There are some parents who celebrate their kids flying the nest. They have plans for those bedrooms. A much-coveted craft room. A space dedicated to yoga and meditation. Perhaps the room has the best natural light (once the blinds are lifted) and will lend itself perfectly for painting. Through those doors, marks left by sticky-tak and the dust that collected behind the don’t-touch bookcases are now ripe for deep cleaning. The smell of all things teen is sugar-soaped away, to be replaced by the newness of fresh paint and scented sticks. For some parents there’s a quiet relief. A sense of freedom returning. You adore your kids. But you still welcome the time for renewal of the self. Of claiming back after years of self-sacrifice. A sigh. And on with it….
Then there are others.
Heartbroken. Sad. Lost. Tired. Confused. Empty. Debilitated.
Fed up. Dissatisfied. Tearful. Cross.
Lost for words. Too many words.
Prepared, yet not prepared.
However much you think you’ve got it all covered, the sense of loss begins long before the fledglings take flight. All the planning – the lists, debates about how to do this efficiently, the necessary safety talk – can’t prepare you for what’s to come. You feel it creeping up on you. But the reality of it all, when it hits, is darker than you imagined. You may have predicated a few dignified tears, a clingy hug and maybe a glass of something on return home. But the chances are, you didn’t expect to eat away every scrap of lipstick on the journey back. Or to see yourself in the hall mirror as you enter, suddenly looking pale, exhausted and a bit older. (You wouldn’t dream of changing their bedroom.)
As parents, it’s our job to prepare our children for this event. If we’ve done a great job, they’ll leave with confidence. A wobble is ok. But core confidence is what we’ve worked so hard for. That’s what we want for our kids, isn’t it? We wouldn’t want them crumbling at the thought of venturing out to find their dreams. We want them to prosper. We want to hear about all the great stuff they are learning and experiencing. We want them to have a life better than we had – in whatever way, whether we had ‘enough’ or not, we always want our kids to have better.
Congratulate yourself on raising a child who’s Going For It.
So, they embark on their journey into the world without us.
And we experience a loss…
It’s very real. A form of bereavement. And yes, you will experience a type of mourning.
It is not an illness. You still must go to work. You still must function. There are other people who still need you…. Or maybe not…. But however life looks, it has to carry on. You still need You. And whilst friends and colleagues recognise the discomfort you feel, they will soon be ready to talk about something else.
It’s not wrong to miss your child. Or, bizarrely, the clothes left in a tangle on their bedroom floor. Or having to remind them to bring their plates down to the kitchen. It’s not wrong to miss any of that. Or to be aware of how much quieter the stairs have become.
You may even feel like a teen again yourself as you try to work out when it’s ok to call. You rather abruptly enter an emotional state that is uncomfortable at least.
Let your fledgling know that you are there for them when they need you, then allow them some space to discover what’s what. When you left home you probably didn’t want your mum checking that you’d eaten breakfast.
You can set up a list of Daily Headlines to swop information in a way that’s fun and not intrusive. Simple, slightly jovial one liners that give you both an opportunity to expand into detail if wanted. Make it a daily habit. Make it fun. You both share. Include pictures when you can. And if you use text or similar, there’ll be reasons for one of you to call so you can laugh together about the finer detail introduced by those headlines.
Your relationship with your fledgling will survive. Have confidence in that. If you got on well before, there’s no reason to expect that to change. But if your relationship was strained, now’s the chance to turn it around.
Just be kind to yourself. Look after yourself. Take good care.
It’s great if you have a plan – if you’ve scheduled things on your calendar for the first 3 or 4 weeks it will help. It won’t stop you missing your kids, but it will help. If they’ve just left and you don’t have a plan, well, put something in place now! Eat food that you love. Have a massage. Book time with your Life Coach to get/keep you on track with your Hopes and Dreams. Now is the time to take stock of where you are with that.
What you’re feeling is very real. Acknowledge it.
Allow yourself to curl up in your PJs with Hotel Chocolat and watch a boxset. Then pick yourself up. Life is going to be different. I will talk about Mid-Life Crisis v Mid-Life Opportunity soon. For now, just look at it as a new start for both of you. Your child will be fine. And so will you.
Sending hugs out there to you all.
.. Annie ..
Empty Nest Syndrome is very real. And it can prove hard to move on from. The key is to make positive habits, rather than unthinkingly building poor ones. Life Coaching can help. Give me a call on 07393 722129.