Even though I, being a writer, tend to write about every thought or feeling I have, I wanted to write about this subject because it’s something I’ve gone through recently and feel strongly that it may connect with some of you out there. I know I have a lot of friends of a similar age that are going through this stage of life called The Empty Nest.
I don’t know who first coined the term, but it is quite accurate. Maybe we could call it “momma bird depression syndrome” as well.
I was looking back over a journal the other day and saw where I had written (at a particularly low point) “I have become redundant in my own life.” As sad as that sounds, I think it is a common sentiment felt by many a mother (or primary care giver).
I, (like my mother before me), always wanted to have children. I probably wanted it so badly that I had kids younger than I should have, but I entered into it with a willing and open heart.
Now, if you have children, you know that they quickly became the central focus of all of your thoughts, time, and attention. Dads experience this, too, I don’t want to downplay their impact in the process, but as I’m a mom, I write from this perspective.
There were times I might’ve felt like I’d trade one of my kids for a box of Godiva chocolates and a hot bath and five minutes (or seconds) of peace and quiet, (y’all get what I’m saying) but ultimately, they held my heart in their tiny hands. Always have and always will, even now that their hands aren’t so tiny anymore.
When the primary focus of your life (your children) are suddenly no longer there, at least not daily and hourly, when you find yourself trying to remember how to cook for just two, when you hear the overwhelming sound of silence where you once heard the laughter, giggles, and pitter-pats of tiny feet… well, that nest of yours suddenly feels very bare.
That hectic schedule you once bemoaned and whined about, the stress of sibling arguments, the lunches made, baths given, the tuck-ins and “check-ups” at bedtime, all of it is suddenly gone.
And for five minutes, maybe even five days, you enjoy it. You eat the chocolate without three or four little hands reaching up to take their share (and maybe their sister’s), you take long walks, you get a massage. Maybe you and your husband take a trip.
And then you come home and find yourself face-to-face with an empty house, a barren home.
I know of parents who seemingly deal with this time of life with much enjoyment. They throw a party, travel, make plans, and seem to never look back, but that was never my mother, and that was not me.
My mother didn’t have a good time of it when she came face-to-face with this inevitable life phase, and I swore I’d prepare myself, I wouldn’t be caught unaware, but, much like having kids in the first place, it isn’t something you really can prepare for, because no matter how much self-talk you employ, how many books you read, or people you talk to, it cannot be prepared for. It’s something you really must experience before you know.
I remember my own grown child standing in front of me, telling me that they were prepared for having kids, and I just laughed and laughed. “No, dear, you’re not,” I wanted to say, “because you cannot be.”
In the same way, you just have to stand at the precipice of the tidal wave of emotion that is about to knock you flying, just stand there, take a deep breath, and let it hit you in the face. Because, just as there is NOTHING like having children, there is also NOTHING like watching them leave.
No, your kids, sweet and perfectly-raised as they may be, do not understand, and as I said, they cannot. It’s just the way it is.
If you find yourself feeling redundant in your own life, if you feel as though your whole life has just pulled out of your driveway, if you think you might just curl up and die, take heart, my friend. You will not die. You will grieve, for it is a grieving process, make no mistake. Similar to a divorce or any other life-changing event, you will grieve, you will hurt, you will feel as though your life lacks purpose and meaning.
This too shall pass.
Pray. Travel, if you have the means. Find your passion and pursue it with your hands and your heart. Meditate. Have the massage and the pedicure and the Godiva chocolates. You can and will survive the dreaded Empty Nest. And you will find a whole new side of yourself you may not have known existed. A side that is allowed to think of what YOU need, what fills YOUR soul. A side that looks at your partner of many years and says, “Hey! There you are!”
It’s change, drastic change, a whole new phase of life. But you got this, and if you need a listening ear, I’ve been there and done that, give me a call.