HOW TO SURVIVE THE "EMPTY NEXT" SYNDROME
CHEER UP...YOUR LIFE IS BACK!
There is nothing like parenthood! Since that moment when you hold your baby in your arms, for the first time, through the years to come when your kid is first, second and third in your life, worrying to death when they get sick, or when you fall asleep waiting for them by the window when they go to their first teenage party. Time goes so fast! Then one day, all the sudden, you realize that your little baby is now a whole grown human being, and then you start fearing that one day they won't need you anymore. Sooner than you wish, they will display their wings departing to live their own life.
Sounds familiar? If you are now on your 40 or 50's I'm sure it does. I already went through this experience once with my daughter. However, at that time, I still had a little boy to raise and I was still married. Today, I am one more divorced woman (my husband left me for another woman after 19 years of marriage) and I don't feel as strong as I used to, facing this new "separation" from my son. For some reason, it seems that there are more and more single parents now than they were before, about 20 years ago or so, and it's like this number is increasing by the minute!.
Now, 4 years later I am facing again, the day when my little boy will depart to join the Air Force in about a year or so.
The hard part is thinking that after dedicating my whole life to my son, I'll be left behind staring to an empty nest full of memories. For some of my friends, about to face this same situation, it will be maybe a little less painful, because they are still married, and after their kid is gone, they will recover their freedom as a couple to live together ever after. Unfortunately, that is not my case, and just to think about that day getting closer and closer, makes me feel sick in my stomach.
If you are a single parent, I'm sure you understand these feelings. I am the kind of parent who will be hiding her tears at the airport, or would have a knot on my throat while my smiling kid says: “I'll be all right mom!” waiving at me from his car packed with most of his precious belongings.
For all those parents out there, in the same boat than me, let me just share some of my findings with you. I have spent entire nights sitting in front of my computer, researching for possible things to do when he leaves, so I will keep myself really busy instead of finding creative ways to hang myself from somewhere.
I discovered that there are so many things I want to do with my life, things that I had left hanging for so many years, while I was raising babies, and now, I have decided to take over my life where I left it on. Even if it takes me the rest of my life, I want to reach my pending goals once and for all. Maybe, because that person reflecting in that mirror is who I really need to take care of from now and on..ME
WHAT I AM DOING NOW
Although my son hasn't left yet I already started to fill out my life with different activities, so when he leaves I won't have time to stear at the walls wondering what to do with my life without him. I join the volunteers at a local hospital, I'm playing a new sport called Pickleball, I went back to college, and I increased my attendance to the gym too. Now my son has to sign my agenda so I can see him! But the most important thing is that we have learned to appreciate each other even more. We don't argue like we used to, and he understands better how hard will be for me when he leaves.
I have been attending some meetings for lonely parents too. You should check for the group called MEETS in your are, they have all kind of groups just for about everything you can imagine! From hiking to doing crafts, meditation, single parents you name it! Being alone should be an enjoyable experience, however there is a point when you need other human beings around too. One thing we need to know is that after that separation anxiety has vanished, we don't need to seek for shelter in the refrigerato. Fill it out with healthy food: fruit, yogurt, lean meat, fat free products, etc. Remember that you are the only one eating from that refrigerator now, so take control of it! Join a gym and start socializing with other adults too, DO NOT isolate yourself, because that will only get you more depressed.
Go shopping! Change your clothes and hair style, and start stopping for coffee on your way back from work, it sounds horrible, but there is no one waiting for you when you get home, SO TAKE YOUR TIME. Take advantage of your new free time. Get some books too, it helps a lot to keep your mind busy.
Call all your old friends, or join a MEET UP group, there are all kind of groups of people out there doing all kind of fun activities: sports, literature, learning languages, going dancing, you name it! Believe me, you are not the only one feeling lonely around here, so why not feeling lonely ..together?
Travel! Yes travel! Go in a cruise, or visit an old friend in another state. Move around, DO NOT sinc on the coach, between four walls watching TV all weekend, while you cry your eyes out. Life is too short, and you only live ONCE. Remember how bad you wanted to go to Europe? This is the time! Maybe you had some money saved for your son's college, but he got a scholarship anyway, so guess what..that money is now yours. Use it!
Instead of spending entire afternoons going through your baby's childhood pictures, feel proud of that human being you raised, and concentrate on rebuilding your lost self esteem. Get all you need to start a hobby: start painting again, writing, or even learning how to do something new (french cuisine, skiing, participating in marathons, volunteering at a hospital, etc.) There is so many things to do! Don't you have a bucket list? Well, this is the perfect time to start making new check marks in your list.
Finally, if you really want to still taking care of someone, there are so many organizations, who would love to have someone like you helping children. At the very end of this article you will find the links for them. For example, do you know that there is an organization who recruits adults to speak in behalf of abused children in court? You have to complete an application, and a short course, and you will be helping these kids to defend themselves, it is called GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROGRAM.
You also have BIG BROTHERS AND SISTERS, you can also look into volunteering in children's hospital and orphanages. Or if you prefer working with adults, there are volunteer programs in nursery homes too.
You might just want to retake your studies and finish your career, or maybe start a short career at your local college, if that's the case you might even qualify to fill out a FAFSA, to get some federal money such as grants and pilgrims. The link is below too.
The “empty nest” syndrome doesn't have to be the end of your road, get up, move on and squeeze the best out of your life. No one is going to care about you, if you don't care about your own self first. If you were able to mold a human being who now is perfectly able to take care of his/her own self, then you are a priceless parent, someone who should receive a trophy. However, there are no trophies for parents, sometimes not even appreciation from our kids, but you know in the bottom of your heart, that thanks to you, your kid is now capable to defend him/herself in that jungle called: LIFE.