A Talk About Empty Nest Syndrome And How To Deal With It

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(Warning: every time I read this interview, I cry, so prepare yourself.)

As a mother, I fear the time when my kids leave – the infamous empty nest syndrome.

I know what you are going to say: “your kids are only 3 and 5, you have so long to go.” True, true, I have lots of years left with them in my house daily, but the reason why I fear the empty nest is not because of the present, but because of what awaits me in the future.

Other women around me always describe this process as one of the saddest events in their lives. I know this has been the case for my mom and other friends, for example, so I am preparing myself. It is NEVER too early, I say, never. Plus, it makes me enjoy my kids so much more right now.

Which brings me to Nikki’s interview. When I was 24, I had the best job of my life, for real. I was a babysitter to the Glicks. I loved that family, the two boys, the parents, the house, the hours, the stress-free environment, and the fun. It was perfection. After a year with them I had to leave to get a real job in the “industry,” which was glamorous but not as fun. Also, highly overrated.

At the time, the youngest boy was 6 year old, close to Victor’s age. Now, all these years later, he and his brother are men who left the nest to find their lives in the world. The youngest one has been gone for more than a year.

Nikki, the mother, is a smart, nice, and very wise friend, so I decided to ask her about her experiences with empty nest. Her answers are precious and heartfelt. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Tell me a little bit about your family.

I am British , born in South Wales . I  also have American Citizenship. I met my husband on the underground in London . He is an American born in the Bronx and is also a duel citizen. Both our boys were born in London. We moved to LA almost 15 yrs ago. My boys are now almost 25 and 19. We have always been a tight unit. We have no family close by. Our closest relatives live on the East coast and London.

 When did your youngest leave your house?

My youngest, Mat, left home for his freshman year of college this time last year, August 0’15. My husband and I travelled with him to  help carry his luggage and settle him into his dorm. We wanted to savor our last moments before returning home without him..We were leaving him on the East Coast .

 

empty-nest-2I know you suffered from empty nest syndrome, how does it feel?

Unfamiliar. A state I had never felt.  A longing. It envelops you slowly  like a fog as you keep trying to push it away. I felt distracted , hollow, aimless. I was constantly questioning my life and purpose. Tearful.I never anticipated the depth of my missing him.It shook me to my core.I missed my son with every fiber, I missed seeing life through the tinted glow of his young eyes. Most of all I missed his physical presence . I would find myself thinking of all the years that had gone before, seeing both boys as babies and replaying the film over and over in my mind. Home was now something tangibly different. A place I couldn’t imagine without all ‘the sound and fury’ of raising boys.  It was an end of a long, long climb. I needed to process all of this. I was terrified this was my new state as an empty nester.

Did you expect it to be this way?

No. I thought I would be absolutely fine. I loved my independence and I welcomed the thought of getting back to work, develop interests and spend more time with my husband and friends. The future held promise. I had often been away for short breaks and I was always able to enjoy myself. I had no separation anxiety.

How did you deal with it?

I read articles on the subject. I wanted to know if I  was I the only one suffering with these feeling. I got online and hundreds of articles came racing towards me with such force. I was definitely not alone ! I spent a lot of time reading and crying .So many people wrote  on this subject. Heartfelt, uninhibited , gut wrenching honesty. ( http://grownandflown.com/8-best-of-the-empty-nest/)

I talked with my husband, I read him the stories . He  listened and held me whenever the tears became a flood. He missed Matthew of course but it was evident that his was a different kind of missing, or that he was able to adapt to the new situation and I was struggling. It is important to talk, to ramble, to cry to express and in this way you begin to return to your norm as you recognize it to be. Find someone who listens.

I took up meditation seriously, I now had the time! I found the practice held me in the present instead of looking in the past and worrying about the future. It kept me focused. I read books that absorbed me totally so that I couldn’t think .

I walked a lot and sent texts to Mat, just a few, now and then . When he responded, the fog always lifted. The best was face timing. To see and hear him in the world.  To communicate. Eventually it was time to travel to his college for parents day.  That visit, seeing him and holding him again after ten long weeks, prompted me to fall sobbing into his arms and release a primal, wounded howl that came from some place deep within. My son, camera in hand ready to video the big happy reunion, was forced to slowly lower his phone and hold me lovingly until I could let him go. Once again, this deep animal emotion enveloped me suddenly and terribly. Once again, I had not anticipated this reaction. Where did it come from?

The good news is, from that moment on, I had the realization that my son was alive and well and thriving. He was happy to see us, he hadn’t changed, he was happy, thriving. I began to relax again, possibly breathe again knowing he was on his way and finally , so was I.

I flew back to LA fill up on joy knowing I had been through this strange phenomena and had finally succeeded in pushing it away.

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Is there any advice you have for parents that are about to live your same situation?

This is difficult. It reminds me of getting pregnant and everyone who has given birth needs to give you their stories and advice. The truth is, everyone is different . Every pregnancy is different, every baby, every situation. I would say read the articles if you are struggling. It helps to know what others have felt. Prepare a small place in your mind for missing and be ok with that. Perhaps it is best not to dwell on the possibilities that may never arise. If they do, know that you will survive. As the saying goes,’this too must pass’.

Now that a year has gone by, does it feel better?

Absolutely! One hundred percent. I feel enormous happiness whenever my son has a vacation. I look forward to seeing him and when he leaves, he leaves without my anticipating a closing door forever. I see him through the cracks and it feels right. I know the door will soon be open for us all to meet and adjust to this new dynamic once again.

Anything else you would like to add?

Get a dog?

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6 replies
  1. Jeanne says:

    What a lovely interview on a tender to the heart subject. I am an “old” mom…first time mom at 50…but the pending empty nest is already looming and pretty close at hand…I see my role as mom to prepare my children to be upstanding, productive, brave, loving, happy adults, free to live their own lives and allow me to share them with the world. Enjoy every moment with your children…it is wonderful yet fleeting.

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      I didn’t know you were an older mom! What a beautiful gift to have. Those girls are very lucky to have you and you are lucky to have them, I am sure!

      Reply
  2. Carina says:

    Hi Mila, thanks to you and Nikki for sharing this interview with us. My son (an only child, which means when he leaves, that’s it – the house is “empty”!) just became a teenager, and I can’t believe how quickly it has happened. I hope with all my heart that he finds his way and grows into a wonderful, fulfilled, and independent adult – all the while knowing a part of me will always miss these years watching him grow up. This post is a good reminder to enjoy our kids now. ?

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      Yes, it is! And, as much as I want my kids to grow up and become adults, I know how much I am going to miss having these little ones around. I am enjoying this stage of life throughly.

      Reply

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