In Categories, How to Live the Good Life

Empty Nest Syndrome by Jo Castro at Lifestyle Fifty

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.

Empty Nest 4

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.

Empty Nest 1

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.

Empty Nest Syndrome by Jo Castro at Lifestyle Fifty

Termite mounds snapped on a Dave and Me alone trip to the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland. Eeeww, I’m itching at the thought of all those ants!

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.

Empty Nest 2

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!

Empty Nest 5

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.

Empty Nest 3

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.

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,


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Showing 18 comments
  • kathleen dunham

    i realize this is an older blog from last year. i am a 55yr old mom who has been an empty nester for years. 4 yrs ago my husband and i moved from vermont (where we raised our kids) back to my home state of new york. we live closer to relatives and my 89yr old mother (who acts younger than i do!!!). we had a big project of building a smaller home—a cordwood house in the beautiful hudson valley—-over a period of 3yrs. i have met a few friends, but find that difficult without children in school. most women my age work full time or have already made friendships over the years. we live near the train to nyc, but i have yet to go by myself (not afraid–just lazy). i often say this would be a great life if my kids were with me. my husband works from home and spends most of his free time trying to find ways to make me enjoy being in this “nowhere land”— that is what i call my fifties. i try everyday to move forward and not live in the past. it is helpful to know that there are other women that struggle too.

    • Johanna

      I’m sad to hear that you find being in your fifties as a ‘nowhere land’ Kathleen 🙁 It is hard when there are major transitions and upheavals in our lives, and things we’d rather be doing or places we’d rather be, or people we’d rather be with. Why not just get on that train to NYC one day, and invite your kids to meet you for a day out – just as a starter?

  • Glenda

    I had 5 kids, 4 are gone. 2 in NC, 2 in FL, but one of those is moving to PA. Now I have one at home, my boy. He is leaving soon and I cannot stop crying. I am depressed and sad all the time. I’ve lost my energy and I am supposed to move to CA with my husband to start our new life. Now i can care less. 🙁
    I have been reading about the empty nest syndrome and it seems it can last up to 2 years. My younger daughters left , one a year ago and one 6 months ago. I’ve seen them, but if I moved to CA is so far away, and my son won’t come with us. I leave behind 5 grandkids in FL ( one is being born in 6 weeks) and my other daughter has 4 more but she is going to PA. I know all kids leave. I just thought we would always be nearby.
    I have a good opportunity in CA, better chances to become a writer and my hubby has a business and great opportunities there. I want to be selfish and go, I do, but I can’t shake this horrible feeling…. All I’ve done my whole life is take care of them, and If i move I will be just alone with my husband, no family and no friends., it is scary. If I stay he looses the chance of a lifetime. And my kids little by little will leave FL cause they don’t like it here.
    IDK what else to do.

    • Johanna

      Oh Glenda, I feel for you. I think our generation more than other has to deal with such incredibly mobile lives. Thinking about leaving your children and heading off for a new life must seem like a guilty pleasure that you don’t really want anyway. I get that. I’ve been in a similar situation. I always hold onto one thing. As long as my children are happy and doing what they want to do, then I should be with my husband and find joy in our own lives, wherever that might take us – so that we do not ever become a burden to our children. But it’s hard. And I get what you say that you dedicate much of your life to taking care of your family and surrounding yourself with you own little community which feels safe and where you are happy and you don’t expect anyone to move away too far. I miss my little community so much too, but life moves on, and life is a journey, not a destination. Perhaps you can look at this next chapter of your life as an adventure that might open up doors for you as a writer and for your husband in his job, and that ultimately perhaps it will put you in a position to make new choices – to return not to FL, but to be closer to your children wherever they decide to settle in the future. Keep writing, don’t stop writing – above all things it’s the best therapy when times are tough, I think.

  • Life Images by Jill

    I missed my eldest son when he left home, but then he came back, and then went again, and then came back a few years later with his pregnant wife and they lived in his room for a few months while their house was being built – that was a challenge….. Now they live only 10 minutes away and it is a joy to see them and to be a part of the lives of our grandchildren as they grow up. I never realised until I had grandchildren what my parents missed out on with their grandchildren as neither my sister or I lived close by. Empty nest syndrome? there is always something new to learn and discover and do. Great post Jo.

    • Johanna

      Thanks Jill! I know what you mean … it seems they can be a bit like boomerangs 🙂 Me too, my Mum has always lived far away and we’ve only got to see her occasionally. It makes me very sad when I think about it 🙁

  • Sabine

    Hi Johanna,

    there is no big black hole. My children have grown up and gone their own way. And this is right. I’ve got many hobbies and I am blogging. This will never be boring ♥

    Many greetings Sabine

    • Johanna

      Thanks Sabine, and I am so happy to hear you are fulfilled and happy 🙂 By the way, how lovely to have an active reader from Germany. I think you are my first 🙂

  • Rae Hilhorst

    HiJo, your post of course touches the very core of my heart. I have also just realised today that it is the first long weekend that we won’t have the girls and usually we have a bacon cook up on a long weekend. So I bought enough bacon for two and a small pack of hash browns rather than the 1kilo pack. One daughter is in Bali and the other one has just settled into her new home and may be making traditions of her own. Think I will have to ring her, but if I do and tell her I’m missing our long weekend cook up she’ll be over in a flash. Finding it hard to balance. xxx Rae

    • Johanna

      It is hard to balance when they go Rae. All the old traditions suddenly come crashing down around us and we realise that they are making their own traditions which may not include us. But it’s great that they have moved on and they are doing their own thing and taking life by the horns. I think we can wallow a little in our nostalgia, but on the other hand we have to be brave and be glad to them. Thanks for your lovely comments and I’m glad my words touched a chord in you 🙂

  • Annie

    I Love all the posts on Lifestyle Fifty, and the one about empty nest is a good one.
    My thoughts – the main thing, being a couple again. It is like being girlfriend/boyfriend again. I am enjoying it, miss our girls but there is now time to do what you planned and put aside. Getting ready for retirement and to be honest having a lovely time getting to know each other.

    • Johanna

      Thank you Annie. It is a great time to get to know one another again, isn’t it, and to have time to do things and concentrate on each other without interruptions or other personalities crowding in. I do miss them, but like you say, this is a new time in our lives, so better make the most of it, or it too will be gone in an instant in the wind.

  • Mary {The World Is A Book}

    I loved seeing all these photos of your kids and to visit your other blog. I know some people who would appreciate this post. My husband and I always say we look forward to when the kids are all grown up so we can travel outside school season. But, you’re right time is fleeting and sometimes I need to be reminded I need to enjoy them as children more. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Johanna

      Thanks Mary! Please share the post with your friends, I would really appreciate that 🙂 I know, we used to do the same, and then Poof! They’re gone and you can travel whenever you like, but it’s different without them. Thanks for popping by 🙂

  • Kim

    Oh so true Jo. The photos from Lesotho days bring back lovely memories too.

    • Johanna

      Glad you liked it Kim, and that it brought back some memories.

  • Janet @ Redland City Living

    I call myself an “almost empty nester” – the kids (19 & 16) still live here but we can go days without seeing them! So yes, have been doing a bit of adjusting the last few months. Hubster and I are starting to go out more together which is fun 🙂

    • Johanna

      I know Janet, getting out with our hubbies and not having to worry about pleasing the kids (or at least not listening to their moans about not wanting to be doing this that or the other) is refreshing isn’t it 🙂

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