Empty nest syndrome? Is that a real thing? Yes, I know it sounds crazy and it sounds like something I just made up however, I did not. It is not a disease but more of a feeling that we have as adults when our kiddos leave the nest. That empty feeling we have inside when we look around our quiet homes and realize we are the only one left.
Now if you have a spouse and other children than this feeling might be a little different. I can really only speak to the single mom side of this syndrome. However, I feel that the empty feeling probably feels the same across the board.
I have discussed in previous posts some things you can do to help yourself deal with being an empty nester you can check it out here. But for now, I am going to discuss how you will know if you are dealing with empty nest syndrome. I want to provide you with some symptoms to help you recognize what is going on and so then you can begin the healing process.
Feelings of Loss and Feeling Like Life Has Less Meaning
As a parent, often times our lives revolve so much around our children and their schedules that we definitely lose sight of ourselves and our own schedule. So, when our kiddos leave for college or move from home, we definitely experience a feeling of loss. We are not needed in the ways that we once were and feel worthless.
When I look back at my busy mom schedule and all of the things, I had to do with my one child, it made me wonder how my friends with multiple children are able to handle everything. I mean juggling three kids’ schedules makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. So, my one kid’s schedule will probably seem like a breeze to some but hey we all have our own thing, right?
That feeling that our life has less meaning because we have less schedules to follow definitely overwhelms us as our kids move on. We feel that they no longer need us. Therefore what purpose do we serve now? This is tough. I know. I have been there and felt that moment when your mom duties just evaporate right before your eyes. And you ask yourself, “Self, what in the world am I supposed to do now?”
Not to sound like a nag, but this is again, where I can direct you back to my article on “7 Strategies for Coping with an Empty Nest.” You will learn about a few things you can do now that will give your life meaning and purpose again.
Sleeping is always something that gets interrupted so easily for me. I really need a full eight to be a functioning human being. But sleep is something that as parents that always goes first. When we have a crazy schedule. We lose sleep. When we are worried about our children. We lose sleep. When have a messy house. We lose sleep. When we have work to get done. We lose sleep. And when our children are not home and it’s time for bed. You guessed it… we lose sleep! There are never enough hours in the day for us to get all of our stuff done and our worrying in. So when do we do it, naturally when we are supposed to be sleeping.
It is so difficult to sleep when our kids are not home safe in their beds. I know this because I have been experiencing this since the day mine could drive himself around. I don’t know about you but I have never been able to sleep when my kid is not home safe and sound. So, I lay in bed awake. Waiting. Until I hear that garage door open. And then I can shut my eyes and fall asleep.
But when you have a kid who is in college, we cannot do that anymore. We will be waiting forever for that garage door to open. It will never open. At least not for a while. So, it took me some time to get used to the fact that I could just go to sleep not knowing if he was safe and sound.
Now I know this doesn’t sound very reassuring, but it is just something we have to get used to. Find your thing. I tried some all-natural remedies to help me sleep. Essentials oils in a diffuser usually helps. I will get it going about an hour before it is time for bed. Lavender is especially helpful for me.
It is really hard for us to start having good days when we are not having good nights. So please find something that will help you. Read a book, listen to relaxing music, meditate, or even write in a journal. Maybe send a goodnight text to your kid. That will help you calm your mind and help you sleep. This helps me when I am feeling really restless.
As a parent I feel that guilt is second nature to us. But when that is all we are left with at the moment because our kids are off doing their own things it can be really daunting.
Guilt is something that we experience frequently as parents. Did we do the right thing? Say the right things? Did we make them feel loved? Do they have all they need? And on and on and on. All these questions just stick to the back of our minds without any real answers.
Empty nesting leaves us feeling guilty in so many ways. I hope that I taught my son the right thing to do and say in every situation. But wait. We cannot physically even begin to think that we have prepared them for every situation. That is impossible. But what we can do is make sure they have a bag of tools they can go to that will help them in every situation
We have to trust that we did and are doing everything we can to make our kids the best they can be. Parenting definitely does not come with a handbook and every single child is different. So, we have to handle every kid differently in every situation knowing there are no rules but our own. And eventually we will make it out of the teenage years alive.
