Four Ways to Prevent Empty Nest Syndrome
How many times have you wondered what it would be like when your children left the nest? Were you expecting the day to come? Did you believe the inevitable empty nest syndrome scenario would be a reality in your life? If you are anything like me, you answer would be, ”not really.”
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye – it happened! My babies became adults. They shared their plans with me on how they would like to explore the world, have careers, travel and start to independently build their own lives.
Considering how I would continue my life without my children being around was certainly not part of my initial life’s plan or agenda.
Having coached a lot of other parents who didn’t know where to place their attention once their children left home, I found it relatively simple to identify where I could focus my energy now that I didn’t have others’ problems to solve; decisions to make; children to fetch or carry anymore.
Is the void inevitable?
From personal experience, and more than a decade of raising two children on my own – absolutely not. Juggling the vast responsibilities of single parenting with a full-time corporate career and an active social life. The good news is that although empty-nest anguish may be common, it doesn’t have to be inevitable.
The comment I have often heard in my coaching business is: ‘What do I do now? I don’t know who I am without my children.’ The trouble is ‘empty-nesters’ often have too much time on their hands, and in that void, they realize they don’t know who they are anymore.
The parents who suffer the most from empty-nest syndrome are those who gradually stop living their own lives as they raise their children; those who value themselves entirely on what’s happening with and for their offspring. For these parents, every day is a constant focus on others’ needs and desires, and every milestone in the child’s life becomes the next project.
I hear from these parents all the time. They suddenly realize how much of themselves they have lost. They come to me and say, ‘Before I was a mum, I used to….’
Here are some tips for you to begin to rediscover all the things you forgot about when your children came along.
Re-creating YOU all the time.
The most effective way to treat the empty-nest scenario is to prevent it. You can do this by constantly reminding yourself as your children grow up to ensure you are also creating your life and extracurricular activities for yourself.
It is so easy to be drawn into all the doing, rushing, thinking, planning and managing of family life. Simply finding time alongside the many tasks of parenting to slow down and actively be the leader of your own life, is important to keep you coming back to the place of finding and being YOU.
Don’t be perfect – just be perfectly YOU
There are so many different opinions and expectations based on what society thinks. How our parents did it. What we’ve been told is right and all the definitions out there of the perfect mom is or looks like. It’s easy to get lost in what we think we should be doing rather than acknowledging what we know.
Following your own instincts, making choices in a way that feels most comfortable to you, and creating your very own ‘parenting model’ will allow you to enjoy parenting more. Having practiced this through the years, when you no longer need to focus on the role of mom, you will already be well placed to find new and interesting ways of creating and living your life every day, authentically.
Consider work as an emotional (not just financial) boost
Creating your career may feel daunting as you juggle motherhood and work pressures. In my experience, however, mothers who go back to work have a different empty-nest experience.
A job, business or career provides another opportunity to form an identity outside the home. You’re not only focusing on the needs of a house, family and children. You also have the interaction of other adults.
You’re able to create your own opinions through daily business connections. Staying abreast of the world of business keeps you more aware of the big picture. Instead of seeing your children move into adulthood as a challenge, you can see the opportunities to spread your wings and take on even more exciting business roles based on the foundation you’ve built.
Alongside your own growth at work is the positive role model you become in showing your children that there are other choices available in life to them. A big plus for children of working parents is the added push for independence as they learn to embrace more expanded roles within the family, as they generally need to do more for themselves.
More than anything, your children learn from your example. When you retain a sense of ‘being you’ throughout their childhood years, you show your little ones that they don’t have to give up who they are to be successful and fulfilled.
Stay connected to things that are ‘fun’ for you
Ask yourself: If I could do something fun just for me today, what would I choose? What were the things that were fun for me before becoming a parent?
Keeping fun activities alive or rediscovering what was fun for you before your child became your primary source of joy, is a great way to keep empty-nest anxiety at bay. Even if you don’t have time to do these activities often, asking this question reconnects you with your sense of fun, play and joy.
Having a fun-filled home even when the children have left will be an added factor to bring them back to share moments with you in an adult to adult relationship.
Even when you’re super-busy, focusing on what you enjoy makes it possible to retain a sense of ‘you.’ Keeping connected with the essence of who you are, in all aspects of your life, helps manage the point of view that an empty-nest must be sad and lonely.
What if YOU BEING ALL OF YOU is the answer to your journey being just as incredible as your children’s’ journey? What if an empty-nest is the possibility for YOU to start creating a whole new adventure?
This guest post was authored by Samantha Lewis
Samantha Lewis is a life coach, corporate wellness practitioner and certified facilitator of several special programs by Access Consciousness®, including Being You Adventures. Throughout her corporate career in sales and marketing, she retained an avid interest in mental, physical and spiritual wellness and is trained in Shiatsu and Indian Head Massage, acupressure and aromatherapy. Samantha now draws upon her wide range of skills and her personal moments of both joy and sadness to facilitate empowering workshops for groups and individuals. Follow Samantha.