4 Reasons I’m Glad My Kids Are Off to College (and 6 Reasons I’m Not)


Tanya Steel; her husband, Robert Steel; and their twin sons, Sanger (left) and William (right). (Photo: Tanya Steel)

Any parent whose youngest children have left for college may have experienced “empty nest syndrome.” While not a clinical diagnosis, reports the Mayo Clinic, it’s a phenomenon that evokes mixed feelings — grief, loneliness, or even jubilation at the idea of a (sort of) childfree existence.

According to research published in the Journal of Family Communication, empty nest syndrome can sometimes cause more-complicated feelings. “Parents in our study also described the departure of their children as a stark reminder of their own mortality and growing old as they entered this stage of life,” study co-author Jennifer A. Theiss, assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University, tells Yahoo Parenting.

And while a quiet house can be an opportunity to reinvigorate a marriage, it can also take a toll on a relationship that’s been overshadowed by children. “Couples are often uncertain about the future of their relationship during this major transition,” says Theiss. “They might have questions about how to return to their former roles as spouses or anxiety about becoming too dependent on each other for fulfillment. They may also wonder how to have more sexual intimacy now that they have the privacy to do so.”

The good news is that the majority of parents see this stage in a happier light, even viewing it as a “second honeymoon,” according Theiss, who points to more quality time and the chance to rediscover each other, as possible reasons.

A second honeymoon? I’m not sure about that. I’m the mother of identical twins, so my husband and I are pulling off both Band-Aids at once. We’re so used to our now 6-foot-4-inch 17-year-old sons dominating our schedules, budget, and social lives that as their first day of college approaches, I have mixed feelings. Here’s why I am — and am not — glad my kids are leaving the nest.

The pros:

A cleaner house. No kids means no wet towels on the floor, empty boxes of cereal scattered around, dirty clothes outside the laundry basket, or dirty dishes in the sink.

Less cooking. My kids think nothing of asking me to cook for them at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, and I often cave in because I don’t want to deal with the mess they’ll leave behind if they do it themselves.

Shutting down the taxi service. We live in the suburbs and have two cars for four people, which means we constantly have to pick up or drop off one or both kids. Uber has nothing on us.

A quieter life. The absence of stomping feet, yelling, “Mom, where’s my wallet?” bickering, and loud laughter means I can watch television without wearing headphones.

The cons:

The drain on our finances. Two college tuitions with two meal plans, textbooks, cellphone bills, plus spending money to take out dates — these kids will keep me counting pennies forever.

The silence. Yes, I did complain about the noise, but life is about balance, and I know that when the kids leave, at times, I will find the silence somber and dreary.

Lacking excuses to not hit the gym. Not having to drive to the store to buy the kids new socks or two more gallons of milk will unfortunately leave me with more than enough time to exercise.

More anxiety. Now that the boys really will be out of sight, I’ll worry more about them when they don’t return my text messages, especially at night.

Less laughter. While my husband and I still find each other funny, my kids can make me cry with laughter, even when I’m upset.

Physical distance. Not being able to reach (way) up and hug my boys or share a joke from the next room — all the inconsequential things that distance makes difficult — that will be the hardest. Support group, here I come.

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