An Empty Nest
I remember standing in the checkout line at Babies-R-Us more than 23 years ago. My first baby was just a couple of weeks old, sleeping soundly on my shoulder. A middle-aged woman approached me. “Enjoy every minute,” she said. “It goes by fast.”
I contemplated these words on the days when parenting felt exhausting. The middle-of-the-night feedings seemed never-ending until they ended. The constant attention toddlers demanded until I was no longer their best friend. The hours spent chauffeuring children to birthday parties, school activities, and sporting events until they got their driver’s license and I no longer had that captive time in a car to hear about their day, their ideas, their friends, and the minutia of their lives.
Because one day, if everything goes right, the chaos of parenting young children ends. You drop your last child off at college, and the life you’ve been living for decades changes in an instant.
In the grand scheme of things, an empty nest is the best-case scenario. As parents, we invest time, energy, and love into nurturing healthy, well-adjusted, and confident children able to live independent lives. Our children are spreading their wings, armed with the love, values, and guidance we shared with them. That’s always been our goal. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on.
But when I walked into our house after dropping our youngest son at college, it suddenly felt huge and empty. I was honestly doing fine until I started walking up the stairs towards my children’s rooms. They used to be full of energy, laughter, and conversation – now they’re just so quiet. And that’s when the bittersweet tears started flowing. Our lives will never be the same.
The transition to an empty nest marks a significant moment in a parent’s life, especially a parent who is a “child-rearing enthusiast,” as my daughter describes me. But I know my experience is not unique. Millions of parents have gone through similar experiences and emotions.
Since we’ve sent other children to college, we’re comforted in knowing that the relationship we nurtured over the years doesn’t end. Rather, it transforms into a new dynamic characterized by mutual respect, shared experiences, and a bond that transcends physical proximity.
But sending our last child off to college is a poignant reminder that while the days can be long, the years are short.
For those of you with children at home, take time to enjoy the energy and chaos because it will be over before you know it.
And for those of you who are seasoned “empty nesters,” please share your experience and wisdom about how to navigate this new stage of life. Time doesn’t slow down, and I want to make the most of every minute of the next chapter in our lives.
Photo courtesy of Free Stock photos by Vecteezy