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Why Sleep Away Camp Is So Beneficial—for Parents

My husband and I are officially empty nesters for the first time. Well, not empty nesters in the traditional sense—my son and daughter are only 9 and 11 respectively, so they haven't left for college or permanently moved out on their own. But, for seven weeks this summer, they're both attending sleep away camp. It's my son's first summer and my daughter's third, but this is the first time they are both gone. And what has absolutely amazed me is that fact that I couldn't be happier.

If you had told me this a few months ago, I wouldn't have believed you. I honestly welled up at the thought of having such a quiet house. I pictured my husband and I sadly sitting at the dinner table, looking at the empty spots where our children usually sit, counting down the days until they came home. I just thought it would be so weird to not have them around. We both work, but like most parents, we also dedicate an incredible amount time to our kids—driving them to and from school, baseball and basketball practices, playdates, and various appointments. We help with homework, play endless games of catch, and always help them work through any issues they might have. There's also the fact that we both love spending time with them—we often joke that our favorite "couple" to go out with is our son and daughter. They're actually a lot of fun, and I wasn't able to imagine not being around both of them for so long.

However, this summer has been better than I ever thought possible. Sure, I'm still a mom through-and-through, writing letters every day and refreshing my browser every few hours in hopes of seeing my kids in new pictures that the camp posts. And of course, I miss them very much. Yet I also feel like a different person, the person I was before I had kids. There's something very calming about having the day completely to yourself. I go hours without looking at my watch. I'm not constantly rushing from one place to the next because I have a limited amount of hours to work, run errands, clean the house, and exercise before I race to school for pick-up. I go slow. I take my time. My stress levels have plummeted.

That's not to say I'm not getting a lot done. In fact, I can't believe how much I've accomplished. The first week my children were gone, I cleaned out all of our closets, organized every cabinet in my kitchen, completely redecorated a room, wrote four stories for work, and binge-watched the first season of "Bloodline." I've had coffee, lunch or dinner with more friends in these past few weeks than I have had all year. I started doing yoga, something I had wanted to do for years but never seemed to find a way to fit it into my schedule. And, for the first time in 11 years, my husband and I have time together—a lot of time together. And I'm happy to say that we both seem to still really like each other and enjoy each other's company. It has been like a second honeymoon, and even though I know it's short-lived I love knowing that we have this time to look forward to each summer. Also, we're going to blink and our kids will be in college, and it's reassuring to know that we'll be okay when it's just the two of us again.

The summer is almost over, and while I can't wait for my children to come home, I'm also really trying to savor every moment they're gone. I'll continue enjoying this slow pace because school starts right after camp ends, and I know our hectic schedules will immediately resume. I always knew that sending my kids to sleep away camp was a true gift for them, something that would help shape them in so many positive ways. I just never realized how much of a gift it would be for me, too.

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