for release Friday January 21, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Empty Nest, Full Cup
A lot of people have asked me this past fall, “Well, how is it going now that your nest is really empty? How are you finding it?”
Our youngest started college in August at a state school about two hours away; our middle is a senior in college and living nearby, happily very independent in an apartment; and our oldest is finally (big sigh of relief) gainfully employed at a major city newspaper about three hours away.
Here are some changes I’ve noticed.
1. We talk to the dog more, like she was one of the children.
2. We talk about the dog more—comparing notes with other dog owning friends. This happened once before—back before we had kids.
3. I can fix foods that hubby and I like—without worrying about the dislikes of the kids.
4. The electric bill dropped by about $15.
5. We have fewer programs and concerts and obligatory meetings: more choice and freer evenings. It is nice to stay home from a Friday night high school football game when the rain is blowing and the air is cold.
6. I have discovered that I enjoy being with and doing things with just my husband. At one point Stuart said, “I feel like I am getting to know you all over again.” Sometimes you wonder—in the hectic days of running everywhere with kids, will he and I find things we still like to do—just the two of us? Is all we have in common the kids?
But after dropping Doreen off at college and settling her in her dorm, we stopped for our evening meal at a nice “old people’s restaurant” that I had been wanting to try in a small village on our way back. An old people’s restaurant is where you see mostly over 50’s and they bring you your salad in little bowls and people start showing up for dinner about 4 p.m. I can see how older people have to guard more than ever against gaining weight just from eating too many meals out.
7. I enjoy taking long drives with him, just the two of us, especially without the kids complaining from the back seat that they are car sick or want to go home. He can stop at a tractor, implement or boat dealer and talk forever while I sit in the car, happily reading a book. We can go visit friends or neighbors without concern about what the kids are needing or doing at home.
8. We can be more relaxed about the more intimate moments of marriage. ‘Nuff said.
9. We feel freer to argue more. Now, that sounds bad, but in the interest of full disclosure, I found it interesting that arguments that we had kept quiet so as not to upset the kids, we go at more freely. I can pout; he can raise his voice without the children getting bent out of shape. And we still don’t get anywhere, except airing our differences. We’ve both become more like each other in some ways, except we still cancel out each other’s votes.
10. It helps to have another point of focus when the children leave. We have been planning, saving and dreaming toward building a home. One of our current favorite Friday evening activities is to go to the local book store, buy premium decaf coffee, and drool through the home design books. I know, it’s a weird time to build a (slightly) bigger home, but we hope to one day have room for maybe some grandchildren to hang around.
It feels good to know there is something there, that you have something in common besides the kids. It feels very good to experience life at a slightly slower pace. I can go to bed at 9 p.m. if I feel like it: no putting kids to bed, or worrying about where they are. Of course I still worry and pray about them—but it’s not the same when they aren’t living at home.
Here’s to marriage “after the kids leave home.” I know, those of you with boomerang children are waiting for me to write that column, but all in due time.
For a free booklet, “Creating A More Loving Marriage,” write to me at Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg, Va. 22802, or e-mail your address to email@example.com (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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