You have certainly already heard or read about the empty nest syndrome. When kids leave home to study or live independently, and parents stay alone again after so long. This is when a new circle of life starts, and we are called to go through it while living it and organizing our lives on a totally new basis.
Today, I decided to write about it since it is so actual to me. I thought that I might not be the only one who is facing this new reality …
A few days ago, our second child left home … and out of five at home, we are left three … From a continuous back and forth of youngsters with loud voices and laughs, a deafening silence prevails. I am looking to bring my attention somewhere, I am searching for someone who would need me for something, and I am not quite sure what is important anymore. I never thought that the departure of the second child would be as difficult -not to say more complicated- than the first one … I felt that I could easily evade those negative emotions since “I have already the experience”! But it doesn’t happen this way .. actually, it is precisely the opposite. You will feel the same and even more when you have more than one kid since the emptiness becomes bigger and bigger each time. In our case, there were two left from three kids, and from two now, there is one left, and in less than one year, there will be no kid left! Even if I have prepared myself, and I am supposed to “have the experience” since it happened gradually, and, even though the pandemic has made the whole thing kind of easier in this respect, the parent’s emotions when kids are leaving home to the next chapter of their lives remain exactly the same.
Contradictory feelings of pride, happiness, and satisfaction alongside a sense of enormous emptiness, sadness, stress and anxiety, senseless, frustration, and even fear are here to make you feel a sort of suffocation sometimes. At least this is how I felt, and I continue to feel once in a while -like a tsunami coming and going.
I soon realized that I must find alternative ways to go over that and enter with dignity, self-awareness, self-protection, and self-improvement to this new and yet unknown phase of my life.
- The most critical issue here is recognizing, accepting, and expressing those feelings to learn how to auto-regulate them. This is the only way for me to focus on positive emotions and to lessen the intensity of the negative ones. Mindfulness practice and simple ways to connect with myself such as a walk-in nature, breathing techniques when stress is overwhelming, and keeping a diary or even simply, like what I am doing today, writing down my thoughts help me positively auto-support.
- I need to recognize that my role as a mother has changed. This role was an integral part of my identity, and now I have to discover and learn a new parental role (Grover & Dang, 2013). Until now, the education of my children was one of my main priorities. But their needs are changing, and my role is changing at the same time. I need to reflect and explore this new direction that my relationship with my children is taking and how will I better cover their needs and the needs of my relationship with them. I am no longer giving them instructions, nor tell them what they should do differently or interfere (sometimes even indiscreetly). Instead, I learn new ways to become their advisor or, even better, a discreet source of inspiration and knowledge whenever they ask for it in their own way. The fact that my role is changing doesn’t mean that it’s becoming less essential but just that the data and components of the situation are changing.
- My everyday life is changing; this is a fact. So I find creative ways to adapt myself, adjust my daily activities accordingly, and spend my energy differently. I finally find the time to enroll in those seminars I wanted to follow, have photo lessons with this talented teacher I have spotted, and do all the reading I never found time and energy to do. Also, spending time with my friends and not be oppressed by “I need to make it on time for dinner” gives me a sort of freedom. Choosing the travel destinations that I like the most and not the ones “that would please the children” allows me to discover new horizons. Simply said, focus on me. It might also be the opportunity to make some changes in my career, and even have a career change since I will have more time to spend working.
- The empty nest impacts also directly my relationship with the father of my children, my life companion. Obviously, I am not alone in all this. I am not the only one feeling all this emotional upset, and I’d better share with him my feelings, my thoughts, and concerns on this transition so that we are together in all this, just like for everything else. It is an excellent chance to spend quality time together, face each other with a positive and growth mindset, focus on our relation, our future, and what pleases us the most as a couple, not only as parents.
Briefly said, yes, getting over the empty nest syndrome might be not an easy task. But I am reflecting that it is only one phase through which all parents go through. Our best allies: accept this new reality, understand, and actively be focused, and thrive on facing this new period of our lives with a positive mindset.
This article was originally written in Greek by Isabelle Razis and published in https://www.govastileto.gr/editors-blog/ti-ine-to-sindromo-tis-adias-folias-i-health-coach-izampel-razi-sas-enimeroni/