So often we hear the negatives of the empty nest syndrome -- quiet houses where parents long for the familiar sounds of now-grown-up children, even the video games that once made them crazy. We hear of spouses not sure how to communicate with each other now that the kids have moved out. Even the very name, "empty nest," echoes with a sense of sadness, something lost.
Perhaps that's why I loved this thoughtful column on the up-side of the empty nest over at Fathers For Good. In her column, "An Empty Nest to Build On," Kathleen Gallagher, Catholic Advocacy Network Director and Director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, talks about how the departure of her two sons for college has changed her househould, for sure, but in positive and inspiring ways.
From the column:
Well, it’s a whole new adventure, and we’re diving right in. Joe has registered for a non-credit college course in archeology, something he’s always wanted to study. I have signed up for a watercolor painting class. Joe’s reading the history and military books he enjoys so much; I’ve got my mystery novels to take me away from all that reality.
Together, we’ve joined a health club where we run the treadmill and ride the bikes side-by-side at least two nights a week. We’re looking into the possibility of traveling, maybe even a cruise. We eat together, pray together and walk the dog together every day.
The walks are long; we talk a lot. Sure, we talk about the boys, how much we miss them, hope for them, fear for them. We trust that the values we have tried to instill early on have taken root and will kick in when they need them. We know they must make their own choices and learn from their mistakes. We believe their faith will sustain them.
But more than the boys, we talk about each other, possible career changes, downsizing, health habits. Sometimes it’s just surface talk about politics or the weather, sprinkled with jokes and laughter. Oftentimes it’s reflective, deep, substantive conversation. I find I am listening more, hearing more, learning more about my husband than I ever knew before. There is less distraction, less busy-ness, less noise between us. The pace of life has decelerated, leaving more time to focus, appreciate, apologize, forgive, enjoy.
As someone who will not have an empty nest for many more years, I read Kathy's column and wondered if there's a way to build some of that emptiness into our very full lives so that my husband and I can strengthen and sustain our marriage right now, in the midst of the chaos of life with three kids at home, rather than waiting for our 6-year-old to go away to college one day. Emptiness can be a good thing in the right circumstances and the right doses. Thank you, Kathy, for reminding us of that.
Read the full column HERE.