Empty(ish) Nest Syndrome
I’m in the purgatory of parenthood. Not quite an empty nester, not quite a full-time mom. It’s an unsettled time in my life for sure.
My son is soon to be 26. While in college he went to England for a semester. I cried my eyes out at the airport. I cried as I tracked his flight; I cried when it landed. I cried every day and night, no (ok, slight) exaggeration. When he moved out at 24, I was devastated. I walked around with red, puffy eyes for days. Eventually I got over it and gleefully filled his closet and drawers with the mother lode of clothes that didn’t fit in mine. It was ok because I still had my daughter at home. She was my “cushion” that made the transition easier. We were still a family.
Now my cushion is 21. Last year she went to Israel for 10 days. It was her first plane ride (10 hours!) and I was more nervous than she was. But I didn’t cry when I left her at the airport; in fact, she couldn’t wait for me to leave. So, I left. I knew she was coming home again. Somehow it was much easier the second time around.
Now she’s a grown woman who’s six months away from graduating. She’s rarely home, juggling school, internship, multiple jobs, and a boyfriend. I can feel her pulling away. Oh, she occasionally deigns to eat dinner with us, but it’s rare. She’s more of a drop-in than a live-in these days. We can go days without seeing her. Our perfect little nuclear family has been pared down from four to three to just the two of us. I work from home, so it’s particularly quiet in my house these days, with just a 14-year-old dog to keep me company.
I have mixed feelings about this situation. On the one hand I wish I could turn back the clock to when they were young and dependent on me. I almost miss the chaos and bickering. On the other hand I am glad to be absolved of many of my dreaded maternal duties, especially helping with homework and being in six carpools simultaneously. I’m grateful that we dodged the Common Core bullet. But, when the time comes for my daughter to leave, will I feel decimated? Will I feel liberated? Will I still feel like a mom?
The answer is “yes” to all of the above. I’m a neurotic Jewish mother and so I shall remain for the rest of my days. It’s what I do. I will always be a mom. I’m sure I’ll need intensive therapy when my baby moves out, but I’ll probably start making plans to redo her room the next day. Empty nest is not the end. True, it’s the end of an era but it’s also the beginning of a whole different phase of life. It’s the natural progression of things, and I’ll try to accept it. In the meantime, can someone please hand me a tissue?