We have done our best and we have to believe that. Feeling guilty over the things we did or did not do will just make us crazy. Pick yourself up and hold your head high. You raised a kid and they are out in the world right now doing awesome stuff and they learned that from you!
Now this can be in a variety of forms I know for me it was just eating. Food is my friend. However, it could be over shopping, over drinking, over using drugs, etc. There are many ways that we as humans make ourselves feel better. Most of the time these ways are more harmful than helpful.
If you find yourself doing one of these activities more than you used to or even more than you should, STOP! Find an alternative approach to creating happiness in your life. Take up a new hobby, travel, or volunteer your time.
Self-medicating can be very harmful not just to ourselves but to other people around us or even our the very least our checkbooks. Our loved ones do not want to see us falling apart. So, we need to find something that will bring joy instead of more pain. If you haven’t already, click here to check out my article on “7 Strategies for Coping with an Empty Nest.” In it you will find some alternative strategies that will be much healthier choices than the ones you are making now.
Not really my area of expertise as a I have already stated. I do know that when your whole entire marriage is built around your children and then they leave, this causes some disrupt in your marriage. So, in order to make this not happen or to have a happier marriage you must learn to work on the new relationship that is just the two of you.
You will find there might be more arguing or complaining or even bossing around. The children provided a buffer, so to speak, for the things that might have annoyed you about your spouse. Therefore, it is probably time to sit down and discuss the disrupt and find a way to fix it.
So many couples have spent their whole entire marriage in a family with kids that they really never got to know their partner. You married each other for a reason. Go back to that and find that person again. They are still there, just under all those years of dance recitals and school plays. Now, you can actually go to plays that you want to attend and eat at restaurants you want to eat at.
Do it. Go do all of it. Don’t wait for your “schedule to clear.” It’s clear, GO!
Lack of Social Support
You may be wondering why this is important. But it is. You need to have friends or know people that are going through the same things you are right now. I am not saying you should abandon all your friends with little kids. No! But you do need to find some that can relate to your feelings.
When no one understands what you are going through it can be hard for them to sympathize. Sometimes it feels like they are saying “suck it up buttercup,” and they don’t really want to hear you whine about missing your kid. One. More. Time. Now, I know my friends would not ever say that but it is hard when we are in different places parenting wise. We are on different levels.
I am on the “I just completed this game so now what?” level and they are on level 8. It’s okay. They will eventually be on your level and then you will be there to support them. But for now, you need to find someone that you feel gets you on your level. Someone you do not have to explain the loneliness to. Someone who is going down the same path. It is very important. You will thank yourself later. And so, will your friends who are on level 8.
Worrying About Your Child
This will never stop I am absolutely sure. However, we need to not worry every single minute that they are eating enough, or sleeping enough. We need to make sure we are doing those things so that when they want to come home or they call us we do not look like we’ve been run over by a bus.
These kids that we raised know exactly what to do when they are hungry. They will do it. Is it always going to be the best nutritional choice? Probably not. But that’s okay. We have to let them learn and they will definitely figure it out.
It is definitely normal to worry and that is probably the hardest thing to not do but we have to trust that we did our best and that our kids will make the right choices most of the time. Not all of the time. But most.
I saved this one for last because it is something that I definitely experience as an empty nester and I am sure that you have too. It is okay to cry and miss them. It is not okay to cry all day long every, single day. We are not helping ourselves by doing this or anyone else.
There are many things we can do to help ourselves when we are feeling the extra emotions. Involving ourselves in our families, is a great way to get over all the feelings we are experiencing. Building those relationships with our other children or significant others will really help ease all the sadness and keep our minds busy.
I talked about this extensively in one of my first articles you can check it out here and here. I open up about my first days without my son living at home and what I did to help myself. Just remember they are not gone forever just for a little while and they will be back in our homes soon enough.
So, start to make plans on ways you can spend more time on their breaks and make the most of the time that you have with each other. My kiddo will want to see his friends for sure but we can make plans that include them as well.
There you have it. All the symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome. It feels good to write it all down and realize that I am not alone. What about you? What symptoms are you experiencing? I know we all go through things in our own ways. How are you handling this new journey in your life?
Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at [email protected].
Remember it gets easier. You got this. Thanks for stopping by.