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Empty Nest

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No! Don't leave me here by myself! I can't bear not having you around; I'll just miss you so much.

Parents are involved in their children's lives (well, good parents are). Parents love and support their children (well, good parents do). When children move out of the home and on to college, parents miss them terribly (well, you get where this is going). It's more than missing the child; there's a sense that the parent has lost something important in her life (it's somewhat more prevalent in women). Something similar happens when the child gets married.

Education Moms and Bumbling Dads may suffer from this extra hard, as can My Beloved Smother.

Compare with Empty Bedroom Grieving, which usually involves the death of a loved one instead of them just leaving their childhood home. Contrast Basement-Dweller, where a grown-up child overstays his welcome, although it doesn't always guarantee this trope won't happen when the day finally comes.


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  • In one of the Old Spice commercials, mothers sing about how Old Spice made their sons into men and how they feel bad because their sons are leaving home.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Tsukigasa, Tatsumi actually uses this term to describe how he feels now that his two friends are together and completely caught up in their relationship. Considering he was the Team Dad of the trio, it makes sense.
  • In Boarding School Juliet, Mrs. Percia visits her daughter during the school festival as a surprise and is a little hurt (though understanding) when she finds out that Juliet already made plans with her boyfriend.
    Char: There they go...
    Mrs. Percia: Yes...But this is how it's meant to be. (sobs loudly) It's meant to be!
  • In Asteroid in Love, Shiori's initial objection to Ao staying in town is partly due to this; she specifically notes that no parent would like to part with their children.
  • In Shi ni Aruki, Tokimune Kurosu is an old man whose children have all grown up and moved out. Since he's feeling lonely, he adopts Tokiko, a girl young enough to be one of his grandchildren.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Bruce had a bit of an...extreme reaction to Dick going off to college. It involved moping around in Dick's room, contemplating changing his Batsuit, and closing up Wayne Manor to move to an apartment in Gotham. In addition to that, Bruce once admitted to taking in Jason because he was lonely and missed Dick. He's very attached to his eldest son.

    Fan Works 
  • The Dimensional Drifter: After her husband Yusho disappeared, Yoko started picking up all sorts of strays, including people. That's how Judai got dragged into the family, and later Sora and Johan. Other characters have noticed this tendency, but they keep quiet about it.
  • A lot of Pokémon: The Series fics depict Ash's mother Delia as undergoing this after her son leaves for his Pokémon journey.
    • Til Death Do Us Part starts with Delia feeling depressed after her son Ash leaves on a Pokémon journey. She's spent the last ten years revolving around him, so having him absent in her life causes a hole.
    • The Evolution of Delia Ketchum, Aide: Ash left a few years ago and Delia still doesn't know what to do with herself. She decides to go back to doing what she did before having her son: being a Pokémon Researcher assistant.
    • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: Delia (again) has a mild case of this, even though Ash has only been away for a few months. She seems to handle it well, all things considered, and she's very happy to have him and his female companions for a few months for a few reasons.
  • A Year To Fill An Empty Home: After their son Akira is arrested, put on probation, and sent away to Tokyo, father Takeshi and mother Chou are hit with a year-long instance of this, trying to figure out how to get through the year without their son. Although they start out the story with Takeshi going to work on autopilot and Chou falling apart at home, the rest of the story involves them slowly finding new ways to spend their time, making new friends, and growing as people.
  • I Hope You're Prepared For An Unforgettable Wedding!: Agnes Skinner, naturally, gets hit hard with this after her son moves away to live with his husband. She spends most of the reception crying over not getting to have her little boy around her house anymore, and after he moves away, she loses the motivation to do anything other than "drink alcohol, watch TV, and cry".

    Films — Animated 
  • In Cinderella, this is why the King is so eager for his son to marry and give him grandchildren. Now that the Prince is grown up and often away from home (and his mother the Queen is presumably dead), the King is lonely and misses having a child to dote on and play with.
  • An Extremely Goofy Movie has Goofy suffering from this bad. He's so distracted by his son Max leaving for college that he ends up fired from his job, and has to go back to school to get a degree to get a better job... the same school Max is attending. Once there, Goofy promptly keeps trying to baby Max, losing focus on his studies, something he warned Max to avoid.
  • In Toy Story 3, seeing Andy leave for college hits his mother pretty hard.
  • Steven Universe: The Movie has the Diamonds suffer from this. Having become attached to Steven during the Time Skip, and since he is Pink Diamond's son and therefore Yellow and Blue's nephew and White's grandson he is the closest thing they have to remember her by. When Steven announces he is returning to Earth at the beginning of the film they beg him to stay so they can continue adoring him. Towards the end, about one day later, they show up on Earth unannounced declaring they have come to live with him instead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Accepted: The bulk of the film (90%) is about the kids at college, but the parents demonstrate Empty Nest.
  • Eskimo Day was about parents' realisation of a forthcoming empty nest, when their children had their interviews at university.
  • Spanglish: The mom is all about her little girl; she even has trouble with her daughter going to a different, far(ther) away high school.
  • Father of the Bride (1950) and the remake are all about this, but with the daughter getting married rather than going to college.
  • Christmas with the Kranks: Their kid is gone, they decide to have a little "us" time. They then go to hell for being selfish.
  • Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen: Sam's mother when Sam prepares to leave for college.
  • Blockers: The fear of an empty nest makes Lisa try to convince Julie to go to the closest possible college after graduation, but it winds up having the opposite effect, with Julie wanting to get as far as possible from her clingy mother.
  • In Social Nightmare, protagonist Cat Hardy's mother Susan displays this to an extreme.
  • Boyhood: Mason's mother complains about how she'll be lonely after he goes to college.
  • In Return to Halloweentown, Gwen's youngest daughter Sophia is training with grandma Aggie to become a witch, while her older kids Marnie and Dylan are going off to Witch University. She does not take it well.

