No more reaching for the milk carton only to find out that it has been put back in the refrigerator empty. No more endless piles of laundry piled up next to my exhausted washing machine. No more telephone calls at all hours of the night. No packs of girls putting shaving cream on me while I slept or tying me into my bed while I slept.
The end started in ninth grade with boyfriends, talk of college and graduate school. The visits to colleges punctuated that soon, my house would go from the loud voices of excited young girls, the constant drumbeat of around the clock music and a telephone that never seemed to stop ringing to abject silence.
The first year that out daughter was away, we infrequently and mournfully watched videos from her childhood and plumbed the depths of self-pity. In hindsight, these self-flagellating behaviors were necessary to excise the malignancy of the “empty nest syndrome.” My wife and I didn’t just miss our daughter; we missed the life we had occupied when our daughter was at home.
While at home our daughter had many friends and just about every weekend had a friend or friends over. They also came with us on trips and vacations. There was always something to look forward to and something to do.
Now, years later, we have adjusted to life after children. That adjustment now includes doing more of what we want to do and not what we previously felt obligated to do. On weekends we get up when we choose or selfishly stay in bed nursing a cup of coffee and reading the paper or watching an old movie that my daughter could never have suffered through.
One day, my wife and I were in my daughter’s vacant room and it dawned on both of us that we had resumed having lengthy conversations like we had when we were dating. It was an epiphany that was not lost on either of us. The far flung tangents of our dating years were back. “Do you think our dog has feelings like we do?” “Does it bother you when I talk on the telephone for hours with my best friend?” “I want us to do Tai Chi together; it is very spiritual you know.” It is amazing how much we talk now compared to when our daughter was home.
Somehow, in the midst of being a family and raising a family, it is easy to lose sight of how important seeing the great things in our partner is. What is so obvious now must have been a child induced amnesia or fog of sorts.
Together we surf for auctions, estate sales or antique sales, a shared passion. Now we are free to drive three hours to and from an auction without feeling guilty. It was difficult to find time to be with our own friends much while our daughter was growing up and now we see them more often. We also have a group of friends that we have dinner with every month.
Every month we have dinner at someone else’s home and the meals always have a theme like Italian or French. I love to cook so it is an opportunity to ply my epicurean skills with my friends.
Is there life after children, indeed there is. Right now there are young parents who are frustrated and suffering as they put the majority of their efforts and time into raising their family. Just as my parents told me, your time as a parent will pass so quickly that you won’t want it to end so soon. However, on the other side of parenting is the person you were once dating, waiting to get reacquainted. It is a fabulous time because you have someone that has been through the trials of parenthood with you and still likes you, which is a lot of like.
So when it seems that parenthood is just too much, remember that somewhere not too far down the road is that person you once dated. They are as charming as and even more interesting than they once were. Get this, now, they want to please you and make you happy again and you are their focus. My wife and I still wax nostalgic and take sojourns into childhood photo albums and tapes but those trips are infrequent and short these days.
Life is just too good and I have to go, that sweet, beautiful person I’m dating is bringing me a cold drink.
Remember, all kids count.
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