If you look up "empty nest syndrome" you'll quickly find that it is not an actual clinical diagnosis or medical condition. Rather, it is simply an expression coined to explain the feeling of depression and loneliness some parents feel when their kids leave home to strike out on their own (as most do these days... striking out is a lot easier than it used to be...)
My lovely (and dangerous) wife and I never really went through any form of "empty nest syndrome" after our own kids were no longer sharing a house with us full time. We managed (in our own ways) to fill our time with other distractions, and since we still got the opportunity to see our kids on a regular basis, it wasn't all that hard to get used to. When the two of us decided to stop circling one another like satellites to marry and share the same address, we found having a child-free house to be a liberating thing. We could come and go as we pleased, do whatever made our tiddlies wink, and didn't have to censor our words or deeds in any fashion within the sanctity of our own home. We were unencumbered adults, without school schedules or any of the other headaches that afflict folks with kids.
Of course, that changed recently. We took guardianship of a nine year-old back in early December after the death of my wife's mom, and for the most part it's been a fun (yet challenging) endeavor. It's not something either of us had in our plans, but what do you do when someone leaves you a child to raise?
So for months we've dealt with juggling the logistics of work to accommodate school schedules, field trips, piano lessons, play practices, voice lessons, stomach viruses, head colds, doctor appointments, school projects, and the million other little inconveniences that come with having a fourth-grader living under your roof. And from all accounts, we've handled the change better than we might have been expected.
But today is the kid's last day of school before summer break, and it's only a half day at that. It just occurred to me that in less than two hours my wife will drop off our niece, and then return to her job. Instead of having a few hours of privacy every day, I'll be expected to entertain, feed, and (trust me on this) listen to a nine year-old. Instead of having an empty, quiet house to myself, I'll be sharing it with a noisy, demanding little person. Everything I do will be questioned, and any request I deny will be followed by a whiny "But WHYYYYYYY?"
I'm already dreading that word. Think I'll load up a squirt gun and make a new rule: ask me "why" I've said "no" and you get a squirt. Ask twice and I go for the Super Soaker.
I'm getting depressed just thinking about it.
So my question is this... If "empty nest syndrome" describes the depression parents feel when their kids finally leave home, what should we call the depression and dread that comes from knowing the kid will ALWAYS BE HOME...?
I'm mixing a batch of Bloody Marys in advance. Maybe if I give a couple to the kid someone will determine I'm not fit to handle these extra duties...
Or hey, I could go get a real job like my wife's! Then we'd have to make arrangements for daycare of some sort! Yeah... I could go back to work!
I'm pretty sure it would be less stressful.