Some days I wonder about this thing called “empty nest syndrome”. As I struggle with the day-to-day challenges of raising children, with the constant bickering, incessant requests, and the drain on my emotional, financial, and time resources, I think, “Is it really possible that one day I will wish this all back?”
In my mind I know it is true. At times the joys of previous parental stages bring a tinge in my heart as I longinly remember some of the joyous moments with my tiny children. Too often, however, the day-to-day grind leaves me dreaming of a rest and quiet. I long for the chance to do a task without interupption, to not be a referee, disciplinarian, maid, or chauffeur. Now, I think I understand why this is true. So much of parenting is sacrifice. It is giving up what you want, who you are. I’m not talking about giving my kids everything they want, or making them the center of the family. What I am talking about is doing what is best for them to raise them to the best of my abilities during the short time I have them. I don’t always give them what they want, however sometimes as I listen to the bitter compalints that follow I think it might be easier if I did. I make decisions that I believe are best for them, even when they do not like it. I make them do chores and contribute to the family, do more than the minimum required for their homework, go to places they find boring because sometimes that is life. However, all of these things come with sacrifices for me.
They come with sacrifices of time, money, and patience. Children are expensive. I never wanted to spoil my kids with things, though they certainly have an excess of things, so I decided I would rather invest in them in experiences. These experiences come in the form of classes, field trips, and vacations. We homeschooled for years which encompassed all of me. We sent them to private school, and that meant going to work to pay for tuition (something that would not have been necessary if we sent them to the public school.) I volunteered at summer camp to afford the costs for them. I listened to bickering that I could have ended to help them learn how to handle struggles. I have stood by helplessly as a child dealt with a broken heart over an issue that I could not fix and my heart broke for them. I have had insults hurled at me from these people who I had given my all to. I have given them all I have. I wonder sometimes what will be left of me by the time they are gone. And when that day comes I suspect the emptiness that will be left behind will be more than a longing for the company of my children. I will be a different person. I wonder if the emptiness will be because I will have lost my identity, and I can no longer remember who I was before them. I would not ever wish to be that person again. I already expereince an emptiness as I go from loss to loss in this process of parenting. Sometimes I think I could not bare another loss. But, one day I will lose my children as they go off to begin the lives that I have been preparing them for through this painful process. And with that loss I will be emptied.