  • Bill Bryson described what happened when his son left for college in Im A Stranger Here Myself. He would see something and start crying. His wife just cried indiscriminately.
  • Cindy from Hollow Places bears a great deal of shame for having to kick her eldest foster child, Austin, out of her house due to budgetary reasons. It's made clear throughout the novel that she truly misses him.
  • The Dresden Files: Skin Game cites the trope by name. When Dresden meets Hades, they have a discussion about the Everybody Hates Hades trope, with Dresden pointing out that according to the myths, Hades never did anything worse than abducting Persephone. Hades himself claims Persephone came to him willingly, but Demeter, suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome, got upset and blew the whole thing out of proportion.
  • In Love You Forever, after the woman's son has grown up and moved away, she will sometimes drive to his house so she can sing him the lullaby she sang when he was a baby.
  • Vaguely implied to be the case with Toomin's/Ellimist's "dam and sire" in The Ellimist Chronicles; one of the things Toomin muses that he enjoys about free flight time is freedom from "guilt-inducing 'why don't you perch with us?'" messages from his parents.
  • Inverted in Pocket Monsters: The Animation. 29-year-old Delia had her son Ash at age 19. He leaves to go on a Pokemon journey at age 10. While she loves him, she holds a slight level of resentment towards him and is glad to have him out of the house so that she can live her youth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Golden Girls: The girls have some neighbors at one point suffering from Empty Nest syndrome hard. This was retooled, revamped, and spun off into...
  • Empty Nest, the TV show, which inverts the entire concept—a show about a guy whose wife dies and then his adult daughters move in with him.
  • Cougar Town: Jules is a bag full of crazy whose life centers on her son. Bobby gets it, too.
  • Firefly: Did Simon get Empty Nest over River going to the Academy, or was it just that she was being systematically tortured and Mind Raped, able to communicate only in code?
  • Samurai Sentai Shinkenger: After the vassals leave at the end to pursue their own destinies, Jii, the mentor and father figure of the group, looks around the main gathering room and sadly asks, "Was this room always so spacious?"
  • In Fuller House, Aunt Becky starts fawning over DJ's infant son after her and Jesse's twin sons are off at college.
  • In Feud: Betty and Joan, Joan Crawford keeps adopting children because she can't bear being alone in her own home, to the point that when her twin daughters go away to camp for the summer, she tries to adopt a new child to keep her company in their absence.
  • In Arrested Development, Lucille Bluth can't stand living on her own, and thus, when Buster moves out, she adopts a young Korean boy to keep her company (and to try and make Buster jealous enough to move back in.)
  • Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole and Hilda are going through this in "Rumpole and the Married Lady" with their son having graduated college, gotten married, and emigrated to America. Hilda worries about the state of their marriage, even lamenting that without their son around then what did that make them? Rumpole has slumped into depression at the start, having not gone to work at chambers for some time and just sitting around in his dressing gown all day. It is a bitter divorce case that Rumpole has to deal with in court that manages to break them out of it, making them realize their own troubles are not so bad.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: At the start of Season 4, Phil develops a case of this when Will and Carlton are planning on moving out and Hilary is getting married to Trevor. Trevor's death and Hilary subsequently moving back home to cope, coupled with Carlton moving back home and Will moving into the pool house, causes this to work itself out to Phil's delight.
  • The Thundermans: Hank and Barb's subplot during The Thundermans Return is about their angst over their kids growing up. Max and Phoebe are now adults with their own jobs, and Billy and Nora run off to experience high school, causing them to start helicoptering (literally, with an actual helicopter) over the now tweenage Chloe.
  • Young Sheldon: In "The Sin of Greed and a Chimichanga from Chi-Chi's", Mary starts experiencing this after Sheldon considers going to college full-time, and Georgie gets a job at Dale's store and starts making money.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • For Better or for Worse: Twice. But not for April because she was younger than Mike and Elizabeth.
  • The mother in Zits has been preparing for this forever, although in one strip when Jeremy is out for the weekend and she and her husband get some "alone time", she admits any Empty Nest Syndrome she may get when Jeremy leaves for college will probably be short-lived.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Bill Engvall talks about dealing with this trope in his stand-up special Aged And Confused. Specifically, about how his wife is constantly driving him crazy now that the kids are gone.

