Relationships & Divorce
The Upside of Having an Empty Nest (It’s Sex.)
Sure, we missed having the kids at home. But man did our sex life get better
When my youngest daughter left for college, I feared the empty nest.
But a longtime friend with older children sought to straighten me out. “Being empty nesters is like dating,” he said, “only now you have money.”
I liked his attitude, and indeed, five days after we dropped off daughter number two for freshman year, my husband and I hopped on a plane for Italy, where we combatted our sadness (and celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary) with a bicycling trip through Tuscany. With the Italian landscape, wine, and food as a backdrop, it felt like the trip of a lifetime, and we fell into bed with each other as if we were honeymooners. This was not entirely surprising; we’d always had great vacation sex.
It was doing it at home that had become something of a challenge over the previous 21 years. When you become a parent, there are phases. The first is the “Don’t-Touch-Me-I’m-Exhausted-and-Breast-feeding” phase. (Clearly that ends sometime, because before you know it, there’s another child.) Then there’s the “Don’t-Touch-Me-Because-I-Will-Scream-If-One-More-Person-Touches-Me” phase, when you have toddlers who spend most of their day climbing all over you. I went through a special phase after that — the “Don’t-Touch-Me-My-Mother-Died-and-I’m-the-Saddest-I’ve-Ever-Been” phase. Then it was simply, the “Don’t-Touch-Me-I-Just-Worked-All-Day-and-Drove-to-Gymnastics/Softball/play practice/Religious School-and-Made-Dinner” phase.
By the time my kids were more self-sufficient teenagers, and I began to feel randy again, it was hard to find time for romance because they always seemed to be lurking nearby. They never went to bed, staying up doing homework, Facebook chatting with the immediate world, or trolling the Internet for important videos on how to apply mascara. I often fended off my husband’s advances saying, “I don’t want them to hear us!” Or “What if they walk in on us?” It’s not that we never had sex, but we had what I’d call tentative sex — with me holding my breath for fear of the noises that might emerge as the act went forward. Or we’d have to grab a little love between 2 and 4 in the afternoon on a Saturday when both of them happened to be out at the same time.
But when we came back from Italy to that empty house, everything changed. Instead of muffling my reaction to love making, my empty, echoing nest allowed me to really let go. Never before had I had this kind of freedom. First of all, we could make love any time we felt like it — and after Italy, we felt like it a lot more. If I wanted to moan — I moaned. Once, I even made us laugh out loud as I screamed “Yes! Yes! Yes!” sounding a lot like Meg Ryan in her fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. My husband seemed to buy into the freedom too — he was willing to take on “responsibilities” in the bedroom that he’d before been somewhat reluctant to undertake.
In our own home (not an apartment or a hotel room) with no one but the dog to hear us, my sexual response reached new heights. Maybe it was aided by the knowledge that I was now in menopause with no fear that I might repopulate this empty nest. And while every so often sex slips into the pedestrian category, or I slip into the occasional “Don’t-Touch-Me” phase, we usually rebound. It is like we are dating again, only now we have money AND a knowledge that can only be gained by 25 years of intimacy: we each know what the other likes in bed, and that’s a very good thing.
So these days, when Christmas rolls around, I’m really excited to see my kids. But I happily wave goodbye to them when they head back to school.