Did I Experience Empty Nest Syndrome… Already?

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Jack graduated from kindergarten a few weeks ago. School is out for summer! He didn’t start summer camp until this week, so the two weeks before were basically a free for all. Since I work from home, my schedule is more flexible and the gap between school ending and camp starting is generally easy (and FUN!) to navigate. (As a writer, I get assignments and deadlines and meet them—even if it means working after Jack goes to bed or at dawn, yawn.)

But then I ran into an issue.

I had a consulting job in NYC for two days — and no childcare for Jack or our brand new, handful of fur Golden Retriever puppy, Lucy. Luckily, I have a loyal and loving family, so my older brother moved his work obligations around and offered to take Jack and Lucy down the shore. He sold me on the idea that it would be more fun for Jack at his place. “The beach! Mini golf! Fishing! The boardwalk!” Sounded pretty fantastic, so I packed Jack and Lucy up and Uncle Carlo picked ’em up. Goodbye my babies, I thought as I watched his jeep until I couldn’t see it anymore. Then a tinge of FREEDOM came over me. I think I did a happy dance right there on the sidewalk. 

Back inside on Thursday morning, I got ready for work. I took a long, uninterrupted shower. I didn’t have to worry about Lucy licking my freshly lotioned legs, or getting her hair on my little black sheath, or thinking my chunky bracelet was a toy. I drank hot coffee, listened to the news—not Peppa Pig while I put my makeup on and left my spotless condo. There was no Lego storm to roll my eyes at or puppy treat crumbles here and there.

I was busy with work and knowing my babies were safe with my brother helped me to really dig in and focus. On the drive home, I listened to music and looked at the pretty, bright sky. But then I walked into my condo. There was no blond boy greeting me: “MY MOMMY IS HOME!” No, puppy uncontrollably wagging her tail and shaking her little butt (and maybe excite peeing). It was just me. It was weird. Like, really, odd.

I poured myself a glass of white wine (ahhhh!) and sank into the couch (AHHHHH!). Next, I FaceTimed Jack and learned all about his big day. He played at the park that sits on the edge of the beach, ate a hot dog for lunch, took Lucy for a long walk in Ocean Grove (“Lucy dug in the sand forever mom!”), and soon he’d be off to play old-fashioned pinball on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. I was happy … he was happy. He even showed me Lucy, who was chewing on a squeaky toy, cute as can be! Then the call ended. I finished my wine. Took a shower. Slipped on some skinny jeans and a tank.

AND WENT OUT!

Nothing major, just drinks and apps with friends at a neighborhood place. As a solo single mom, nights like these are few and far between, so I was pretty thrilled to have a margarita and enjoy a fresh tuna salad. I stayed out until about 11, which is late for me, hehe. But then I returned home to my dark, silent condo. There was no Jack to check on in his room and no jingle-jangle of Lucy’s tag. I dove into my bed and slept through the night. Upside: No puppy crying at 4:30 a.m. to pee. Or kiddo asking for cereal at 5:45 a.m. Still, I missed them. Is this what empty nest syndrome feels like? Is this what my own parents felt when I booked it to college in Philly?

I pondered all of this on the ride back into the city the next morning. After my busy (but great) day, I met some friends for happy hour martinis since I took the bus in and wasn’t driving. It was single Chrissy in the city all over again. I hardly ever go anywhere that doesn’t have coloring menus. But then my fun night in the city came to a close. On the bus, I watched the NYC skyline, twinkling and aglow fade away. I was looking forward to getting home, showering and sinking into my bed with a little Netflix action.

But back at home, it was just me again — mom in a quiet house. I couldn’t wait to wake up early and drive down the shore. And that’s just what I did — ice coffee, stretch of Parkway South, good music, and a warm breeze. When I entered the beach house I was greeted by so much love and enthusiasm. “Mommy!” Jack screeched throwing his arms around me. Lucy’s little butt was shaking away and she was pawing at me. Our little threesome of a family was back together. What a great feeling! And I realized something too — my nest will never be empty Jack will always be with me, no matter what. And our sweetie, Lucy, too.

Photo: Getty