In conversation and on social media, empty nesters (those whose children have grown and left home) have sometimes assumed that their lives are the same as those of us who never had children. On a day-to-day level, this may largely be true, given that we have no dependents at home (unless of course we are caring for elderly relatives) and can have offices or TV rooms in our spare rooms, for example. But in truth the grief is different; the empty nester’s loss is for the past and what they had, not for the future and what they will never have.
- The (adult) children are still there – out in the world, living their lives (as they are supposed to be doing), (hopefully) making the empty nester proud of their independence and their achievements, keeping regular contact (mostly) with their parents, visiting on birthdays or special holidays or celebrating milestones together, or popping around to say hi if they live nearby.
- If an empty nester is ill or old, their child is almost certainly thinking of them, checking they are okay, and likewise, the empty nester still feels needed, in the case that their adult child may need practical or emotional help or advice.
- The empty nester has not had to endure the social isolation and judgement of not having children.
Assuming being an empty nester is the same as my life is shallow; it ignores the reality of my life, the way we are treated by society, and diminishes what we have lost.