Do You Fear An Emptier Empty Nest?
When I introduce myself now, I tell folks I write.
At least it brings up other comments than when I tell them I’m a psychologist. That usually elicits the joke, “Ahh, are you going to psychoanalyze me?”
Not particularly funny when you have heard it a million times.
So I say I write. The follow-up question obviously is, “What do you write about?”
“It started with empty nest. I called it NestAche.”
They usually think I said NestEGG, so we have to go through all that. “Money management?” “No, no,” I quickly protest. But after understanding has been reached, marvelous discussions have occurred. About children. Parents. Letting go. Mid-life.
One of those conversations happened recently, with someone I just met. Lisa was a friend of a friend — bright, articulate, funny and very successful in her work and life.
Lisa told me that her nest had felt much emptier since her only child, a daughter, had married. Very happily. Now she struggled feeling like a “third thumb.”
This led to a spirited discussion.
“It’s much worse than when she left for college.” She hated to admit the feeling, since it sounded as if she wasn’t pleased for her daughter, which wasn’t at all true. We theorized that perhaps her feelings might change if and when her daughter had children. Or that this might be a time her daughter needed to establish more independence, and build her relationship with her new husband. It wasn’t that she was rejecting her mom. Lisa also didn’t have a partner currently, and we wondered what was the effect of her not having a supportive relationship in her own life, one that she could focus on and enjoy.
Of course, this made me think about my own life. I have written about anticipatory grieving, which is a process I firmly believe in. It’s not living in dread or spending a lot of time worrying. It’s having insight into what might be in front of you, and thinking about how you would handle it.
It’s a way of building skills.
I don’t think too much about a girlfriend or a wife. I can handle that and am already moving over. But my son developing a relationship with another maternal figure? Like a mother-in-law or something?
What will it be like to share holidays? What if he calls her “Mom?”
What if her meatballs are better than mine?
It’s plain old insecurity. Fear of being replaced. Of losing importance.
And no one is replaceable.
Nothing right now means more to me than when I get a call from my son and I hear, “Mom, I need to talk to you about something.” My world just stops. I’m all in. It doesn’t happen that often. When it does, it somehow makes up for him not being home anymore.
I treasure that.
But it’s time to breathe.
Remember that love is not quantifiable. The more that exists, the more that can be created.
It’s important to remember. For my friend’s friend.
And for me.
And if that future mother-in-law is out there, reading this?
I may need your meatball recipe.
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