It happened and just like that I found myself with a big chunk of time. I had been wondering for the past 18 years when this would happen and how would it feel. So far, it has been a combination of exhilaration and sadness. I miss them and then I’m ridden with an unbelievable feeling of freedom. It has nothing to do with love because that unconditional thing for kids goes without saying. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s see what I am supposed to do now that I no longer have to do things I did for the past few years. Just about everything has been slashed by half; cooking, cleaning, driving, dropping, picking, screaming; only time has doubled. My brain feels especially free; it is no longer centered on food and feeding; something that I am totally relishing.
Is this an angst with men and dads? Could couples without kids understand this? I doubt it. On the other hand, I now understand the pristine lives of singles and adults with no kids. This twin feeling of joy-sadness is also a phenomenon that is acute with women especially ones who were lucky to get some education and those wanting a career as well. Did I really need a college education to raise kids? Just some school, loads of wisdom and oodles of patience would have done the magic of raising children. The joy and pain is same either way. A small booboo on the knee of a child would hurt the same; a mother would cry louder than the child when his or her baby tooth had to be pulled out.
My husband has been moping around the house since the boys left home for college and the Marines. His glum face so scared his parents that they called to find out what was going on with him and his face! In the past years or so, we saw less and less of the children. Their lifestyle and timing did not seem human; it was more on the level of aliens or owls; hooting and hollering all night long and sleeping all day. No surprises there. I guess it was a way to intimate us of the movement toward moving. It’s the natural order of things; life giving small signs and signals for things to come which humans would rather not see. Kids are always growing up, leaving home, parents moping for a while and then celebrating at finding themselves again and starting the next phase of life.
To combat the effects of empty nest syndrome, my older son suggested getting a dog or a cat or a turtle or worse adopting another child. I was horrified. I could not do this. I had just gotten off the train of raising children and to think of boarding another one was going to give me a combination of toothache, stomachache and headache. Nonetheless, I discovered the long simmering activity of feeding birds and watching them fly away. So far, I’ve put up five bird feeders in my backyard; one was painted a loud red, green and yellow with the help of my husband; he washed all the paint brushes! I’m now giving ‘creating and selling’ bird feeders a serious thought and hoping to turn it into a lucrative business.