We watch movies and television shows about folks who suddenly have an "empty nest." The kids are grown, on their own and self-sufficient, raising marvelous families. They have productive, fulfilling jobs, practice their hobbies, have dinner parties, take up tai chi, travel the world and have a generally idyllic life.
Guess again! While this may be the case in a handful of instances, more likely empty nest looks something like this.
You will have to miss your tennis lesson to babysit your grandkids while your oldest daughter takes the car in for repairs so she can get them to tennis lessons.
That money you had earmarked for a cruise gets divided between your second and third sons. The second needs to catch up on his delinquent student loans so he can keep his credit rating in good standing so he can take out a loan for a cruise with his new wife. The third son needs to put a down payment on a boat that is "too good a deal" to pass up.
Your "baby girl" has decided to drop out of college and "find herself," so that new art studio you set up will need to be converted back into her bedroom.
Save that great American novel to a USB stick and tuck it in the drawer because grandson needs a laptop to do homework on and his family's budget is already stretched too thin to be able to get one on their own.
The women's retreat you planned to attend in the fall will now be replaced by babysitting four small grandchildren while your middle daughter goes in to have number five. Husband is deployed and her mother-in-law is not "kid-friendly" so, "tag" — you are it.
Baby boy had a fender-bender with your car on the way to interview for a job he didn't get. In addition to the cost of repairs, he'll need to float a loan for his household expenses until he lands employment. Guess the new backyard pool can wait another year.
This all probably sounds grim and daunting. There is an upside.
While babysitting the grandkids, one of them spills the beans that your son-in-law just got promoted with a huge raise. Yes!
To celebrate, you receive a surprise "thank you for everything" gift — a cruise.
Since "baby girl" will be living back home, she will gladly become the resident babysitter, allowing you to get to those tennis lessons.
She brings her laptop home with her and allows you to share it. Dig out the USB stick and finish that great American novel.
Youngest daughter begs you to let her go watch her nieces and nephews while her sister has number five baby. She enjoys herself so much, she decides to go back to college and major in early childhood development.
Baby boy finally lands that dream job, complete with sign-on bonus which he uses to thank you for all you have done for him. The token of his appreciation? A backyard pool. Not quite the one you had saved for, but it will definitely keep you cool when the heat is on.
Things don't always conveniently work out like this, but more often than not, you will find joy in these years. The truth is, the golden years are golden because of family. If you never write that book; if you never get that pool; if you never cruise to a tropical location; if every dime you made and saved goes to help out family, you can count yourself blessed. Family is what it's all about.