I have not lived with my parents for almost a decade now, but my sister who is newly married has moved out for the first time—even if most of her stuff remains! My mother grew up as the oldest of three and my dad was the oldest of five. In my dad’s family, there was never enough money to go around and they learned to do without. For this reason, my father is a faithful penny pincher, and never wanted more than one child.
My mother, on the other hand, wanted five. I always say they “settled” for two, but in truth my mother’s issues with infertility prior to my conception led them to believe they didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant again. I know how they felt; the exact same belief led to the conception of my second daughter as well.
My mom has told me several times throughout the years that she wished she had had the big family she dreamt of. My father never has regretted having two children, and I am sure some times regretted having had two when finances got tough. Imagine my surprise when my mother called me recently and said that my father had told her he wished they’d had more children! I was in shock. Had I heard her right? My dad said that?
But this feeling isn’t uncommon when the kids leave the house for good. My friend’s mother mentioned the same sentiment once, and she had three children herself. I think that when your entire life has been made up of taking care of your kids it can be hard to get past a feeling of emptiness—hence the expression “empty nest syndrome”.
I have a few friends who, when asked if they indeed to have more children reply with, “Are you kidding? I only have thirteen more years until I get the house to myself again!” or some such variation. I used to think that these people were selfish to be counting down the days until their children were gone, but now I wonder if they might have it a bit right. The key is to stay positive about the future—your future without kids. If you have a spouse I think making plans for future trips and hobbies can help with the symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome.