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NPR Arts & Life

Voices Of Empty Nesters

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The end of summer means kids are heading back to school. And for parents who are dropping their last or maybe their only child off at college, it's the beginning of a whole new chapter in their lives - the empty nest. We asked listeners who've just been through this to record voice memos telling us what it's been like.

MELODY FOOTE: My name is Melody Foote (ph). And I live in Hope Mills, N.C. The day she left the immediate feeling was relief. A couple of weeks in, I'm feeling my house is pretty quiet. And that's an adjustment. I have no accessory to crime anymore. With my girls, there was always an excuse for a movie, a Starbucks run or trying a new restaurant. But I'm looking forward to getting to know my husband again.

JULIE STEWART: Hi. I'm Julie Stewart (ph). And I live in Birmingham, Ala. When my first son left home, I said it felt like someone had taken a melon baller and scooped out my insides. Now that melon baller has grown in size to a snow shovel. A hundred people will tell you how to raise your son, but very few will talk about how to let him go.

MICHAEL PUSATERI: My name is Michael Pusateri (ph). My wife Michelle (ph) and I live in South Pasadena, Calif. After 20 years of every moment being about the girls, it was once again just the two of us. Some things are really great - walking around the house naked, going to bed before it's dark and not having children mock us and having a tidy house. But we do miss the girls. I miss the sound of them bumping around the house. And as corny as it sounds, I miss seeing them sleep.

MARGOT SMITH: Hey. My name is Margot Smith (ph). And I live in Fairfax, Va. I became an empty nester when we dropped my youngest son, Charlie (ph), off at JMU one week ago today. I did get sad once in the car on the way home when a song came on that made me think of Charlie. And, of course, I balled my eyes out for a good two minutes and then blew my nose and got on with it. Less than 24 hours after dropping Charlie off, my husband and I hopped a plane for Vegas.

BETH SMIZLOF: Hi. My name is Beth Smizlof (ph). And I live in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. My job as a full-time, stay-at-home mom to four kids has finally come to an end after 31 years when our baby left for college last week. I've been dreading drop-off day for about a decade. The hardest part was walking back into the now empty house, feeling swallowed up by the silence. The tears flowed when I walked by her room for the first time knowing she won't be saying goodnight, Mom, from behind that door every night. Saying goodbye to the last is especially difficult as I sit here in my empty nest, missing my daughter and wondering, now what?

MARTIN: Other parents wrote to us describing plans to get degrees, find new jobs and travel now that day-to-day parenting is over. But one empty nester who just sent her son off to the military said she misses mothering so much she finds herself already wishing for grandchildren. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.