It is fall and kids have been back to school here in Houston for over a month and football season is in full swing. Unlike when I was a kid when Memorial Day marked the beginning of summer and Labor Day marked its end, school children in Houston start back mid to late August depending on the school or school district. For years, first as a child then as a mother I looked forward to the start of school. It was such an exciting time of beginnings with new school clothes, new notebooks and pens and pencils and the hope of a fresh start. No matter how hard the previous school year had been for me or my children everything began again – from class subjects to teachers to grades. The slow, lazy and at times boring pace of summer gave way to a fast paced exciting schedule that included not only school activities and classes, but after school activities like soccer and dance. Even as a mother I always felt excited to get back to the routine, to opportunities for more interaction with the parents of my children’s classmates, teammates and friends.
The interesting thing about having children in school is that it really does dictate your social life. Before your children start school your time really is your own and your friends are people with whom you have common interests– whether work or hobbies, but after your children start school your friends are chosen from parents of the children with whom your kids have common interests. That really was not a bad thing. Most of my friends now including my best friend came from this time. Now that my children are grown we have remained close despite our children rarely seeing each other. I think in part that is because for many of us our main interest will always be our kids and we share a bond with these friends over our children and that bond will continue even after the kids have moved out of our reach.
My husband, Russell and I have been empty nesters now since the fall of 2010 when our youngest son went away to college. I was heartbroken that such wonderful time in my life was coming to an end. I loved being a mom. We loved having our children with us every day – even when they were mortified by our very existence (hello middle school). We spent many nights sitting at basketball, hockey, lacrosse and softball games and we loved watching our children play. While I worked full time, I was also very active in the PTA, chairing galas and school carnivals while Russell was active with the Boosters. As it came to an end, I remember being so worried that I would not know what to do after David was gone, worried that I would lose ways to meet new people since our children had been such an integral part of how we spent our recreational time. Frankly, I also worried I would be lonely and that I would not have enough to do.
A friend told me a few weeks before David left that he and his wife had experienced the same fears and that after their youngest left the nest it took them a full 48 hours to realize this was the greatest thing that ever happened. I laughed of course, but was still doubtful. Turned out it took me about 2 weeks to realize that. Unlike when I left for college, there are so many ways to stay in touch. Between social media, Skype, cheap cell phone service and email I am able to talk to my kids all the time and see what is going on in their lives. My relationship with them has not weakened at all and as they get older in many ways it is better because I am no longer the enforcer of rules.
My years are no longer marked by the school calendar. I know that school starts some time in August and I know when the first school districts have started back because there is always a little more traffic on my morning commute, but I no longer have to plan vacations around the school calendar. Traveling after families have gone back to school is such a pleasure.
Last year we sold our house and everything in it and moved to a much smaller apartment downtown. We married when I was just a sophomore in college with the plan of waiting years to have children, but as with many people that plan changed with the birth our daughter, Katie, a year an half after we married. We eventually had two more children, both boys, and we loved being a family and loved having children. We would not have changed a thing, but now that we are both still relatively young we are having a blast doing things we did not get to do in our younger, poorer days. We are traveling, dining out, hanging out and spending a lot fun times being together. Think date night most nights.
My relationship with my husband is better than ever. Because we are not always trying to negotiate carpool and homework schedules our stress levels are much lower. Yes, there is definitely life after kids. For those of you out there who are worrying about the empty nest, trust me – just like the new beginnings that happen with the start of each new school year you are in for great new beginning just around the corner.