My status has changed.
I used to be an empty-nester. Until I became one, I always feared it. I thought I'd be depressed and lonely.
But then I actually became one and found peace and happiness. I even came up with a name for this particular group: HENS (Happy Empty Nesters) And when I shared this name with all my friends who had also become empty nesters, in spite of being skeptical at first, they all came around and called themselves HENS, too.
But now, with the economy being in shambles, my oldest son (who graduated college last May), has moved back home. Yup, no job. And my younger son, about to graduate college this May, will undoubtedly be doing the same thing. Little by little, the nest is filling back up.
I never thought I'd mind. People who said they were happy not having their (grown) children living at home? I thought they were just plain mean. I would never complain about having my children move back home - never. Until it happened.
Why? My grocery bills have skyrocketed (a 6'4", 23-year old boy has a voracious appetite, after all.) And now I feel compelled to do something called cook dinner, which I happily abandoned (save for special occasions) the day the nest emptied. Sleep is no longer peaceful, especially on the weekends. Who can sleep when their child is out until 3AM? And the laundry room floor is lost to the piles of unwashed clothes that he deposits there, hoping that magically... they'll get done.
Turns out that the popular notion of "empty nest syndrome" has been disproven by researchers, not just me. While it's true that parents- including this parent, - do miss their children, researchers have found that marital satisfaction actually improves when the nest is empty. And, thinking back, that's true. My husband and I fell into our nice, quiet routine and actually found one another again. We didn't fight about the kids anymore. We played loosey-goosey with dinnertime, and sometimes we were spontaneous enough to run out to a restaurant and sit at the bar and eat, or curl up in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal if we felt like it. We reveled in the peace and quiet and cleanliness of our suddenly-larger home.
The researchers compared women's marital happiness in their 40s, when many still had children at home; in their early 50s, when some had older children who had left home; and finally in their 60s, when all had empty nests. They found that at every point, the highest score on the marital happiness scale was with the empty-nesters vs. the women with children still at home.
If my sons are reading this (which I doubt): I love you both very much. And I miss you when you're away. But it is my sincerest wish (and I know it's yours, too) that you will soon be able to go out and find the tools to build a comfortable, warm and happy nest of your own.
Have you dealt with an empty nest? What has your experience been? Or if you haven't, are you looking forward to it - or dreading it?