Having the last child leave the nest is a major adjustment for a couple. When first starting a family, being alone again, is a milestone that seems unreachable. Here is the reality of parenting: One minute the doctor is slapping your baby's back encouraging their first breaths and then, in the wink of an eye, you are tearily driving away from the freshmen dorm as your teen fades in the distance amongst a sea of new students. Although walking back into a silent, kid-free home is sobering, the empty nesting years are far from "empty."
As a matter of fact they can be the best years of a marriage. Now that the hands-on task of child rearing is competed (car pools, making lunches, sports, SAT tutoring and college applications...), the two of you can redirect your attention towards each other. All of the heavy lifting has been done and the kids are beginning the process of making their own way. It is time to turn your energy towards a fun and fulfilling second chapter of your marriage. Realize all the pluses of finally being back to just the two of you:
• Tuesday nights = Saturday nights: Now it is possible to leisurely go to the movies whenever you want without the crowds that weekends bring. That new restaurant where reservations can't be had may be enjoyed in the middle of the week. You will be easily seated at 7p.m. instead of being told that 5 or 9p.m. are the only available openings.
• Getaways: Trips no longer have to be booked at peak rates during winter and spring breaks according to school calendars. The two of you can vacation as a couple without restrictions. Family travel is more flexible as flights are cheaper after Jan. 1st, and most colleges give a five week winter break.
• Household Chores: The kitchen and laundry room are going to be a lot less in demand and those piles of clothes scattered throughout the house will vanish. The dishwasher can be run every other day, and laundry for two, no biggie. A load a few times a week, in lieu of hourly, will now suffice.
• Closet Space: Say hello to a windfall of storage. Imagine being able to have all of your seasonal clothing on one floor! No more swapping out winter to summer since the kids' closets have been emptied. There can now be a wardrobe housed in every room. Think of the possibilities!
• No More Dress Code: Having no children afoot, you can get your coffee in your underwear and not give it a second thought. The master bedroom door need not be locked and barricaded any longer. Passions abound!
One word to the wise. Do not get too used to this new carefree lifestyle. Moments like these should be treasured. The reality is that your outwardly mobile children only attend college for seven ridiculously expensive months out of the year. The other four months will be spent once more under a shared roof.