    Web Comics 
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Onni has the Promotion to Parent variant. His Refusal of the Call, caused in part by a crippling fear of leaving his home military base, resulted in the younger sister and cousin he raised leaving for the expedition without him. He eventually joins Mission Control, which entails an uncomfortable trip to another country, because an unspecified spirit world threat re-awakens soon after and disrupts his magical means of keeping contact with them. While his fellow mage cousin knows he moved because of the spirit world threat, his non-mage sister thinks this trope is the cause, and Onni's response that it's not the case comes across as a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
  • Subverted in Questionable Content once Claire Augustus moves out of the family house. Although her brother is concerned about their mother living alone, Mrs. Augustus turns out to be quite happy to have the freedom to learn bass guitar, date a succession of younger men, and get high and bake cookies after midnight.
    Clinton: My mom gets 2am booty calls. My mom is cooler than me.

    Web Original 
  • In this CollegeHumor sketch, a young man returns home for Thanksgiving, only to find that his parents have started feuds with neighbors they previously liked, taken up unusual hobbies, redecorated several times over, put up a Room Full of Crazy's worth of photos of him, and taken in foreign exchange students because they just can't cope without him.
  • Red vs. Blue: In the PSA about moving out, Sarge suffers from this after Simmons, Grif, and Lopez move out of Red Base. As a result, he starts talking to himself in the way Grif and Simmons would in order to cope with the loneliness. Luckily for him, they come back after realizing they're far from prepared to live on their own.

    Western Animation 
  • The Pixar short Bao is about a mother who misses her young adult son. While making dumplings, one of them comes to life and becomes her surrogate son. It turns out to be a dream.
  • In The Loud House Season 5 premiere "Schooled!", Mr. Loud is hit with this pretty hard since his and Mrs. Loud's oldest child, Lori, moves out to leave for college while their youngest child, Lily, is finally old enough to go to preschool (and thus be in school for a large part of the day).
  • Molly of Denali: In "Butterflies and Bunny Babies," a family of snowshoe hares makes a habitat in Trini's garden, and she grows attached to them. Then she gets a taste of parenthood when she watches the grown leverets move out of the garden and into the woods.
  • The Owl House
    • When Eda and King are tasked with watching the Bat Queen's babies in "Lost in Language", they initially only do it for the money, especially when the babies turn out to be near-impossible to manage. Once they get the kids to settle down though, they get hopelessly attached, to the point that Luz finds them asleep on the couch with Eda cradling the babies in her arms. After the Bat Queen picks her kids back up, Eda dejectedly tells Luz that she only did it for the money. Luz promptly gives her a book titled "Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome".
    • Played for significantly more drama in "Eda's Requiem". Eda realizes that with Luz trying to find a way back to the human world, and King looking for his birth father, both of them are eventually going to leave her. This results in her pushing them away and throwing herself fully into Raine's rebellion to avoid what she thinks is King trying to tell her he's leaving. She almost convinces Raine to let her go through with a suicide attack against two of the other Coven Heads, but Raine calls the whole thing off when they realize she has children, and tells her that her kids need her more than she realizes — something that's proven true when King reveals that, despite still wanting to find his dad, he's legally changing his surname to Clawthorne to honor the woman who raised him.
  • Linda begins to suffer this in the 13th season Bob's Burgers episode "Mother Author Laser Pointer." The thought of her kids eventually going to college drives Linda to despair. When author Bea Cromwell is forced to wait for a tow truck at the restaurant, Linda tries to badger her into writing more of the "Snail & Newt" children's books so she can relive reading them to the kids when they were younger. Linda's zealousness in pushing this results in her cancelling Bea's tow behind her back, and when the woman finds out she grows scared for her wellbeing. As Linda grows more unhinged and desperate to prove she doesn't mean Bea any harm she takes her car keys. It escalates to Bea delivering a lecture on how kids are supposed to grow up and leave while keeping Linda in a headlock until the tow arrives.
  • The Simpsons deals with this in the episode "A Mid-Childhood Night's Dream," in which Marge's subconscious grapples with the recent problem of realizing that Bart is growing up. This being a Dream Episode, this is at one point literally depicted by Marge standing in the ruins of the crumbling family home, which resembles, you guessed it, a bird's nest.
    Marge: Oh my God. Lisa and Maggie! It's going to happen with all of them! Bart is just the beginning. One by one...all my babies will leave the nest. I'm going to lose all of them. [...] My time as a mom will eventually come to an end. I'll have to fill my days with a bunch of stupid hobbies. I don't want an Etsy storefront!


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