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'Empty nester' parents still fill need in children's lives

By KRIS SHEARERColumnist Published: February 7, 2013 5:00 AM

"We are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us." -- Anna Quindlen, from "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake."

My husband and I are what is generally known as "Empty Nesters." Our daughter moved out in 2008 and our son moved out last August. I'd heard all about being an Empty Nester, the loneliness, the heartache, the sadness. But, actually, I didn't feel as bad as I thought I would, but I also didn't feel as good as I thought I would.

I remember the Monday after my daughter moved out. A colleague asked if I'd "just cried all weekend." I was stymied for a moment, wondering if answering truthfully would make me look like a bad mom. I hadn't cried all weekend. Oh, I'd had that moment of "oh ... my baby is moving out." But that moment quickly turned to knowledge that I had done my job. I had an almost 22-year-old who felt she was ready to embark upon her own life within her own control.

I've actually grown to like the quietness of the house. I don't trip over video games anymore, clothes aren't strewn around the two spare bedrooms. I have less laundry, fewer messes to clean up, and my grocery bill has literally been cut in half. I can come and go as I please without having to answer to anyone. I can cook whenever I want to and not have to meet multiple schedules. The TV is mine, and I don't have to worry about anyone moaning and groaning or making fun when I want to play Broadway soundtracks and sing along, or lament the fact that a woman of "my age" shouldn't be listening to Green Day and Blink 182.

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My life is now my own.

But that does not mean I don't miss them. I miss the philosophical talks my son and I had while the hubby was working. We'd be watching something on TV that sparked conversation and soon it's midnight, we've missed three or four of our shows, and we should both really be in bed. I miss my daughter pounding into the bathroom to slam down the toilet lid, as I lay in the whirlpool tub, so she can tell me about her day's frustrations. I miss the giggles, the incessant phone calls that were never for me, the hectic pace of young men and women breezing in and out of my life.

But being an Empty Nester doesn't mean I'm no longer a mother. Both of my children still call on their Mama K when life throws them a curveball or doesn't quite meet their expectations. And my phone rings, too, when life gives them success and reward.

The fact that I'm an Empty Nester doesn't mean I'm no longer needed or appreciated. It just means I was a good mom who reared strong children who feel powerful enough to lead their own lives. Yet, they are also strong enough to know when to ask for help.

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