The Empty-Nest Syndrome; How To Cope With It
As parents – and more so as mothers – we have spent the better part of our lives tending to and taking care of our children. Starting from the pregnancy stage, our first and foremost concern has always been the well-being of our little ones – Did they eat well? Did they get enough sleep? Did they get sufficient physical activity? Did they do well in school? And did they make good friends? And so on. We worried endlessly, tried to protect them from hurt and rejection, encouraged them to grow, to explore newer horizons; and urged them to spread their wings.
We built a small nest – filled it with love and care and nurtured the fledglings. We sacrificed quite a few of our own dreams and desires to keep our kids happy. As working mothers, we opted for jobs that had flexible hours that let us spend more time with the children. We put our careers on hold and did not pursue bigger opportunities as that would have meant leaving the home and the children.
Many of us quit our well-paying jobs just so we could be around the kids and tend to them. Our every waking moment was spent planning their activities – driving them around, dropping them off in classes, waiting to pick them up, preparing their favourite meals, baking cakes and pies to satisfy their sweet cravings, rustling up quick treats to feed their and their friends’ ever-hungry stomachs. All our schedules were planned to revolve around the children’s activities.
Today, the little ones have grown and morphed into young adults. They are ready to leave the nest – to pursue higher education, to take up new jobs, to follow their dreams. And with their going away, we are left with an empty nest. As mothers, this is a very difficult period for all of us. Not only do we feel the emotional vacuum but we are also at a total loss not knowing what to do with our lives.
After all, we spent a good part of 20 years ‘revolving around our sun’ and now without our ‘respective suns’, we feel totally out of place; lost in the nether world, continuing to spin but without any focus. The sudden feeling of ‘not being wanted’ and not being important in our children’s lives catches us off-guard and shakes our confidence and our self-esteem. The raw hurt that comes from separation gnaws at our insides and may sometimes be too much to handle.
But let us not despair. This is a situation that every mother will have to face. This is a period that we need to plan and prepare for. We need to think positively and with an open mind. Here are some key actions that will help us gain control over the situation.
Learn to spend time usefully-life beyond parenting: The most positive outcome of the situation is that we now have plenty of time on our hands. Our time is no more bound by our children’s schedules. We can now look forward to spending it meaningfully on activities that we had always planned to do.