When Veronica and I began to think about our lives after raising kids, one of the first things we did was Google "empty nesters."
We wanted to see if anyone else was looking at this the same way that we were. With a feeling of "isn't it great that the kids have moved out and we'll have life to ourselves again?" To be untethered and free. To wander the globe. To be GypsyNesters instead of empty-nesters.
But no, just about everything we could find was lamenting how terrible it is that the kids aren't around anymore. A lot of self-help, and self-pity (not that we haven't gone there ourselves as proven here and here). We don't personally respond well to self-help, we prefer a kick in the butt.
Even worse, the biggest item on the first page we clicked into was an enormous ad for an Alzheimer's patch.
Holy crap! We just finished raising our kids, we're not dying! If twenty some odd years of child rearing has caused some memory loss (or eyesight, hearing, mobility or... um... I forget...) by golly, let's count it as a plus and learn to like it.
Do we really want to remember every battle fought along the way? I think not. We'll gladly let our memories fade just enough to color the overall picture, and recall it all as pretty good stuff.
Raising kids is hard work and we couldn't comprehend all of these people grieving the end of the task. Granted, continuation of the species is one of life's prime motivations. Humans are after all, animals. But unlike the other critters, when we have finished the job of rearing the offspring, we're able to have some fun. Accept a big pat on the back. Job well done.
Our kids have grown into full-sized Homo Sapiens fully capable of feeding themselves. The time has come to let them do their own hunting and gathering. Trust me, when they get hungry enough, they will find food. But they have to learn to do it for themselves, otherwise they'll end up like zoo animals. If tigers get fed every day they never learn to hunt. Then when they're released into the wild, they starve.
Personally, we taught our little cubs that if they get really hungry, they can always kill and eat a bag of Ramen noodles.
They've gotten pretty good at it too.
So now the chicks have flown and we enter a new phase of our lives. Of course we have any number of conflicting feelings, and these days even the smallest emotion or complaint must be labeled as a syndrome. It was right there on my screen, on Google, in bold type, EMPTY NEST SYNDROME.
How in the heck can kids moving on with their own lives be a syndrome? Shouldn't that be like BREATHING OXYGEN SYNDROME? It's so crazy that right this second several pharmaceutical giants are probably frantically retesting some drug that was originally intended to treat a truly dreadful disease, just so that they can market it as the only way to escape the treacherous death grip of EMPTY NEST SYNDROME. I mean seriously, does anyone believe an army of researchers ever originally set out to find a cure for the dreaded Restless Leg Syndrome or Chronic Dry Eye?
But I digress, (yet another syndrome perhaps?) let's get back to the original dilemma. Shouldn't we be excited about this portion of life? Most of us have made more than a few sacrifices to get here, so we say, stick a fork in us, we're done.
With this in mind we decided to sell the empty nest (and everything else we owned), set out on a journey, and chronicle our discoveries. Pulling the ripcord on the daily grind, we threw caution to the wind, quit our jobs, put on our vagabond shoes, and went gypsy.
As we go we are conquering old fears, seeing new sights, reestablishing bonds with family and friends, and transforming our relationships with our three grown children from parent-child to adult-to-adult.
Most importantly, by experiencing new things together, we have rediscovered in ourselves the fun-loving youngsters who fell in love three decades prior.
Your turn: What do you have to say? Do you agree or disagree with our philosophy? Let us know by leaving a comment!