“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451,” 1953 (US science fiction author (1920 – )
Let me first make something perfectly clear – Empty Nest Syndrome is a very real condition from which many women and men suffer when a child or children leave their home. While more predominate in women, more and more evidence is surfacing that speaks about the affect a child’s absence has on their father. One of the best articles I’ve read on the subject is Father’s Empty Nest — with links and help for addressing the syndrome. It is not my intent to make light of the condition, nor to offend author Susan Yara (who wrote Father’s Empty Nest for Forbes.com) or anyone else who has suffered from ENS.
But I am also dealing with changes since our youngest son left home, married, and gave us our first grandchild — Mason (isn’t he cute?). And I think I can speak for other fathers who share similar experiences. So who am I to wallow in my self-pity when I can talk about this, and bring some sense of understanding to other fathers who find themselves in my situation?
So you might want to take a seat because those who know me know that I’m likely to put my own wacked out spin on this matter…so putting all “political correctness” aside — I can’t NOT talk about this! ~ Lane
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For us, no longer having kids at home meant the return of certain freedoms we’d been missing. No, I’m not talking about “Naked Thursdays,” but of something more valuable. Sure, it’s nice to come home from work, toss your work duds on the floor, and not even bother replacing them with a robe — but I’m taking about real freedoms — those you had to avoid with the kids at home or run the risk of causing real long-term emotional damage. For instance:
Necking openly with your spouse. It’s said that a marriage enters its second honeymoon phase when all the children have grown and moved out to begin their own lives. The most successful ’empty-nest’ marriages are cultivated while the kids were still at home. There are hundreds of pages on-line that address how parents must work to keep their relationship alive, and not giving all the attention and love TO the children. Parents who do often find that once it’s back to just a 1-on-1 relationship, they often no longer know the person their spouse has become — and the relationship suffers, and often fails. Because the presence of the kids prevented you from engaging in certain PDA’s (public displays of affection) that were a part of your daily routine before your first child, and getting back to that level of open affection might be a challenge (if you abandoned it). It’s not an insurmountable challenge, but your marriage may depend on overcoming it!
Playing your music loudly. I like my rock-n-roll played at a level where I can hear it throughout the house, in the yard, and out as far as the mailbox. But so did our son. So to set an example while he was living at home, the volume of our music was at a level where it could not be heard outside the family room. We asked that our son do the same, since his bedroom was directly below our master — and we asked him again, and again, and again… Now that he’s gone, I will play AC/DC’s Back in Black at an appropriate bone-crushing level — 8, 9, 10…sometimes 11!
Did I mention “Naked Thursdays?”
Last-minute trips out-of-town. I fondly remember 1981 BC to 1998 BC (Before Children), when we could decide on a Wednesday to take Friday off and drive to San Francisco after work on Thursday. A 1,380 mile road trip thrown together faster than a shotgun wedding! Those days have returned! No school commitments, sports leagues, tutors, music lessons, or “but I don’t wanna go’s” to contend with. Just toss some clothes into the overnight duffel (no need to include clothes for Thursdays remember!), a razor and few other toiletries — and GO!
Now there are certainly more things you can go back to doing now that you have the house to yourselves. I’ve included four of the most glaring I recall. In fact, if you’re an empty-nester or know of one, please take a moment to share with us (in the Comment section below, or on my Facebook page) something you’ve experienced that you thought you’d forgotten.
Of course, it hasn’t been all fun and games. I didn’t used to need an appointment with my son to get him to hold up the other end of the crown molding while I nailed it in place — that’s changed! And I’m suddenly the only one at home who’s easily convinced to clean the litter boxes, and mow the lawn. But I digress. Complain as I might about the litter boxes, item #1 my list above more than makes up for it!
Until next time…cheers!