How long does empty nest syndrome last? More to the point, does it ever end?
A study of more than 300 parents in Vancouver by Barbara Mitchell, a sociology professor at Simon Fraser University, found that most did not experience empty nest syndrome and those who did generally recovered quickly.
Three years after my youngest son was out of the house, I was still walking through my neighborhood lusting after the life of young, harried parents supervising children playing in the yard while they attempted to focus on household tasks. Six years after he left, I can hardly believe that I am not in charge of a family and home.
Officially, I have let go. I try not to contact my older son (the prince), who has four children of his own, more than once a week. With texting and email I can send a short post of life in South Florida and leave it up to him to get back to me when he has time to let me know news of his family. I send the children things in the mail, try to talk to them once a month, and have visits twice a year.
I used to live 20 minutes from them and loved the proximity, but I have a feeling it was too close for my son and daughter-in-law. They would call on me at the last minute to help out, but that doesnt really go both ways. Parents arent supposed to need children; its the other way around.
One of the most intimate bonding moments with my son as an adult was when he taught me to use the snow blower my last winter in Wisconsin. I loved being out in the freezing cold with him, tinkering with a machine. It was reminiscent of being an actual parent because thats what raising children was like for me a constant opportunity to learn new things from my kids. It was odd to give up the snow shovel, but empowering to steer that Toro.My younger son is coming to visit today for the first time since he left South Florida 9 months ago. Ive cleaned the house, stocked the fridge; but I know that he will be spending a lot of time with his friends. Ill be happy if he stays here one night out of five and has a meal with me. At least well be going to a wedding of one of his friends together, which means one on one time sitting by him during the ceremony.The only thing that seems to fill the hole is the young children in my apartment courtyard. Self-employed, I have a flexible schedule that allows me to help out my neighbors by picking up the young ones from daycare or driving an older kid to school in a pinch, or pitching in when someone is sick and needs care while the parent works; occasionally someone has a date night and I can settle a child into bed.
I have come to realize, though, that what Im really missing is a vibrant time of life, not my kids. Im not so old, but Im groaning as I grow into another skin. I have the time to do anything I ever wanted to do when I was raising kids, but nothing seems that important. Being a mom might be the best thing I ever did. But the kids are flying on their own now. Which is what I need to do. At least I managed to migrate south and find a smaller nest. And there is plenty of empty nest company in South Florida.Judy Kirkwoods boys are now men.