Is your nest empty and you’re finding that your life seems empty too? Are your chicks teetering on the edge, flapping, anxiously anticipating flying on their own? Are you already dreading September, when no one who calls you Mom will tell you ‘Good Morning’ every day? Does your life suddenly seem just as empty as your home? Are you wondering what Empty Nest Syndrome actually is?
My sweet sister, you are not alone. And even though we may not have met in person, I already know you’re amazing! I know this because you have raised, from birth, at least one other human!!! You did that!! You sacrificed your own comfort and very life to make sure that these people made it to adulthood!
You are to be celebrated and revered!
So why is it that we feel so sad during this time that we should be celebrating?
Here’s the reason, in one concise word: CHANGE.
Becoming an empty nester means changes are happening. They are happening in your home, obviously. But change is also happening in our everyday roles and how we spend our time. And, probably most important, change is happening in our marriages.
Change is itself its own animal. It’s scary and intimidating, but also shiny, new and risky. Just like my favorite quote from The movie Hope Floats, down at the bottom of this page, beginnings are scary. To make matters worse, the changes wrapped up in this empty nest phenomenon happen usually about the same time as menopause. You’re sad, and now you’re also crazy! Yep, you’ve hit the jackpot!
Don’t worry my friends, we will walk through these changes and we will overcome!
What exactly is Empty Nest Syndrome? What do I need to look for in my own life?
In common language, Empty Nest Syndrome is distress brought about by the changes in your home situation. Though not a clinical diagnosis, ENS refers to the time when all of your offspring have left your home to enter the world as adults. Your home is now quiet, and your identity has changed. Interestingly, it can also refer to the loneliness experienced when a spouse leaves or dies leaving your home empty.
Signs of Empty Nest Syndrome
- Loss of purpose
- Loss of control
An article from TMS Home Solutions states that about 25% of empty nesters develop Empty Nest Syndrome. It goes on to state that if you are experiencing these above emotions for more than two weeks, perhaps you need to see your doctor. Depression can be a result of EMS, but depression seems to hover around your own self-worth.
While there is some overlap between the symptoms of ENS and depression, the latter are more debilitating, center around feelings of personal inadequacy, and typically cannot be eased by common therapeutic activities, such as talking with friends, finding a new hobby, or volunteering.
You, my fellow mama, are not inadequate or worthless! You’ve raised a human!!! All kidding aside here. Please, PLEASE see your doctor if your feelings of loss or loneliness continue for more than a few weeks .
So how do we navigate this thing called Empty Nest Syndrome?
Perhaps the easiest way to find your way through empty nesting is to simply prepare. We know it’s coming, so instead of being steamrolled, we need to just step out of the way, so to speak. Just begin now to find a new path. Even a few steps in either direction will prevent you from being flattened and taken by surprise.
With high schoolers already pretty independent, you’re probably being handed more hours in your life right now to explore something new or develop new friendships. You have some time to think about how you’ll spend your days when your kids are preparing to fly.
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Once your nest empties out, keep reminding yourself that you are made up of many roles, not just the mama role.
Keep the communication going with your flown chicks.
Help your kids understand that you need to hear from them pretty frequently, for your own sake (wink, wink). It will ease your mind and help you gain confidence in their safety and personal choices.
Take care of you.
Mama, this is so important. Your brain needs you to take care of your body. Depression begins in the gut. Nourish yourself with nutritious food and plenty of water. Get plenty of sleep. And get your body moving with exercise!! Keep in mind that empty nesting season is probably coinciding with menopause symptoms. (I’m going to talk to the Lord about that when I get to Heaven.) So, it’s probably time anyway to have a complete physical. Just do it.
Revive the romance in your marriage.
Guess what? Empty nest season also means its walk-around-the-house-naked season!! Woohoo!! Hey, why not? After so many years of focusing on kids and their events, now you get to focus on each other! Date each other again! Find a common hobby that you both enjoy! Plan a vacation together in celebration of a job well done!
Start a journal.
I think journaling is the absolute best way to figure out your own head. I’m always amazed to read my own journals from years past. If you’re new to the idea of journaling, there’s many ways to start. You could begin a gratitude journal to focus your mind on everything you are grateful for each day. (This practice changed me when I began one 10 years ago.) Another option is a prayer journal where you simply write your prayers. I love this too as you can actually look back and see where those prayers were answered. A traditional journal helps me to delve into my own head to see what’s rattling around up there, especially when you’re trying to figure out who you are again. Who knows? You may even decide to write a book!
Try something new.
How exciting! Have you always wanted to take a Thai cooking class? How about tap dancing? Skydiving? The sky is literally the limit. The point here is to get out of your own skin and try something that sounds good. You may not like it! (Hence the word ‘try’!) But you may fall in love with a new passion! Somehow we as moms get stuck in a rut and stay in our own lanes. It takes a little bit of courage to step outside your comfort zone. Just try it. You may love it!
One of the myths about the empty nest is the WRONG thinking that we as moms aren’t needed anymore. Let me tell you, YOU ARE NEEDED. There are so many worthwhile organizations that are desperate for help. Find yours. What are you passionate about? Can you assume a new role at your church? Are you a dog lover and can foster an animal or help at the pound? How about your local food pantry?
Allow yourself to dream.
Moms are experts at inspiring our kids’ dreams and helping them to figure out their lives. It’s now your time. Now it’s your turn to ponder the classic goal setting question, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?” You’ve earned a respite, a restful period to think about your own dreams again. What would you like to do? Start or return to school? Start a small business?
My sisters, if an empty nest is approaching way too fast for your liking, just slow down, take a breath, and make a plan. Being a mama is but one of your roles. You may be a wife, and daughter and friend, not to mention employee. Your kids will always need your love and support, no matter how old they are, or where they are.
In short, Mom, you’re amazing!!
It’s ok if your empty nest makes you feel a little lost. Sometimes we need to be lost to know when we’ve found our way.
Your empty nest just means adventure is on the horizon!!!
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