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Empty Nest Syndrome, Not

Something is wrong with me. I must be a horrible aberration or have a rare immunity to this debilitating disease. You see, my youngest child recently moved out. And I’m happy. Possibly even thrilled.

I’ve been hearing about this disease called Empty Nest Syndrome for years. I’ve dreaded it, but understood it was a rite of passage. Something you just have to get through, kind of like PMS. Each day I wake up and wait for the agony of ENS. But it’s just not there.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my children dearly. But the problem is that I really love all this incredible free time, too. For the first time in nearly a quarter century my husband and I can make plans to go wherever, whenever, we want. We don’t have to worry about babysitters, sporting events, PTA meetings, or waiting up for a missed curfew. We don’t have to be back by Sunday night, or check the calendar for holiday breaks.

My grocery bill has shrunk exponentially. I don’t have to wait until after midnight to get a hot bath. If we get the urge for a little “us time” (which we occasionally have the energy for now), we don’t have to wait until the wee hours of the night and risk the rattle of a doorknob and the moment-killing question, “are you sick?”

I don’t search the freezer in vain for ingredients needed for a special dinner, only to find someone ate the T-bones for breakfast. There are no more 6:20 a.m. crashes into the front door on the way to a nearly missed school bus. I don’t have to suffer through the misery of school clothes shopping – you know, the rolling eyes, muttered curses, and denigration of my weird fashion sense.

I haven’t quite gotten used to the laundry not being a never-ending task. Someone else is washing the sheets that have been on beds for who knows how long. I’m pretty sure the last set I gave them was not originally a tie-dyed gray/brown color.

I now have two--count them--two spare rooms. One is now my very own office. I don’t have to use the dining table for anything but eating now, but because there are only two of us and I’m not trying to set an example, we usually eat in the living room. The other room is for guests, although the only guest we’ve had so far is my son during college breaks. There are other possibilities – but for someone else to visit, we’ll have to hang around the house long enough to take their call and make arrangements.

My car is parked where I left it, and the tank has the same amount of gas as when I last drove it. The music that comes out of the speakers is my music, not something that makes me want to drive into the nearest lamppost.

The kitchen trashcan does not reach Everest-like heights before it gets emptied (OK, so I had to empty it before, too, but now I only have to do it a couple times a week instead of a couple times a day). I have a full set of silverware all the time – not just after they clean their rooms, and the dishwasher doesn’t have to be filled and run before every meal.

Of course, I have noticed a few minor inconveniences. I don’t have anyone but myself to send out to clean up after the dog or jump in the car to fetch a gallon of milk. And I have to mow the lawn – but I don’t have to listen to a half hour of complaining first. I usually talk myself into doing these chores with only one or two reminders, and I never have to raise my voice or threaten dire consequences.

So I guess I’ll just have to accept the fact that I’m a poor excuse for a mother. I should have time to explore this sad gap in my psyche while we’re on our way down to a quick mini-vacation on the beach in Mexico. Just a wild, last minute decision. Oh, the shame of it all!

Okay, I might miss the random hugs and shouted “Hi, Mom, I’m home”, or the smile as they tell me I should listen to this song, because they know I'll like it." But only a little.


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