Lots of free time can be daunting, and raising children certainly occupies a lot of time. If you are widowed or divorced, then your children leaving can create an even bigger hole so it is really important to get something planned in advance and refocus your energies before your nest actually empties.
Even those excited by the prospect of not having children around may suddenly find the quiet that they leave behind makes the house feel rather empty. Empty nest syndrome can hit you particularly hard if you have poured all your focus and emotional effort into bringing them up, and do not have the anchor of a job to divert you.
One of the worst times can be the 5pm slot when usually they would have been home from school, and now there is no flurry of bags and clothes dumped everywhere, and time drags until your partner gets home. It can also be hard to get up in the morning without the call of the school routine.
Allow yourself time to feel sad. Chat to other mums as sometimes those who appear to be strong turn out to be feeling just like you. And crying is good too – it may catch you unexpectedly but its good to let the tension out – and don’t be embarrassed to call a friend to comfort you.
They have been such a major part of your life for 18 years, so the fact that they are no longer there will take some getting used to. So it’s much better to talk about your feelings, rather than to put on a brave face and then lie awake at night feeling terribly sad.
Have a cleaning purge in their rooms. With any luck they will have been chucking out all their old clothes, and throwing away school papers that have lurked in their bedroom for years - and you may even find that the carpet has reappeared in a reasonably decent state, from underneath all the “protection” that has covered it for months. If they have left in a whirlwind you can have a good tidy up, clear the clutter, get the carpet cleaned and sort out stuff to throw out so that you can go through it with them next time they visit. Then you can shut the door on it knowing it is clean for their return. Don’t clear out all their things though, or decide to swap bedrooms around without their agreement as you want them to have the comfort of knowing that home still means the familiarity of their room, which has been their bolt hole for so long.
And now - action and regrouping is required!
For 18 years or so you have put yourself last in the pecking order at home. You have sacrificed what you want to do in preference to family needs, and now freedom beckons in How To Thrive!
Comfort yourself with the thought that no amount of excitement at university will take away their pleasure of coming home to a warm, clean house, their own bed, home cooking, and some peace and quiet to themselves.
Remember too that although the closer your relationship with them the harder it will be to wave them off, rest assured that that strong bond will always be there even if they don’t contact you for a couple of weeks, and they (and their pile of washing!) will be so pleased to see you at the end of term.