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Becoming an Empty Nest

Becoming an Empty Nest

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I was wandering around the new household store that had just opened near our home, when I saw a clock in the exact colors that my youngest daughter had painted her room a few months ago. As I walked towards the checkout, carrying it carefully, I called her to share my surprise find.

There was a short silence, and then I could hear her voice smiling. “Mum, I don’t need it any more. Remember, I’m getting married in two weeks, and our new home’s color scheme is completely different.”

I stood there like a fool, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Had I forgotten? Of course not; everything I was doing and buying was all in preparation for her wedding and future home. But for that second when I saw the clock, it slipped my mind—and her reply, for some unknown reason, made me realize that this was it. My baby is getting married.

My baby is getting marriedEmpty nest syndrome is a well-known phenomenon, but you never think you will feel it. Although my family has always been the most important part of my life, and I was always at home for the children when they were young, for the last 10 years I have worked out of the house—and also at home—as a freelancer, and so I have plenty of interests outside my home and family . . . And yet.

I would no longer be shopping for her, thinking of her likes and dislikes when preparing meals, and making sure we had a stock of nosh for her evenings with her friends. I would no longer be reminding her that bedrooms don’t clean themselves, and that for washing to get washed it first needs to reach the laundry hamper.

But soon, I would also no longer get up on a Friday morning and find the table laid for Shabbat, and cookies, still warm, on the kitchen counter from her middle-of-the-night baking sessions. Her singing would no longer fill the house, and her favorite music would no longer accompany us as we prepared salads and side dishes together on Friday for the Shabbat meals.

She has always been the liveliest of all of our six girls. By the time our son reached his teenage years, he was out of the house in yeshivah; but when our eldest and then our second daughter reached their teens, my husband and I decided to invest in another telephone line, so that we would stand at least a chance of receiving the occasional call. But, during the last few years, our youngest could be seen wandering around the house with a phone at each ear and her cell phone on loudspeaker, so she could make her own homemade conference call with her friends.

I knew that marrying off our youngest was going to be harder, emotionally, than all our other weddings. We pray all our lives for all our children to find the right person with whom to spend their lives—but when the last one does, you know things will never be the same again.

Before all our other weddings, I had thought how different this child’s life will be from now onwards. But this time, I was thinking how different our life will be.

Maybe a part of me wanted her to stay home a little longerBefore she got engaged, I was worried that maybe I wasn’t praying wholeheartedly for her to find her partner. Maybe a part of me wanted her to stay home a little longer, and was preventing my prayers from reaching their ultimate goal. But then I realized that the true heavenly matchmaker knows what He is doing, and I’m not in control in any case, so I should stop worrying.

When our next-to-youngest daughter got married four years ago, I told our youngest to bring a friend back with her from the wedding so she wouldn’t feel too lonely. Over the previous years her circle of siblings has gradually dwindled, and being the only child at home was going to be a shock. She didn’t think it was necessary, but she was very glad she had done so on the day itself.

This time, another daughter called up the day before the wedding and said, “Mum, we’re coming back to sleep at your house after the wedding. And don’t even think about stopping us, or telling us you don’t need it—we’re coming, and that’s it.”

The other children and grandchildren had prepared the brooms for the mezinke (Yiddish for “youngest child”), the traditional broom dance to “sweep” the last child out of the house at the family’s final wedding. When I originally heard of it, at our first wedding, over 15 years ago, I thought the idea rather heartless, as though we were pleased to get rid of our children. But I never realized how soon our turn would come; and no matter how mixed were my feelings about it, everyone, including and especially our young bride, were not to be done out of it.

The music starts up, its beat familiar, as the groom comes to place the veil over his bride’s face. This is the sixth time I am privileged to be standing next to one of my daughters on her wedding day, praying that the two of them be granted a life and a home of Torah and helping others, of happiness, good health, mutual love and respect, and that they be blessed with many children.

As he turns the corner towards us, his face breaks out into an uncontrollable wide smile as he looks at his bride. I turn to look at my daughter, and see her tearful eyes light up as she returns his glance and smile—and I remember the last “interminable” week during which, as tradition dictates, they have neither seen nor spoken to each other.

My husband comes forward to bless our daughter for the last time as a single girl, as she leaves for her wedding canopy and her new life.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel the empty nest, but tonight my heart is just full of gratitude to the Master Matchmaker for once again having answered our prayers.

Ann Goldberg and her family made aliyah from the UK over 30 years ago, and live in Jerusalem. She is a web content and Israel travel writer and writing coach. She runs writing workshops and e-mail courses. For more information, visit her website.
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Raymond Bastarache New Brunswick,Canada. March 22, 2013

empty nest Beautiful story.....remember you haven't lost any daughters but gained many sons....grand children? My dear aunt who lived 102+ never had any children( their choosing, unfortunately) often spoke to my mother how blessed she was in having four children. We were all able to care for mother and father in their old age and had the priviledge of bury them. On the other hand ,my aunt and uncle had to hire "help-care" in their old age..eventually he was placed in a veteran's care- home with no visits...of any children cause he hadn't any. Our G-d wants a godly seed who in turn will serve Him and He will be their G-d.( Psalms 90:1) Lord thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations....posterity..of all person's descendents(Psalms 127:5) Happy is the man that hath his quiver full (children are an heritage of the Lord).We have 3 wonderful daughters and my wife had a miscarriage of her last one . I was 49 and she was 43 when the last one miscarried? Children are a blessing . Shalom Reply

Suzanne Braham London, UK April 25, 2012

empty nest Dear Ann,
Yet another wonderful piece of writing to enjoy here in London. Mazeltov to Bernie, you and all the family on your youngest daughter's marriage and no doubt like all empty nesters you are now either enjoying each other's company and the peace and quiet or you invite the grandchildren to come and spend Shabbatot with you a few at a time. Wishing you all well. Chag Sameach for Yom Ha'atzmaut, Suzanne Braham Reply

ruti Los Angeles April 24, 2012

Empty Nest Brava Madame, Brava. Reply

Judy Resnick Far Rockaway, NY April 23, 2012

I'm Getting There I am also a mother of seven, and the oldest six are married. While the youngest is a boy, not a girl, he is 22 now and soon will be looking for his true zivug (partner). When that happens, with G-d's help, I also will be taking the brooms to sweep out my muzhinka (or I think the male form is muzhinek) from the nest. I could really relate to your article as I hope to be getting to your exact place, G-d Willing, in a year. Reply

Anonymous New York, NY/USA April 22, 2012

It is so hard to let them go... I am an only child and I left my parents to go live in another country. It was not just about marriage. I was going happily -to start a new life, full of challenges and surprises. Now that I have a little child and I wonder when I will have to let her sleep in her own bedroom, I suddenly remember leaving my own home. I cannot imagine the pain my parents felt then! Here I am - cannot let my baby sleep several yards away from me for the night... And I am the same person, who traveled thousands of miles away from home and established my life elsewhere... Knowing parenthood now, I hope my daughter will not make the same choice. Reply

Deborah Newtown, Pa April 22, 2012

So sweet My youngest is leaving for college in the fall. Bittersweet. I raised them all alone and now I feel alone. I pray Hashem sends me my soulmate soon. This brought tears to my eyes.. Reply

Malka Miami, FL April 22, 2012

empty nest Such a beautifully written piece--but as a mother of boys, my feelings were that when they all left for yeshiva, I had an empty nest! I guess I have another round of "empty nest" coming up in a few years...We should all see only joy from our children, and may then fill up those "empty" nests with lots and lots of grandchildren!!! Reply

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