What happens when the nest isn’t so empty anymore.
When the kids move out—whether temporarily off to college or more totally out on their own—couples are more than likely to see a shift not just in their homes, but in their relationships. Suddenly, there are fewer mouths to feed. There are fewer people to fight with over the TV remote. And there are fewer people who are likely to barge into the bedroom at an especially unwanted moment. When the kids move out, empty nesters can rekindle their romance, revive their sex lives, and even feel more connected to each other. But what happens when, in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic, the kids come back?
A whole lot less sex, that’s for sure.
For couples without kids to balance with their newfound work-from-home life, the pandemic has made more time for intimacy. But for those with little ones that are too young to be amused by hours and hours of scrolling through TikTok, things are certainly not hot—one New York Times story went as far as declaring that sex was dead for parents.
Things get complicated in a different way, though, when offspring in their 20s and 30s head back home to hunker down. Although there hasn’t been much research to show how the exodus of some millennials from their city apartments back home has taken a toll on parents’ wellbeing, previous research on the parents of “boomerang” children by the London School of Economics—aka, those who move out, only to return back home—shows that the kids coming back has a negative impact on the general wellbeing of their parents, who had just started to enjoy their newfound sense of independence.
This phenomenon isn’t necessarily new—multigenerational households have been steadily increasing in the U.S. since 1980, according to Pew Research. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its distinct downsides in pandemic times. While the New York Times has noted that taking refuge back at home can result in “arrested development” for millennials, as they embrace the comforts of childhood, the effects on parents are less clear: Sure, it might be nice to see the kids again, particularly in a stressful time, but when they’re still there after one, two, three, six months? Then things get a bit less maneuverable.
The simplest solution might not sound altogether sexy, but where there’s a will, there’s a way: One writer for Good Housekeeping recently extolled the benefits of scheduling sex with her husband while her young kids are busy with an engaging movie or activity during the day. With older children, at the very least, there’s far less smoke and mirrors necessary: All you have to do is wait for them to go off on their daily walk, or head to a socially distanced picnic, and you can finally—if only for an hour—reclaim your much-needed alone time.