"Empty nest syndrome" originally referred to forlorn parents who were lost when their children moved out, but new research demonstrates that this is not the case. For many couples, having the kids move out or leave for college gives them more time and more money to do some of the things that they use to enjoy. In fact, for many couples, having the kids leave is the best thing that ever happened to their marriages.
I remember clearly when my first child went off to college. I was devastated and realized it was the end of an era--a time I really enjoyed and cherished. What I didn't know then is that they come back, and the relationship is redefined. With luck and patience, your kids become your closest friends. We travel, ski, golf and see them on a regular basis.
But to our surprise, we also enjoy the times they are not here. We had kids right away when we were married 29 years ago and never really had time with just the two of us. It is fun to stay out as late as we want, not cook for a week and golf all weekend. After taking care of people for years, I finally get a chance to do what I want to do. And you know what? It's nice.
The extra money is nice too. Gone is saving for college as they both completed undergrad. For the most part, they are financially independent giving us a chance to do some of the things we dreamed about. We no longer think twice about going out of town for a weekend or an occasional stop at the casino to play the slots.
I realize that every phase of your life is different and special in its own way. The key, I believe, is to maximize each phase not living in the past or the future.