Post-parting depression

A child moving out of his room can be as traumatic as moving out of the womb.

family drawing 88 (photo credit: )
family drawing 88
(photo credit: )
There are volumes written about post-partum depression, the difficulties of adjusting to the separation between the mother and the new infant.

Celebrity Brooke Shields took the subject and parlayed it into a best selling book and an op-ed in the New York Times. Plus, she got to argue with Tom Cruise.

But who warns you about post-parting depression? It's the final scene of the second act when your last child walks out the door leaving behind a room full of clothes they'll never wear again and albums they'll look at in another decade or so.

The dated posters of Boy Zone and stickers from high school and army are so stuck to the walls that removing them would also remove half a pound of plaster. Then there's the smell of years of applying cologne and deodorant spray that has somehow become their signature fragrance and lingers in the room long after they've gone. The bathroom is free all the time and the laundry hamper takes a week to fill up.

But it's the quiet that is the hardest. It is overwhelming and oppressive. The phone rarely rings. The incessant fighting for the computer has stopped. No one is complaining there's nothing to eat in the house and I get to play my music as loud as I want, finally.

So why don't I want to?

Oh goody, now to all those projects I yearned to start when raising a young family: the classes, the second degree, courses in Judaism, the volunteer work, the fascinating best-selling books to be read, the articles to write - investigative, of course, changing the world.

And the process begins.

The course ends as instructors praise my work and commitment but where was the "A" when I needed it 35 years ago?

No volunteer work has been quite as satisfying as hoped; neither the mother mentoring nor the volunteer police where I am charged with making the roads safe for democracy by warning drivers that their left headlight is out.

I don't play an instrument and macrame is so not my thing.

The challenge used to be trying to fill in the overdraft in order to pay the bills. Now it's filling the empty hours. I always frowned upon daytime television viewing as wasted time. Truthfully, if the book is boring, yeah, the TV set goes on. News first - but who are you kidding? No pathetic soap operas, thank heavens, but yes to the occasional film or documentary.

I'm too young and vital to be a daytime couch potato.

People at the health club counsel me to hang in there and wait for the grandchildren. Great. I can out-dance women half my age in my classes and have at least as much energy as they do. No, grandchildren are not the answer for my funk.

There were no tears when the girls actually left, only the bittersweet pride of watching two young women, self-reliant and strong, board planes to the rest of their lives. The waterworks only came when standing in line at the grocery store... I looked covetously at the overflowing carts of shoppers around me busy planning their Shabbat weekends of family and meals.

I'm struggling to find a couple of people to invite so that there will be more than just the two of us and our three-legged cat at the table. When our first daughter left, the cart was half full or empty, however you look at it. Now, our second daughter is off and weekly shopping barely covers the bottom of the cart.

Tears well up in my eyes.

I loved being a parent, a mother, and was fortunate to be able, most of the time, to combine a career with the raising of the family. I was the supermom and embraced the role with all my heart.

Now I'm beginning the third act and I wonder if I'll be able to crawl out of this post-parting grief and embrace some new role before soap operas embrace me.

In my work, I deal almost daily with the tragic drama of life in Israel. Over the summer, I reported on the thousands of families uprooted from their homes in Gush Katif settlements where they set down roots 30 years ago.

I am not worried about them, for whatever happens, they have each other, their community is strong and will overcome the trauma of the disengagement.

But I guess that, more than I realized, my children were my community and without them - well, I'm more alone and uprooted than I imagined possible and wonder when and how I will overcome this post parting trauma.

Think I should warn Brooke Shields?