Mo’ Time, Mo’ Problems
One of the biggest changes that has come with an empty nest is time. As in, we have it now.
When our children were small, we were so busy, I used to wonder why Stacy and I hadn’t made millions of dollars with all the excess time we apparently had had on our hands prior to having kids. When you have little kids, suddenly, you have LESS than no time; you have negative time. Everything you do has to be absolutely as time-efficient as possible. If you wasted a second, some child-sustaining task – bedtime stories, grocery shopping, feeding – was not going to get done that day.
And the stuff you USED to do? Going out? Socializing? HA! No more. I would join professional societies – ANY professional society – just to have the chance to work the “Tell me about yourself?” muscle. The upside is I served as Secretary for the Left-Handed Writers’ Society of America (LHWSA – the struggle is QWERTY).
It was even harder for Stacy. She was a stay-at-home mom, which meant she spent the entire day interacting with pre-logic toddlers and watching Spot the Dog videos. Spot videos are listed in the Geneva Convention as a form of torture. Spot videos are the leading cause of sudden narcolepsy among adults. You had to fall asleep during Spot; the only other option was to smash yourself in the head with a Tonka Truck until you fell unconscious. Don’t believe me? Go take a look at a Spot video sample. I’d say I’ll wait, but you won’t be back. You’ll be unconscious.
So Stacy had NO adult interaction when the kids were little. I think she would have welcomed jury duty on a long, grisly murder trial just so she could talk to adults for a change.
Even when the kids were pre-teens and teenagers, there was lots to do. Getting school stuff, shuttling non-drivers to this or that friend’s house, purchasing science fair supplies…
Don’t GET me started on science fairs.
OK, too late.
Can someone please explain to me how forcing a child to get pummeled annually by other kids’ PARENTS’ science fair projects is going to get that kid more interested in science? Let’s face it: a fourth-grader’s experiment testing the effect of fans blowing on growing sunflower plants has no chance against an experiment by some kid’s Ethyl Corp. PhD mother that analyzes the application of quantum computing for solving chemical interaction problems. But hey, let’s get the tri-fold and the construction paper and the fans and the quick-growing sunflower plants and take the kitchen table out of use for six weeks so Dr. Parent can win the science fair blue ribbon.
OK, I’m done.
So we have all kinds of time now that the kids are at college. The question is, what do we do with it? The answer is: try being adults again. The problem: everything about being an adult has changed in the last 20 years.
TV is different. Stacy and I are watching more shows together (Not The Bachelor. I tried. I can’t.), and there are amazing choices out there. But when did “original series” turn into “soft porn”? I can’t imagine being a serious actress these days – what is required in terms of on-screen sex stuff would have scandalized society a few years back. Remember, years ago, when Hill Street Blues got all edgy and showed a guy’s butt? Now if that’s all we see we want our cable subscription money refunded.
Although since we started watching Outlander, Stacy has begun talking about taking a trip to Scotland. Alone.
Adult socializing also is different; specifically, how people treat each other has changed. Nowadays (hard to believe that’s actually still a word), apparently, you only socialize with people who share your political views. And you spend all your time talking about how people who don’t share your political views are a threat to your life and should be rounded up and put in jail or worse. At least that’s what it feels like.
Movies are different now. We have these 3-D movies, which are great, except: 1. They make Stacy want to throw up, so I can only go to those alone; and, 2. Thanks to the OCD the meds can’t quite eliminate, I can’t stop thinking the whole time that my 3-D glasses are smudged and that I should run back to the lobby to get a better pair. As if my glasses were the only pair that some 8-year-old with popcorn butter fingers had been handling. I obsess about the glasses for half the movie, until I am rendered unconscious by the 200-decible explosions.
I might as well be watching a Spot video.
It’s a brave new world we are living in, we empty nesters. But at least nowadays I am not regularly cleaning throw-up off my shirt. Because I go to the 3-D movies alone.
Chuck Hansen’s books are available at Amazon.com: Nose-Sucker Thingees, Weeds Whacking Back & Cats in the Bathtub (a collection of humor essays) and Build Your Castles in the Air: Thoreau’s Inspiring Advice for Success in Business (and Life) in the 21st Century.