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Empty Nester Blues


No doubt it’s a great apartment… as far as basements apartment go.

The place is on a quiet street near the subway. The kitchen has been updated with granite counters, stainless steel appliances, and there’s even a dishwasher.

The perks include laundry, cleaning services…and the rent is an unbeatable price – it’s free.

But my youngest son is walking away from this terrific deal… OK there’s a catch. This great apartment happens to be in my house.

My son is ready to move out. He’s 25. He has a good job and he wants to be on his own. I did it when I was his age. But now that I’m on the mother side of this equation I see things quite differently.

I’ve been an empty nester before – briefly. My oldest son moved out when my two other boys were away at school. But they came home and I was happily cooking them meals and doing their laundry again.

My middle son has been living downtown for a couple of years and now son No. 3 is on his way out.

I have to admit I felt sorry for him when he first began looking for an apartment. Finding something affordable in Toronto is a challenge.

He’d book an appointment to see an advertised apartment and by the time he’d get there it would already be rented. The only places available seemed to be in pretty undesirable neighbourhoods.

I was afraid he’d end up in one of those areas and then, I’d worry about him all the time.

So I decided to help him find a decent place to live. It was true Jewish-helicopter-mother logic: if my son was so determined to go, I was going to make sure he’d be safe.

One weekend he managed to get the first appointment of the day to view what looked like a good apartment in a safe area. I drove him downtown so he’d get there on time.

The unit was in a high rise. When we arrived a fire alarm was in process and we couldn’t use the elevator. I huffed and puffed up nine flights of stairs so we could see the place first. Did I risk getting a heart attack? Of course. But isn’t self sacrifice the ethos of motherhood?

We beat out two other people vying for the same apartment.They waited for the elevator.

It was first come, first serve at the rental office, so my son got the place. He was really excited about it. Needless to say I was less enthusiastic.

I’m trying to get used to the idea of having my morning coffee alone. (My husband is out the door before I’m out of bed).

I suppose there are some advantages to being an empty-nester – less laundry, a lower food bill and a cleaner house… That’s not enough compensation, for the reduction in the nag factor in my life.

For me mothers nagging is like breathing. And I have learned that nagging through text messaging is pointless.

At a recent family dinner I was complaining about the impending departure of my youngest son. Maybe I was trying to induce a little guilt…but what mother doesn’t play that card now and then?

Why don’t you look on the bright side,” my middle son mused. “If things don’t work out with me and Mere (his girlfriend), I’ll be back in the basement.”

And then I had somewhat of a revelation. If your kids live independently, chances are their jobs are going well… or their personal relationships are working out…or both…

No mother wants to see their child struggle to launch themselves into adulthood.

We mothers can be overprotective, we may complain and nag incessantly, and sometimes we overplay the guilt card, but we all want our children to be happy and fulfilled adults.

For many young people, leaving home is a step in that direction.

So in that respect, being an empty nester is actually a good thing… but I’m not about to celebrate.


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