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The empty nest syndrome has become common now that more children choose to leave home in the pursuit of their dreams. What can parents do to prepare for an empty nest?
“Change is the only constant” is a maxim that we see happening…over, and over again. But, as parents, do we realize what impact this has on us? From the moment we realize that a baby will be entering our lives, changes are made, and gladly so. Our perspective, priorities, and lifestyle revolves entirely around this tiny life that has entered ours.
Indeed, one of the many requisites of parenting is change, and adjustments. Gone are eight hours of blissful sleep, late nights as and when we wish, weekend jaunts at a moment’s notice, travelling light, and eating whatever we fancy. In its place are midnight feeding sessions, teething, preschool, lunch boxes, eating healthy, vaccinations, PTA, school projects, and so on. These soon morph to worrying about teenage rebellion, coaching classes, braces and bras, puberty, career choices, etc.
Very, very soon, this gives way to nothing. The years in between have whizzed past in a blur, and you have an empty nest.
A few weeks ago, I met a neighbour whose son has been studying in the U.S. for the past three years. Her daughter has now followed suit, albeit in an Indian city.
When two mothers meet, the topic of conversation is boringly predictable. And so it was. As we spoke of our children, her eyes welled up. She did not mention missing them, but it was there – in the tilt of her head, the movement of her hands, the yearning in her eyes, and the tremor of her speech.
I had gone through this myself – a couple of years ago. It was like seeing my own self in the mirror, after two years. I have seen this time and again in other mothers as well. But the acuity of the issue hit me only after I had experienced it myself.
Experience is indeed the best teacher, but the wise learn from the experience of others.
I see a lot of young mothers around me, involved in the day-to-day activities, chores and duties that mothers seem to have no shortage of. From dawn to dusk and dusk to dawn, a mother’s work is never done. Why mothers? Even fathers are involved with the children, but are blessed with less emotional involvement and a stoic nature.
The presence of a child adds to the energy of a home, and that is appreciated fully only when that child leaves home.
What is left behind is a sense of loneliness and vacuum, a feeling of being without purpose. Time lies heavy on your hands and the day seems very long. If you have been working outside your home, it certainly helps. But, nevertheless, evenings can bring about a profound despair. I know of mothers who obsessively call up their children at all hours, resulting in much annoyance and irritation.
In extreme cases, depression can result. Years spent doing so much, and then suddenly nothing. Worse, it is almost shrugged aside as a norm… erm, everybody’s mom does it…nothing great about it!
Children are your priority. But, what about your own self? Are you not important? Mothers have this instinct that makes it easier for them to sacrifice all for their child’s wellbeing. We see others doing the same. Our conditioning from birth, our own family structure, the expectations from others make this a ‘natural’ thing.
Many mothers resign from plum jobs and leave careers, for rearing their children, full-time.
What happens next?
Out goes the time to meet with your own parents, perhaps, to cook a special treat for your kid’s friends. The gym, walk, and exercise time is lost as you scramble to take your kids to their coaching classes. Meetings with old friends are bypassed for the PTA, perhaps. Reunions, when they do happen pass off with some clock-watching…because you need to get back ( kids returning from school, exams and the like)!
Making new friends is difficult. So, your kid’s friends’ parents become your friends. Your Whatsapp group, however, buzzes with projects, classes, and school activities.
The musical instrument that you wished to learn to play lies neglected as your child learns to play her own.
Practically speaking, it is difficult to make time for your own self, because you now love this little being that you brought into this world, more than your own self.
Before I get mowed down by the angry mummies, let me clarify. I am not saying for a single minute that you should neglect your kid. Being Self-ish means that you make time for your own self. Find joy in things that are your own, comfort in friends that you can vent to, excitement in activities that also give you peace. Create a buffer for yourself that gives you solace when you need.
Make your child’s world your own, but keep a little corner that is yours alone. Create a hobby, activity, social circle, an identity that goes beyond being someone’s mom. It stands you in good stead when you need to fill that vacuum when the time comes.
Pic credit: Marirn (Used under a CC license)
Hi. I am an anaesthetist by profession living and working in Mumbai.
Currently I am
This is certainly an amazing pieced wisdom. I completely agree that every mother need to have her own space and must not neglect oneself for the sake of their own kids. If one understands that the life has called their children to serve a purpose on this earth….everything will fall in place and every parent will lead s peaceful and meaningful life.
Jessie, you would be amazes at the number of moms who realize the truth of this, but find little time or energy to put it into practice.
Agree completely. Digressing slightly – In fact by making children the centre of our universe, we kill the advantage we had. Being constantly available, watching over them, we aren’t giving them the space and time to address matters in their own head before we butt ours in. Ensuring we have our own hobbies, chase our passion and respect our own time (minute as it may be), also encourages them to develop and hone their own in this increasingly connected but lonely world.
tj, absolutely true. Helicopter parenting seems to be the norm at times. Hovering anxiously over your kids and cocooning them takes precedence over other things, even pampering your own self.
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