Empty Nest Syndrome – Does It Exist ?
Empty Nest Syndrome is a loose term used when the children of a family have grown up and moved out of the family home. I have vague memories of seeing the term in women’s magazines or in agony aunt columns, but I honestly never paid much attention to it. Until now. I am now officially an empty nester. And do you know what ? It is one of the most life changing events any mother will go through. There is so much written about the shock of becoming a new mother, post natal depression and all the emotions that go with having a baby. But there is little written about another huge shock in a mother’s life – when her children leave home to become independent adults for the first time.
When I married at the age of 21 I was keen to start a family almost straight away. I had graduated from university but I decided that my family would take priority over my career and I would be a stay at home mother. I know this does not suit everyone but this was my choice and I still stand by that today and wouldn’t do it any differently.
My first daughter arrived at the age of 23 and I went on to have two more daughters at age 26 and 30 years old. My life with my family was just amazing. We lived close to my parents and my husbands parents and we enjoyed a really happy, joyful life as one big happy family. My daughters were happy, content and full of life and I have so many happy memories of their life growing up.
Of course we had difficulties like any other family. We both were made redundant from our jobs when I was eight weeks pregnant with my third daughter and so money was tight for a year till my husband found another job. My middle daughter had severe health problems and spent a lot of her childhood in hospital but we rallied round and coped as best we could. We divorced when my youngest was five but we still maintained a strong family unit albeit living in two separate houses. Overall I was so blessed to have wonderful children and a happy family life.
So, as each child reached adulthood and left home I found my life changing in ways that I wasn’t comfortable with. It was almost like my job and life as a mother was slowly becoming redundant. I found myself worrying MORE about my children as they got older. Yes ! If you think you worry about them when they are small, wait until they reach young adult stage when you have no control over them. At least when they are small and tucked up in bed in the family home you know that they are safe and secure. When they become independent and they are out late and with people you don’t know, then trust me, your level of worry goes up a few notches. This worry continues even when they move out and become fully independent. I was never prepared for this and it was a shock to me to find I worried continually about my daughters at a time when I thought I would be more relaxed.
In the past week my youngest daughter moved out with her fiance into their own home. I am now finally a proper empty nester. Yes, I was hugely proud of all my daughters for moving out into the big wide world, following their chosen career path and making homes for themselves. But, I would be lying if I didn’t admit how absolutely heartbroken I was when I saw my youngest daughter’s empty room in our family home. In a way I found it difficult to take in and register. It was as if my brain couldn’t work out where my children had gone. I sat in her room for a long while trying to take it all in. I know this seems strange as it wasn’t a huge shock that she was moving out. I had months of preparation for this day. But when the day actually arrived it seemed so real and final.
I have spent the last week walking round our seemingly empty house with all the thoughts going round my head. I keep popping into her empty room and staying there for a few minutes. I’m not sure why. I think I need to do this to take it all in. Another strange occurance this week, is that I have felt myself lately missing my father very much who died suddenly four years ago. He was my rock and I adored him and I have missed him so much this week and found myself sobbing everytime I see his photo on the windowsill. I guess in times when we feel vulnerable we want to reach out to those who make us feel safe and loved. I know my father, if he were here, would make this emptiness just a little less raw with his down to earth manner and funny jokes.
So how do I feel now, one week on ? I guess I feel empty and a little lost in my life. It’s like I’m not sure what to do with myself anymore. I have been a mother for nearly thirty one years which is over half my life and had children in my house for that length of time. So now to have an empty house ( apart from my husband of course ) is a very strange, emotional feeling and not one I am enjoying to be honest. Of course it is early days and I am sure I will eventually settle down into this new life of just me and my husband. Until then I am going to be kind to myself, cry if I need to ( and I do !) and just try and focus on our plans for the future.
I keep reminding myself that I am still a mother and always will be. No matter how old my children are, they will always be my babies that I love unconditionally. I now have a grandson whom I adore and I expect there will be more grandchildren over the years to come. Our strong family life will continue but in a different way. I wish there was more information and support about empty nest issues. I can imagine it affects so many women who are already at a vulnerable time in their lives with menopause and the loss of parents, loved ones or friends. I will keep writing about it as time progresses. I will update you on how things are for me and how I am coping as an empty nester.
I hope many of you will comment about your own experiences as an empty nester. Are you dreading it ? How did you cope when it happened to you ? Only by opening up and sharing experiences can we help each other through a difficult time. I know personally, I would welcome your thoughts and ideas that I might benefit from. It would be lovely to hear from you. If you don’t wish to comment publicly then please email me or message me on social media.
Until next time dear friends