Dr. Manuel P. Santos and Karee Santos
are co-authors of The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime (Ave Maria Press, 2016).
The kids moved out, and now she’s never home
Our youngest child just moved out! I was looking forward to having more relaxing time with Pam. But she seems to be gone all the time. I’m feeling more alone than I expected at this time of our lives.
I just want to stay active in the community
I really miss all the kids’ activities, and I’ve realized all of our friendships revolved around them. I am trying to stay active in the community so I don’t turn into a recluse — which is what I think Jack is looking for.
What do they do?
It’s typical to experience “empty nest” syndrome when the youngest child moves out, but each parent reacts differently. Particularly if they stayed home to take care of the children, mothers often take the hardest emotional hit when the kids finally leave. The transition can feel like the loss of a job or even the loss of an identity.
The temptation is to escape the suddenly silent house and fill the hours with substitute activities, like what Pam has done. But silence is a powerful aid to interior growth. God does not speak to us in the rushing wind; instead, he speaks most loudly in the still, small silence. (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13) Pam and Jack can treat this time as a great gift that gives them the breathing room to discern, through prayer, what God wants from this next stage in their lives. And although their parenting role has changed, Pam and Jack still remain connected to their children, just in a different way.
With the kids out of the house, the focus will naturally shift more to the marriage. If Pam and Jack have grown distant over the years, now is the time to reinvigorate their relationship. If any problems have been swept under the rug, now is the time to fix them. Scripture advises men who grow older to “rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (Prv 5:18) Wives obviously ought to rejoice in their husbands, too!
If Pam draws closer to Jack, he can help heal the loss she feels from the absence of the children. They can both look for new ways to add fun, spontaneity and contentment to their marriage. They can volunteer together, do home projects, take long walks, travel or just spend time together reading the newspaper at the breakfast table or curling up with a good book in front of the fireplace on a cold evening. This is a chance to take a new direction together and make their marriage even stronger than it was before.