Foresee the Empty Nest
By Bryan Caplan
I’ve been arguing for quite a while that most people – including us dads – would be selfishly better off if they had more kids. Parents focus too much on how exhausted they are now, and forget how lonely they’re going to be later.
A recent piece in the Washington Post by a new empty-nester confirms all my worst fears:
Standing outside my son’s dorm as he shifted from one foot to the other, impatient to begin his new life, I tried to think of more to say, more wisdom or advice to dispense, anything to delay the inevitable. One last hug and it was time to go. If I had been on a tether in space and the line had been cut, I could not have felt more alone. After 21 years of attending to my children’s needs and care, I was out of a job. The phone stopped ringing. The e-mails for volunteer duties and school issues ended abruptly. On a trip to the grocery store, I would reach for a favorite drink or snack and it would dawn on me: There was no need.
The tone of piece is “The empty nest is something all parents dread, but we have to face it maturely.” But most of the pain of the empty nest results from bad planning. If the author had had a couple more kids, she not only could she have delayed her empty-nest problem for ten years; by that time, her older children could easily have some children of their own.