Across the country, hugs goodbye, cheers and tears, are marking the roads. The number one relief parents share with me is, “Thank goodness I am not alone with my new feelings. I thought I was being over sensitive and selfish.” Who doesn’t need support when walking a place you have never been before and you aren’t sure where you are heading?
There are different stages of empty nest. Each person shifts and discovers in their style. Keep that soft aloe Kleenex in arms reach.
Some leap and are thrilled with the lack of responsibilities. Others grieve for both a short and long stretch of time for the role they loved and know has changed.
Singles have different longings and married wonder how their relationship will weather the lack of children at home.
Wives and husbands grieve differently, so their rhythm of let’s get going needs awareness.
Children out of their bedroom are excited and anxious about their new responsibilities and dreams. They honestly miss the anchor that home provides, even if they don’t express it.
School community is lost and therefore, connections and relationships for adults change.
One tip for this change is, let go of your perfection. You will make mistakes. You are sitting in a new room, vacant. Explore your expectations and then have a reality chat with yourself and others who understand this transition.
Celebrate all you are and have given.
You leap into what’s next and the challenges. You forget to celebrate you. You did it. You helped your child enter a dream on their wish list, as well as, a dream you probably had for them.
I like writing a letter to myself and then reading it out loud. No one is in the room when I read it… a little awkward to praise myself out loud.” What I appreciate about being a parent is that I…” Hope you make the short time to really sit and acknowledge yourself. Gift yourself in some way that nurtures you. One mom shared she didn’t pick up the phone for a day unless Caller ID showed a true need, like her kids.
You will find your new way of meaning and joy. You will learn how to build an adult relationship with your children. For today, be who you are and meet yourself right there without the critic or pusher in the room.
List what you loved to do after school in high school. What do you like to watch on TV? What is your favorite movie? Where do you like to travel? Who do you respect? Who would you love to visit? Where would you like to mentor? Where would you like to work for a day?
There are clues for what’s next. Let yourself be on a gentle hunt. I was surprised at the parts of me that emerged when my space and time opened: writer, photographer, media expert. I already had gardening, hiking, speaker, facilitator, entertainer, and travel in my boots. I didn’t have my daughter in the next room. I for sure had my immobile and tearful days and days, at unexpected moments. My partner was there for me and his experience was different than mine.
If you haven’t walked the empty nest, you really don’t get it. Then there is the phrase, empty nest, which is trivial, but we don’t have a new one, yet. What would you name it?
I am so happy in my new role as mother and in my new life with such freedom that I didn’t even know I longed for. How could I have been so devoted to being a role model and parent if I wanted to fly away so often?
Thank goodness I didn’t have the longing then. I loved my career, not every day, but it was a great match for me. I got burned out, frustrated, hurt, confused and joyful with parenting. Great teacher for me, being a parent! I am still learning in this new adult relationship with her and with my four nephews.
I am passionate about helping parents through this major transition because I live it and have been fortunate to learn so much from the thousands of parents across the country who wonder what’s it all about, this emptiness?
Take good care,
Natalie Caine M.A.
(800) 446-3310 or (818) 763-0188, Los Angeles, CA
Featured in TIME MAGAZINE, NY TIMES, LIFETIME RADIO FOR WOMEN, LA TIMES, USA TODAY, WASHINGTON POST, BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS
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