Or the joys of empty nest syndrome.
Defined loosely by a collection of symptoms and emotions including depression, anxiety, a sense of loss of purpose, feelings of rejection, and excessive worry over a child’s welfare, empty nest syndrome is most commonly experienced by women after their last child leaves for college.
Or so say my reliable-type internet sources.
My own feelings about Mike and I having the house to ourselves* are somewhat different.
*Almost. Our oldest still lives with us but he works the night shift full-time. When we hear him come in from work we just pretend we’re being robbed.
My feeling is more akin to what I imagine Sisyphus would have felt if after 18-plus years of dragging that same boulder up the hill, Zeus slapped him on the back one day and said, “Ah screw it. You deserve a break for a bit. Go have morning sex and then hit the breakfast bar at Big Boy.”
Hell yeah – game on.
If I mention this feeling of freedom, of being unburdened from the daily minutiae of parenting, of wanting to jump up and click my heels together, inevitably the recipient of my joyous overflow says something like,
“You and your sense of humor. You loved every minute of it and you know it.”
I am always taken slightly aback by this type of statement.
Partially at the idea that I am being funny. I’m not.
I am totally and completely serious about the indescribable lightness of my being. It’s like I am living in a tampon commercial from the 1980s where I do cartwheels on clouds all day – minus the actual period or need for a tampon – for the most part. Three cheers for peri-menopause!
More so what bothers me is the idea that there is a need to couch my expressions of empty-nest joy with a counterbalancing statement affirming my love for motherhood (and by proxy, my children).
Of course I love them.
Otherwise they would have been out on their collective asses’ years ago.
Imagine letting a guest stay in your house for eighteen-plus years that didn’t pay rent, drank milk out of the carton and masturbated into your good towels? Now imagine three such guests.
Only a parent would put up with that shit.
You can love your children AND understand that they are the biggest emotional and financial burdens you will ever carry and that your life with them has been an epic struggle in ways you never would or could have understood before you had them.
These things are not mutually exclusive.
And due to our own refusal to grasp that the pullout method was unreliable birth control, Mike and I went from “hello” to baby in about 2.3 seconds (it’s still the fastest I’ve seen him move in 21 years, with the exception of the time the dog tried to eat his ham sandwich.)
Granted, initially they were in fetus form, but from shortly after the day we met there hasn’t been a time in our relationship when the possibility of, the reality of and/or the daily needs of at least one and then two and ultimately three children weren’t our first and foremost concern.
The daily needs of all three of our sons are STILL our first and foremost concern because at 18, 19 and 21 their hold on adulthood is tenuous at best. Our always subtle and tactful parenting style has transitioned from, “If I were going to do something that asinine, I would at least be smart enough to wear a helmet” to helpful financial advice such as, “Unless your plan is to prostitute yourself across Europe this summer, I’d quit spending money on Nintendo games.”
The difference is now we are wrapped in the blissful ignorance that a combination of age and distance (our own and that of our children) affords parents, allowing us to function knowing that the same people who a few short years ago couldn’t be trusted around all things sharp or flammable are now loose in the world and most likely in possession of a pocket knife and a Bic lighter.
Now at the end of the day it is just the two of us.
What do we do, you might ask, just the two of us, all alone at the end of the day?
With no kids as distraction, no homework to help with, no practice to shuttle to, no sleepovers to coordinate or parent teacher conferences to attend and no permission slips to sign, bagged lunches to make or uniforms to iron?
Whatever the fuck we want.
IT’S THE BEST.