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The story behind the clever 'empty nest' photo that went viral

Their last kid is off to college and this couple is...happy.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Every generation does things much differently than the generation that preceded it. Even a mere 20 years ago, the online conversation was all about Friendster and My Space. Today’s parents, in contrast, pose with their initial ultrasound photos on Instagram, and the social media race to document life begins.

The humor of these changes in our lives was seized upon by Vicky Piper, whose second and youngest child is headed off to college this fall. Holding an actual empty nest, she took photos of herself posing lovingly with her husband, the couple holding a chalkboard reading “Empty Nest 2018.”

The Facebook post received over 76,000 “likes” and 16,000 shares, with parents all over the country applauding the Pipers humor – as well as children who perhaps recognized hints of their own parents’ likely jubilation.

Piper spoke to TODAY Parents and gave full credit to her husband, Jeff, for the idea for the post.

“We had just dropped off our son at college — our daughter went to college last year, and our son is starting this year — and we came home, and so many people were so concerned, like, ‘Are you guys going to be okay?’” Piper recalled. “We just had a different perspective about the whole thing: both kids are doing great, and they’re in college, and that’s awesome! So the bottom line is that we had a different view of that ‘empty nest.’”

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When her husband suggested that they take a photo to commemorate their “empty nest,” Piper said she told him to go find a nest outside and they’d take some photos together.

“If you’re in your 40s or 50s, when you had your kids, you missed all these beautiful photo opportunities kids do now,” she laughed. “So there was definitely an element of ‘Let’s join those whippersnappers!’”

Piper says the couple, who will be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in September, live outside Dayton, Ohio and plan on staying in the family home and enjoying their empty nest status by focusing on each other and traveling.

“For the last twenty years, we’ve been focused on the kids and trying to take care of ourselves too,” Piper said. “And now we can focus on us.”

“I think that people celebrate so many things in the beginning, and then we forget to celebrate things later on,” Piper said, noting that graduations and changes in the lives of children are often unnoticed and unhonored changes in the lives of parents as well. “Let’s capture the moment not just for the kid that’s leaving the home, but for Mom and Dad too.”