Happily Ever After: Why I Love Our Empty Nest

It has been a quiet Saturday. My younger son Micah is in Cuba for some fun in the sun with his high school graduating class. My older son Jake is ensconced hundreds of miles away at university. This leaves my husband John and me all by our lonesome. John observed, “Pretty soon it will be like this all the time.” True, with our youngest heading off to university in the fall we will officially be empty nesters. And then John joked, “Let’s have another baby.”

Right there is the reason I never worry about John leaving me for a much younger woman, especially one who is keen to start a family. I can’t begin to imagine him with a newborn anymore. I started to tease him about how he would make such an exceptional new father and older hubby to a yummy mummy. I then erupted into hysterical laughter from the image I had conjured up of John pushing a stroller crammed with apple juice boxes, animal crackers, and a pile of board books–until he warned me that I was scaring him and to shut the hell up.

Yet, this is the reality for many guys in my husband’s demographic. I bumped into a male friend at the grocery store recently whose kids from a previous marriage are now in their late teens. He is in a new committed relationship with a woman twenty-odd years his junior “Did you know we are expecting?” he asked me. “Wow,” I exclaimed, “That is so incredible, you must be so excited.”

There are some occasions when it is mandatory to tell a white lie.

When my kids were young I used to dread the day they would grow up and leave home. Time was flying by too fast. I understood why parents would opt to have one more child so they would always have a little one running around. But now starting at square one again seems like purgatory to me. Yes, I know my friend will be just as devoted a dad to his youngest child as he was to his older kids–but seriously, I cannot imagine.

I love having grown up kids. My husband and I have regained our freedom, and rekindled our relationship too. This morning we slept late, and then lingered over croissants and lattes reading the paper in peace. I have spent the day writing, at yoga class and hanging out with my sister. Tonight we are heading to a cool restaurant that makes the best cocktails in the city. I plan to get tipsy and see where that takes us.

Just a few years ago our Saturdays looked very different. We would have risen early, picked up substandard coffee and doughnuts on the way to some gym in the suburbs, and spent the entire day cheering basketball. We would have ordered pizza for dinner and then stayed up late scouring the internet trying to learn basic electricity for the science project due on Monday.

It was great at the time, even better than great. But I am happy to savor the memories rather than live through the kid era again. While I am sometimes nostalgic for days gone by, what has taken its place is richer than I could ever have imagined. Our two sons have grown into remarkable young men–mature, sensitive, and smart. That they regard my husband, me, and our extended family as their foundation to pursue their diverse passions with confidence is our reward.

Now if I could only get the image of my middle-aged husband pushing a stroller out of my head.

Image(s): Michelle Preast

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