was 1 — "That qualifies as 'Mom,' Mom," she told me.

I love having just the cat home with me during the day! I love having adult-like conversations with all of our children. I love that my husband and I finally get to experience what it's like for it to be just us, since when we married he had full-time custody of both his children. It's the happiest time of our lives.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Hi Julie,

Our daughters are still at home, but the oldest is looking to buy a house. I am sad when I think about not having her around, but at the same time I'm proud that she's grown up, responsible, and confident enough to take this step.
Glad to hear you are enjoying this new stage in your life. You inspire me. I don't want to be moping around when my daughter moves out. I want to be happy and proud - as you are now.

Marna - Just words on a page said...

My son is going to be 11. The idea of him moving out is to scary to me, but I get where you are coming from. I remember the feelings of relief when it was mysefl grabbing the three rolls of toilet paper and leaving my parents house at the tender age of 18 some thirty years ago:)

Julie Farrar said...

Marna, it's interesting that you say you're son is 11. At that age we took our son up the road to Hannibal, MO because he was reading Mark Twain. In the Mark Twain home one of the placards said that at age 11 Twain was working for a printer or somesuch and was the main support for his family. Could you even imagine your own 11-year old taking on such a responsibility? But back then it wasn't unusual.

Unknown said...

Just went through the experience myself, with my only daughter who moved out in February. I admit, I walked around in circles for a few days, trying to adjust to the empty bedroom and the fact that I didn't need to check up on her every few minutes.

But today, I'm enjoying having more time for myself, which I typically spend checking out great blogs like this.

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