hings have been different lately….I haven’t been experiencing those ‘I am a super happy empty nester’ moments. Not that I have been depressed or sad, I just haven’t been intentional about my thoughts, feelings and actions. What I mean is, I allowed myself to fall into the mundane ‘comings and goings’ of my somewhat busy professional life, that I hadn’t been living an intentional purposeful personal life. In one brief moment, I found myself headed to that ’empty nesting syndrome’ some talk about.
Wow, that was a mouthful and honestly not so sure that paragraph is grammatically correct. But, oh well. This is my life. I will explain.
Because I stated to feel differently, I decided to complete a little research about ’empty nesting’. I know what the term is, but hadn’t really researched it. First, let me tell you why I researched it…
I was out one day at a networking event (I don’t really network, but that’s a discussion for another day) and after sharing a little about my family life, a woman asked me a question. She asked me, “aren’t you feeling a little depressed about not being an engaged parent, well what I mean is, now that the children are all gone?” I responded first advising that they aren’t all gone and that my youngest is at home although he attends college and works part time. I also responded that no I am not feeling depressed. In fact, I am still quite engaged as a parent with all of my children but I am now adult parenting rather than actively parenting. She looked perplexed; and although she did not ask me any additional questions, her perplexed facial expression remained with me for a few days. This is why I decided to do some research.
I am not a huge fan of Wikipedia, but of course they produced the first definition/explanation of empty nest syndrome in the search results. Their explanation reads, ‘Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or attend a college or university. It is not a clinical condition.’ (well thank God it isn’t clinical) They go on to explain, “Since young adults moving out from their families” house is generally a normal and healthy event, the symptoms of empty nest syndrome often go unrecognized. This can result in depression and a loss of purpose for parents, since the departure of their children from ‘the nest’ leads to adjustments in parents’ lives. Empty nest syndrome is especially common in full-time mothers.”
Psychology Today reads, “Empty nest syndrome refers to feeling of depression, sadness, and, or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. This may occur when children go to college or get married. Women are more likely than men to be affected. Often, when children leave the home, mothers are going through other significant life events as well, such as menopause or caring for elderly parents. Men can also experience similar feelings of loss regarding the departure of their children. Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, but rather describes a transition period in which many people experience feelings of loneliness or loss. While many parents encourage their children to become independent adults, the experience of sending children off into the world can be a painful one.”
I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, but merely reading these two descriptions of empty nest syndrome could make me feel depressed. Whew, can we agree that any drastic life change can cause a little depression, despair and/or loneliness. Let me say, going through my divorce was a much more difficult experience than empty nesting.
But let’s declare now that through this transition of empty nesting, we will not allow depression and loneliness to dwell in our space. We will embrace this transition with power and poise. We will cope and conquer. We will thrive! Now let’s talk about how.
It is my goal to help you through it! If you have not read my personal goal, as the Breakout Mom, you can read it here.
I am an empty nester. I actually felt the first effects of empty nesting in 2006 when my eldest graduated from high school and left for college. At this time, we (I was married at the time) still had an 11 and 8 year old at home. I truly believe having these two children at home help soften the blow. I began preparing then for my empty nesting journey. However, the hardest blow was empty nesting as a single person.
I will first share how I began to prepare for my empty nesting journey with children at home and later share how I currently thrive as an empty nester.
- Begin thinking about what you want to do with your free time. Yes!!
- Do you currently have a hobby that you can monetize into a business? Research what and how to make it happen.
- Do you want to begin a new career or return to that career you had prior to children? Research what steps are required to start or return to that career.
- I have even met empty nesters who went to support/work alongside of their spouse in their businesses after the children ‘left’. If so, start that discussion with your spouse to identify what steps are required. Also, discuss where, in the business, you can help now from home (phone calls, graphics, emails, marketing strategies or plans, social media).
- In all of the above options, identify if additional education on training is necessary. Review your current availability with your household commitments. Can you squeeze out a couple of hours each week to take an online course? Yes, do it!
- Search out groups of interest to join. These groups should have nothing to do with parenting or children. This is for YOU! Examples: knitting, wine tasting, sewing, etc.
- Now if you are collar bone deep in supporting, chauffeuring, and cheering your children’s afterschool activities, like I was, try connecting with some of the parents at those activities. Chances are they are collar bone deep as well and could use some adult only interactions. Get a group of them together for game night, family night, movie nights, etc. If you are a single woman or man parenting alone, invite other mothers or fathers who are also single. If you are married invite couples. Trust me they will exhale along with you. Why, because it is likely their child is the same age as your child and approaching empty nesting also.
For the current empty nester,
- I am not one to suggest you dive head first into your work, but if that makes you happy, go for it. I do it, but only Monday through Wednesday.
- Schedule time with your children, if they are not at home. I find, for me, leaving the calls, visits (if they don’t live at home) and connecting up to the-I am so excited to now be old enough to make my own decisions, and I live on my own because I am completely grown-children, is not the best idea.
- CALL ANYWAY, even when they sound like you are interrupting them. Remember, you could not go to the bathroom, talk to your girlfriend, eat that favorite snack or watch your favorite TV show in peace without hearing ‘mom’ 100 times. Guess what, they owe you.
- Do not take it personal when you don’t hear from them. They are grown (ha) remember, they believe they can do it all on their own.
- Let them fall, bump their head, make some-I would not do that if I were you-decisions. Be an advisor (not just their parent) when they call for advice after they made a not so good decision.
- Don’t take it personal (they live at home) if they don’t come home for dinner. I will admit, this was a challenge for me. My first year as an empty nester full time, my youngest was living on campus. So when he came home for his sophomore year, I thought, well if I am eating, I will cook something for him. NOPE, he didn’t eat. Not because he didn’t want it or he didn’t want to eat what his mother cooked, but because he ate with his friends while either at school or after work. Because he is learning to be an adult and he has a social life (dang it, a better social life than mine, I might add)
- Increase the dating time with your spouse….if you haven’t already. Try stay-cations overnight with some surprises!! Make dinner fun, add a scavenger hunt. Design a fun-filled life without the children.
- Spend scheduled time with single friends, if you are single of course.
- Increase your ‘self-care’ regimen: movies; happy hour; pampering ( I have fun taking myself out, although I can be really expensive).
- My favorite, increase solo traveling. This is a fun experience like no other.
I do not intend to live a life outlined by the definitions I shared above. Who says empty nesting can’t be a rebirthing or growth experience? I certainly do. If I have to design my own lifestyle in order to be nonconforming, then so be it. I forgot this for a moment but not anymore.
I am the Breakout Mom and I am designing a lifestyle that is perfect for me. I want to help you design one that is perfect for you. Why don’t you join me!!!