Becoming an empty nester can sometimes creep up on you unawares. You can get so caught up in getting them through exams and off to university, or finding a job and moving out, that the fact that they are actually leaving home and your life as a mum will never be quite the same again can come as a shock when it happens and make you feel somewhat adrift.
For some, becoming an empty nester and seeing your kids off to college, university or into their own flat can bring a sense of fulfillment, not a little relief, and a liberating sense of freedom. You have brought them up, invested years in being a mum and now they are doing what you always knew they would – departing the nest, looking forward to a new phase in their lives, and leaving you to start what could be some of the best years of your life.
For others it creates a huge sense of loss as they have been the focus of your life, and launching them off as young adults is a momentous transition. It can be more difficult for a woman who has stayed at home to raise children rather than for someone who still has a job to occupy them. And without wishing to be too depressing, children leaving home can bring on feelings of loneliness and growing older.
Most of us fall somewhere in between – a bit tearful when they go, but at the same time happy for them. Worried how the teenager who seems so disorganised and has never really had to look after themselves will ever survive. Excited at the dawning of a new era for them and for us too – with the prospect of that much vaunted “me time’ that we may not be quite sure what to do with.
If you are feeling low, be encouraged by a recent survey of empty nest parents which revealed that, after the initial sense of loss, most of them:
felt 10 years younger
had increased their number of friends
had taken up new hobbies
felt relationships had improved
Think of all the positives too – lower grocery bills, a cleaner house, far less washing, free weekends without time constraints, and no need to have a meal on the table at a certain time. The list can get quite long!
So yes of course you will feel sad – it’s the end of an era on both sides. You would be unusual if you didn’t feel some degree of emptiness, seeing them move on from child to adult after 18 plus years of caring for them. But actually this was your goal as a parent – to release a confident and happy young person out into their own independent life. It’s the natural order of things. So whilst you might not feel it initially, this is a time for celebration and recognition of a job well done. Look on it as a really exciting new phase of life –before they boomerang back again!