Edith and I had heard many accounts over the years describing how difficult many couples find the Empty Nest stage of life. When the last son or daughter leaves for college (people told us), everything changes. Hands-on parenting ends; domestic routines no longer focus on children’s needs and routines; the house grows quiet. A relief, surely—but potentially a shock to the system as well.
We had already observed the consequences among many friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Sometimes the effects have been creative: marriages strengthened, career vistas broadened, physical and intellectual energies renewed. Sometimes the outcomes have been much less positive, especially in terms of marital side effects: several couples we know split up within a year or two of their kids’ departures.
Did we feel concerned that we would experience a negative outcome? No, not at all. And whether presumptuous or not, we have been fortunate that in actuality, our own Empty Nest has become a locus of much more good than bad. We knew there would be some downsides. Yes, we would be wistful about Cory’s absence, just as we miss our daughter, Robin, who had left home for college five years earlier. We would also surely feel some sadness about the end of parenting; would miss the opportunities to witness the constant and often astonishing mutability of children’s development; would miss the richness, complexity, humor, and “thusness” of day-to-day family life. But we anticipated benefits as well: more time for each other, less manic activity, less pressure, more rest, and more opportunities to pursue our own interests. Among other things, we would surely be able to devote renewed energy to artistic pursuits.
So, when friends would ask, “How do you feel about the empty nest?” our answer was essentially: “Just fine.”
Best of all, the Empty Nest isn’t always so empty. Robin and Cory may have flown away as fledglings, but they return from time to time, now all grown up. Friends and family come up to visit. The nest may be empty, but life is full.