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The dangerous empty nest years

Your Family Matters with PASTOR CHANDA
I WAS sitting among some older couples today and they were talking about reaching the “empty nest” phase. I had not thought about this for a while and realised that ‘Amai Busa’ and myself were fast approaching that phase. Years really fly!
The empty nest phase of life refers to the time in the life of a married couple when the children have all grown up and left home. The language comes from the life of birds where once the eggs hatch and the little birds fly out of the nest it remains empty.
In that sense, marriage is like a circle or cycle. You want to get married and you finally find a spouse. Then you want to have children and, by God’s grace, he gives you some. You raise the children and one-by-one they leave home and you are left alone again.
The first impact of the empty nest is the feeling of a hollow house. This is worse for those who, without thinking, build very big houses as evidence that they are wealthy. Suddenly, they find themselves with a house where most of the rooms are totally unused.
Very closely related to the empty house is a sense of loneliness. Children can give you a lot of headaches and heartaches but they are fun to have around. They fill a house with noise from their chatting and laughter, and also from their music systems and television.
Children also keep us occupied because they often have issues that we need to address, from homework to injuries, from questions about what excites them to frustrations about broken relationships. The lives of parents are busy when children are around.
When the empty nest phase sets in you suddenly find a big hole in your social life. You get home to an empty house that is so quiet that you can hear a pin drop. There is no one to ask you any questions. There is no one excited about the future. There is no one.
When you still have your spouse around, there is at least someone. Some people lose their spouse through death or divorce before the children leave home. To such people the empty nest can be even more painful. A house becomes a place to sleep in. That is all.
That change can be very depressing. I recall how my dad lost his wife when I was only nine years old. Then my sisters and I were taken by mom’s elder sister to foster us through our teenage years. When we returned to dad’s home we found him an alcoholic.
Later in life, I realised what had happened. In one stroke, dad lost both his wife and his children. A home that was once bustling with life was suddenly as quiet as the grave. This must have been very depressing for him and his only solace was the beer bottle. Very sad!
Those who remain as couples can also go through a very dangerous period when the empty nest sets in. The reason is that while the children are around they become the centre of life. Without realising it, all the talk in the home is about the children and with the children.
When the children fly out of the nest, husband and wife look at each other and find that they have nothing to talk about. Before the children were born, they talked about themselves, their mutual friends, their joint projects, and their areas of personal interest.
During the period when the children were in the home they lost connection with that and now they suddenly look at each other and find they are complete strangers. They have actually grown apart while living in the same home. That is the mortal danger.
Sociologists in the West have found that many people divorce during this period. It is because they sit around the dining room table and find they have nothing to talk about. On weekends they go their separate ways to do what excites them. They are no longer friends.
To avoid the tragedy of falling apart during the empty nest stage, it is vital to ensure that you remain friends while you are raising your children. Do things together in your spare time. Participate in each other’s hobbies. In other words, fireproof your marriage now!
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