What to Expect When It’s Your Turn to Experience the Empty Nest

When your young adults leave home, it can be a stressful time for parents; especially for mothers. Finding yourself again may be difficult but not impossible. Believe it or not, you will survive.

A few years ago, our youngest daughter left home for college. Although I was elated for her to begin a journey of independence and self-discovery, it was still a little hard to accept that neither one of my girls still lived at home. Ironically, I often fantasized about the blessed “Empty Nest” moment–until it happened.

It’s been almost four years since Paul, and I had to suit up with robes before a midnight stroll from the bedroom to the kitchen for a cold glass of water. Oh yes, some parts of having a house absent of children are liberating. However, there are also some downsides.

Recently, I read about this phenomenon known as Empty Nest Syndrome. It happens to be one of the many syndromes I didn’t even realize existed. Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones from the Univerity of Utah (U of U is what I called it when I worked there) was interviewed a few years back and provided great insight on this topic. This syndrome is a transitional period in life when parents feel an overwhelming sense of grief, sadness, and loneliness when their children depart home for college, the military or whatever path they choose to pursue.

According to an article posted in Psychology Today, “Women normally suffer more than men do and feelings of sadness may be more pronounced among women who were full-time mothers.” I agree with this because I’ve seen it firsthand–plenty of times.

What to Expect When It's Your Turn to Experience the Empty Nest

I too had feelings of sadness when it was my turn to experience this phase of parenthood. It’s as if you want your child(ren) to do well and be on their own, but you also want to keep them close. It was even harder for me because I was in an entirely different country when mine left home. Not to mention, Paul was retiring from the military after 24 years, and my dog had just died. So, having my youngest kid leave home during that time made everything ten times worse.

Also Read: Self-Care Is For Women In Midlife Too

Little by little, things started to become less stressful, as I was able to find ways to keep myself busy. Keeping tabs on the girls via phone and social media helped as well. Now that almost four years have passed since my youngest left, I’ve found my groove, and I’m not so sure I want it to be disrupted, ha!

If you have young adults who no longer live at home, maybe you can relate to these thoughts. On the other hand, if you are still waiting on your day of “freedom,” read on to get an idea of what you have to look forward to.

What to Expect When It's Your Turn to Experience the Empty Nest
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Are they okay?

This is the one question you will ask yourself daily. A few questions that may run across your mind will be:
-Do they have enough to eat?
-Do they need money?
-Are they partying too much?
-Has anyone introduced them to recreational drugs? 
And then when you finally get your kid(s) on the phone, via text message, they will assure you that life is lovely and there’s nothing to worry about. However, you won’t believe them, and you’ll end up worrying for the rest of the night. Also, rest assured, they will NOT turn down money.

Who’s going to wash the dishes?

Household chores were something I had to get used to. It’s not that I didn’t do housework before, but that work was split four ways. The girls did work around the house from the moment they were old enough to know how. Now, all of the responsibility falls on Paul and I. Honestly, there have been some days I contemplated hiring a housekeeper. However, the money I would have used for extra help belongs to the school, so there goes that.

Maybe I need more friends.

There’s no doubt that my husband and I have grown closer, but there are some instances where I crave the company of another woman — someone to accompany me on shopping trips or talk about girly things with. I don’t get lonely, but sometimes I feel alone-if that makes sense. However, meeting new people requires putting on pants which I don’t often feel like doing, so I guess I’m not as alone as I thought.

I can finally have my home office!

So at first, I thought about fixing up the empty bedrooms into guest rooms for when the girls come home. Then I thought about how even better it would be to have a place for my computer to live. The computer won. I now have a beautiful home office. And it’s nice. There’s also a sofa bed for the “guests.”

I need to get a handle on these food portions.

After some time, I learned to prepare meals for two. In the beginning, this was hard. What pushed me to get it right was the fact that we were throwing out so much food. It was merely a mindset I had change. I’ve got it down packed now, and the savings have been phenomenal.

Will they come back home?

I wonder about this often. Not that I don’t have faith in their abilities to make it on their own, but I’m fully aware of how crazy the world is, and sometimes life happens. If it turns out the girls need a place to stay, they know they can always come home. And it will be fine as long as there’s no disruption to the gorgeous room I created.

Having an empty nest can be heart-wrenching for many parents. I know a woman who hates the fact that her last child just left home. She’s depressed about it, and I feel sorry for her. I can relate on some levels because it took a while for me to adjust in the beginning.

If you are having a difficult time coping and everyday life is hard to deal with, you’ve got to reach out for help.

It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.
—Ann Landers

I think the key is to learn yourself again, especially if your children have been a priority for most of your whole life. Also, you must have confidence that you raised productive members of society who will one day find their way back home to wreck your new office space–even if it’s only to visit.

All the best, always.



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