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Confessions of a Gen Xer Empty Nester

It is truly a blessing when our children are able to leave the cocoon to live distinct, yet connected lives

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The term empty nester conjures images for many of a lonely Baby Boomer in an empty home, lamenting both her child’s absence and her lost identity as Needed Mom. Not so for me. As a forty-something empty nester, I’m handling this new phase remarkably well – particularly during this eternal period of confinement.

On day umpteen of this pandemic, I called a friend to inquire how she was coping with being in quarantine.

“The kids are driving me absolutely crazy,” said the mom of four under age 10. “I’m ready to jump in the car and just drive away. If only I had the energy.”

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I tried to comfort her, but my empathy was circumscribed. As the parent of an adult child, I’ve been on Easy Street in the mothering department throughout this stay-at-home order. I can only imagine what it feels like to be confined with youngsters in need of everything from stimulation and entertainment to meals and attention. Kids who are bouncing off the walls in between breakfast and Zoom lessons, Mom’s baking activity and bath time.

My son left home for school three years ago which officially made me a Gen Xer Empty Nester. I had him years before my same-age peers had their kids. There has always been a huge gap between our life stages. I lived everything they’re living now (pandemic restrictions aside) years ago: the swimming, skating, karate and art lessons. The playdates.  The carpools.  The after-school soccer practices. The endless homework. The bedtime rituals. The parent-teacher interviews. The obscure research projects. The school chagigot. The Bar Mitzvah. The graduations – from Pre-K through High School.

Aviva Engel is an award-winning freelance journalist

Late one night before my son was leaving home for the first time, I noticed, while passing by, that he had fallen asleep on the couch. Spontaneously, I paused in the doorway and watched him for a moment. As I stood there, cognizant that he might wake up any minute and highlight my “cringy” behavior, I recall thinking, don’t leave.  As ecstatic as I was for him that he would be moving on and spending the first of two years studying in Israel, I knew that his leaving would mark the end of a very meaningful chapter in our relationship and our lives.

But I also knew his departure would signify the beginning of a bright new chapter for both of us: one of independence, personal growth and new-found freedom to carve out our own unique paths and identities.

Fast forward three years and I have adjusted to, even embraced, life as an empty nester. On the occasions when I lament my child’s physical absence, I think about the book Adventures in the Mainstream. In describing life with his son who has Down syndrome, author Greg Palmer poignantly notes, “I’ve heard parents bemoaning the fact that their children have grown up and gone off to live their own lives. They long for the days when Junior automatically took their hand to cross the street, found delight in an ice cream cone, and slept with stuffed animals and action figures. Ned still does all these things, and he is twenty. A child growing up and going away is sad; a child not able to grow up, and with no place to go is something far worse.”

Indeed, it is truly a blessing when our children are able to leave the cocoon to live distinct, yet connected lives. And so rather than mourn, I celebrate this milestone. For I am among the lucky ones whose children have launched. 

Give them roots and give them wings, they say. I have done both, and my son is soaring.

So to my friend, mother of four, who is on the verge of losing it from her adorable kiddos, I offer this advice: appreciate these days with your children while you can, because before you know it, they grow up. And they will leave you.

Until a pandemic strikes, and they move back home.

Indefinitely.

Aviva Engel is an award-winning freelance journalist and director of communications at Hebrew Academy in Montreal. She is the lead editor and master storyteller at outsourcecopywriting.com.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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