The house is quiet. Now. It wasn’t yesterday. It hasn’t been for the last few weeks. But today, I’d like to say we are officially “empty nesters”. Is this a permanent state? I have no idea! I used to think that this would happen one day and I’d be done — free to move on. But I’ve learned it’s not that simple. Is this just my personal soap opera or does it reflect a societal shift in this current climate of overwhelming student-loan debt and high housing costs? In many cultures, multi-generational homes are the norm. We, as a society of independent, fast-paced, tech-dependent, and perhaps overly self-centered people, expect to reach and maintain this plateau of an empty nest as our deserved reward for parenting well done. But, is it a realistic expectation? I think not.
Five years ago, on Labor Day 2011, we dropped off daughter #3 (kid#4) for her freshman year of college. Our middle daughter (kid #3) had already left for Australia for a semester abroad. Our oldest daughter (kid #2) was working at a publishing company in Manhatten and so was living several hours away. The house was quiet. Five days later, our son (kid #1) broke up with his girlfriend and moved back home.
College kids have a way of traipsing home for the summer, for school breaks, and even for long weekends when they need the solitude and security of their old bedrooms. If there are no other kids still living at home then parents can get a small taste of an “empty nest” while they’re at school. But, it doesn’t last; they do come home.
In 2013, I remember posting a Facebook status that read something like: “It’s 10pm, do you know where your children are? I do. They’re all upstairs.” Kids #3 and #4 were home from college on winter break. Kid #2 had recently moved back from New York and was job hunting. Kid #1 was still here.
In 2014, kid #3, who had graduated from college in 2013, found a job and moved out, then relocated to San Fransisco. Kid #2, who had gotten a job and moved out, got married. Kid #4 was finishing up college, while kid #1 found an apartment with friends and moved out. Again.
In 2015, kid #4 graduated from college and moved home. She spent a year or so pursuing theater jobs which were more contract work than steady income. She switched gears this year to find something permanent in order to fulfill a promise to share an apartment with a college friend who wanted to move to this area for his graduate studies. With a little parental help, in the past month, she has signed a lease and accepted a full-time job. She has moved out.
Meanwhile, kid #3 moved back from San Fransisco with her fiance to a temporary living situation nearby. An unexpected creepy-crawly problem (I’ll say no more) prompted them to move in here while hurriedly searching for a new apartment. They found one, signed a lease, and started packing.
As it turned out, at the same time, kid #1 was coming to the end of his lease and was done living in a tiny room in an old house with his friends. He and his girlfriend were ready for their own place. They found one. There was only a single small glitch: the new lease began four days after the old lease ended. They (and ALL their stuff) needed a place to stay, temporarily.
Yesterday, in the muggy heat of this strange New England summer, we packed up a UHaul truck and the back of my minivan and moved them out of our house and into their new apartment. Whew! Kid #3 and her fiance left this morning to sort out what had been moved to their new apartment so far, to get their gas and hot water turned on, and to presumably start living there.
So, I repeat: the house is quiet. Now.
Will it last? I have no idea!