Empty Nesting is for the Birds

I think it is only after the kids have flown the coop a parent finally has time and energy to devote to exploring the depths of their inner thoughts, dreams and desires.

I can only speak to this epiphany as a woman, of course. To all outward appearances, my husband doesn’t spend much time exploring his inner thought-depths. I sense this because he huffs deep sighs at me whenever I ask him to join me in exploring mine.

So for the record — this empty nest thing is driving me crazy. And my husband by proximity.

For one thing, I have way too much time on my hands. I find myself staring out the window juggling as many as ten different streams of thought at once, none of which seem in the least productive. I spend hours on my computer, checking e-mail and Facebook in an effort to feel connected.

Some recurring inner-thought themes include: my true purpose in life, microscopic examinations of my skills and abilities lest I die before I utilize them fully and how an excellent and caring wife is supposed to act. The latter listing boomerangs my thoughts to how an excellent and caring HUSBAND is supposed to act; which leads to inner-thought-depth-exploratory conversations with him around this topic. He has developed multiple strategies in order to deftly avoid these meanderings, primary among them: 1) pretend like he did not hear me and 2) change the subject. This does not get rid of me, however, because I am a patient and persistent woman.

In addition to multiple-thought meandering, I am finding I am becoming allergic to housekeeping. I mean, how much cleaning does a two-occupant home need? I am done picking up in about 20 minutes, and the laundry can pile up for two weeks and I can still get it done in an hour. So I let things slide, which gives me more time to inner-thought-process.

When my husband comes in the door after work, periodically he tells me he is worn out — at least conversationally — so he “doesn’t want to think about anything.” This is unfortunate, because at this time of day I am just getting wound up. My mind — muddled by mysterious empty-nest hormones — has triangulated around life’s meaning, how to improve our marriage and the strategy I am planning in order to optimize the years I have left on this earth. I chat at him relentlessly as he lowers himself into his leather recliner, stretches out and covers his face with his arm.

This does not matter. At least there is another person in the house, albeit an inert one.

I have had talks with other women going through the same interesting rite-of-passage. Our identities have been ripped away and replaced with a shroud of confusion. We no longer feel interesting, fun, energetic or worthwhile. This is just plain stupid, of course, and a delusional perception.

We have long, meaningful discussions around this topic whenever we get together for lunch or coffee. They haven’t got it figured out either. I have come to the conclusion it is all about adjustment. Being content. Not looking back — looking ahead, and all that. We nod our heads at each other sagely and stare into each other’s faces with a mournful gaze that screams, “THE LAST KID IS OUT OF THE HOUSE. WHAT DO I DO NOW?” We bond over the fact that we are recent empty-nesters and gain strength from each other that these particular hormones will release their grip on us at some point. In the meantime, we suffer. And we make our husbands suffer along with us.

Hormonal suffering is certainly an interesting concept… I can’t wait for my husband to get home tonight so I can talk to him about this.

Article first appeared in The Capital Journal, Pierre, SD, “The Lighter Side,” October, 2009

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