|be advised | May/June 2016
Empty Nest Syndrome
by Chris Aman
My youngest daughter just graduated college and found a great job a few hours away; I'm happy for her, but I'm having a bit of a crisis. All three of my kids live out of town (or out of state, in the case of my oldest), and don't get the chance to visit very often because of their busy work schedules. Even though my husband enjoys the "peace and quiet", I hate coming home to such an empty, silent house all the time! When my kids lived with us, there was always something going on. Since they moved out, it's become progressively less lively. Do you have any advice on how I can help adjust to being an empty-nester?
Ahh, the empty nest phenomenon. This can be one of the saddest, most difficult times in a parent's life. We spend many years teaching our children to be independent, confident and responsible adults. Then they move out and we just wish we could be part of their everyday life. As women, we often associate our very being with motherhood. Our lives revolve around children, home, and work. When the children move out, the work at home decreases and what's left? We are lost, confused and left wondering what to do with all of our time.
One of the biggest things to remember during this transitional period in life is that this is an opportunity for us to reconnect with our spouse. I feel pretty confident saying that there are more than just a few couples out there who, after the children have moved, look at each other and think "who are you?" Now is the time to find out. We can rekindle our relationships, improve our marriage and take time to rediscover who we are as a person. What makes us tick? What do we enjoy?
What do we want to experience?
After many years caring for children and putting ourselves on the backburner, it is now time to venture out and try all of those things we always thought would be fun but never did because we had other responsibilities that we needed to tend to first.
If you are experiencing feelings of loss, what are some things that you can do?
Accept the change. Focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she leaves home.
Keep in touch. You can continue to be part of your child's life through phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.
Seek support. If you are having a more difficult time than you'd expect and feelings of depression are setting in, consult with your doctor or a mental health care provider.
Stay positive. Devote extra time and energy to your marriage and your personal interests. You may find that there is a whole world out there that you may not have noticed over the past several years.
Be active. Find a hobby, travel, get a "hobby" job, spend time with your spouse, go to the gym, volunteer... and on and on. Think outside the box and remember that now you have the time to be creative with your time.
Above all, take care of yourself. Remember that no matter how old your children get, no matter how far they move and no matter how independent they seem -- they will always need mom and dad!
Chris Aman, MBA, MSN, APRN, NP-C, is the co-owner of Inspired Life Wellness Clinic, where she is a psychiatric provider for teens and adults. She and her husband, Jason, have six children and live in Bismarck. They enjoy outdoor activities in the summer and hibernating in the winter.