The Empty Nest Syndrome and Tips to Help you Set a New Course
When I was younger, oh so much younger than today, I used to dream of the day when the kids would leave home.
“No empty nest syndrome for me”, I’d say, and mean it.
“I8 … and that’s it. You’re out, on your own, on your heal!” I used to threaten when I was really ticked off with them over some mis-demeanour such as a filthy bedroom with two week old pizza droppings rotting under the bed.
My sweet revenge
I’d end up cleaning the room of course, but my sweet revenge would be to dream of going on holiday without them to a Bali style resort perhaps, certainly somewhere where I wouldn’t have to please everyone.
When they’d left home I promised myself I was going to sleep in late, never pack a lunch ever again, find time to spend in the garden, and indulge in some exotic Thai cooking (with extra chillis of course).
A big black hole beckoned
But the very moment I was left on my own, my heart fell into my boots, and I bleated like a sheep. It felt as if I was looking into a big black hole of not being needed ever again. Certainly no feel-good Mummy factors in amidst the shrapnel of ‘getting-on-with- life’, no precious moments to photograph like these below.
In short, the overall realisation was of walking through my day to day routine feeling as if I was minus a limb.
The nest was empty, and I would need to find another hat to wear.
It’s quite true that Murphy’s law of parenting states that just as our kids become decent, interesting, thoughtful human beings, then the time comes for them to fly from the nest.
Childhood is fleeting
We look back on the endless cycles of nappies, tears, tantrums, sleepless nights, school runs, mealtimes and homework and wonder where it all went, and personally I wonder if I was paying enough attention, because the years fled by so fast.
My son was learning to ride a bike one minute then off driving his car into independence the next.
And as much as I loved my brood with a passion I sometimes feel a small guilty twinge because if I’m honest a small part of me was often plotting and planning little escapes from my maternal must-do-duties, if only for a few minutes.
Once, when I’d been homeschooling our children and with them 24/7 in a tiny flat the size of a postage stamp in Hong Kong, we went on holiday for a week in Thailand. One day exhausted from mediating squabbles and answering “Why” questions, I completely gave our kids over to Dave while I lay by the pool alone and read a book. Can you believe that some insensitive person pitied Dave, befriended him and asked with furrowed brow if he was a single parent and would he like some help entertaining the kids, which he reported back to me with a fair amount of glee!
One day I’ll find that person and give them a piece of my mind!
They leave and the nest is empty
Then the day came when the house was empty except for me and He Himself and I felt completely at a loss, wandering around the house looking for reminders of my children, pulling discarded clothes still hanging in their cupboards close to my nose just to remember their smell. Wishing they were there to ask : “What can we do Mum?” or “Mum can I go play with …” or “Mum let’s go swimming,” or even to moan, “Why won’t you let me out until 2am in the morning on a school night?”
Did I ever look searchingly down the telescope and envisage this day would come? Nah!
Was there ever a game plan at the ready for D-Day, the big black day of looming Departure? No Stoopid!
Did I relish the thought of more time to myself, or perhaps a new job? Hell yeah!
The big black hole
But silly me, I didn’t see the big black hole. It sort of crashed in around me and suddenly there was an empty void where my maternal organising and planning duties once resided, where it was often so warm and cuddle-some and fuzzy.
How the tables have turned.
Nowadays although it’s lovely indeed for He Himself and Me Myself to play the Darby and Joan role, a little set in our ways as we’ve become, doing what we love best with no other personalities or clashes of consideration to worry about, it’s sometimes lonely, and (cough) I wish the children were with us to share the memories we are now creating without them, the ones that they’ll not relate to when we pull out the photo albums in the future.
- The cycling trips.
- The walks and hikes.
- Long road trips.
- Drinking wine as we watch the sun set.
- Outdoor pursuits
- Documentaries on TV.
Oh wait a minute. They didn’t like those things anyway. Ever.
Silly woman! What was I thinking. They are independent adults and they were always destined to enjoy different things to us, so I must remind myself that I let out the clutch for the evolutionary car to helter shelter full speed in its own direction quite a few years ago now.
All I can do is hold on and enjoy our own ride.
Take the roads less travelled.
And when we do get together as a family, make sure to cherish every minute, and keep on making good memories.
Yep, in a round-about-way I’ve come full circle, and I’m in a good space.
Time heals, and life moves on.
Tips to ease the empty nest syndrome pangs
1. Take up a new hobby
2. Get out and meet your girlfriends for coffee or lunch more often.
3. Volunteer. There are lots of child related NGO organisations that could do with your help if you’re missing having kids around.
4. Even if you haven’t worked for a while consider getting a job. Child-rearing and being a home executive has equipped you with all sorts of skills the job market needs. If needs be, do a Tafe course and up-skill, then get out there and be confident – You’re worth it.
5. Plan a holiday with your husband and indulge in all the things you couldn’t do on family holidays. Yes, be selfish for a change.
6. Invite your grown up kids around often, they might not always be able to come, but mostly they’ll be glad you offered – and a Mum’s home cooked meal never goes amiss when they first start having to cook on their own.
Did you, or are you. looking forward to welcoming in an exciting new phase of your life when your children left home or did you welcome the change with about as much anticipation as a root canal treatment? Or tell us, what did you do when the kids left home?
Until next time,