Dads and the Empty Nest


Most of the information and preconceived notions about Empty Nest Syndrome focus on the difficulty moms have in adjusting to the departure of their children from the home.  But what about dads?  I found a great opinion page article from the New York Times, written by Liza Mundy that put into perspective the changing role of dads and how that affects their feelings about the empty nest.  You can read the full article here:

I found this part to be most interesting:

“The empty-nest transition is harder on fathers than conventional wisdom might have us believe. Men’s experience of this life passage has changed dramatically from what they might have felt — or admitted feeling — 40 years ago. I recently had lunch with a friend who was preparing to take his younger daughter to college, and he recalled how traumatic it had been to send off her older sister. “I just missed her like hell,” he said, recalling how he would walk through the front door and get a strange, heavy feeling: some primitive part of his brain alerting him that a family member was missing. “What surprised me was the physical impact of her not being there.”

One colleague confessed that even before he loaded up the van to drive his son to freshman year, he spent an evening weeping, he said, “like a 6-year-old told it was time to get out of the pool, bawling and heaving.” He added, “I don’t think my dad, one of the Greatest Generation, did anything of the sort.”

Academics who study masculinity agree that the empty nest has been altered for men. The departure of their children is more wrenching, more of a rift. “I think it’s huge, and it’s largely unacknowledged,” said Scott Coltrane, a sociologist at the University of Oregon.”

I can tell you this…I was not the only one who had tearful goodbyes when leaving our children at college, or airports, or new homes.  I know that Dale feels the emptiness of the nest just as much as I do.  I also know that we are both enjoying our new found freedom and making plans for all the adventures that are yet to come.  So, the next time you encounter a family dealing with an empty nest, don’t forget about Dad.  Although he may hide it a little better, he is probably experiencing the same kind of feelings as mom.  He can no longer “feather” the nest and keep his baby birds safe and warm.  He has to let them fly free and learn to be ok with that.


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