Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty nest syndrome, by the dictionary definition, is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents or guardians may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university. It is not a clinical condition. Anybody who has children, which is the majority of us, will have to come to terms with this at some point in their life…It is an unavoidable emotional process….

When we are young, everything is in the future…We have our plans, our hopes, our dreams all firmly in mind, and once we get out of school and enter work world full time, we are caught up on a dizzying, spinning carousel of expectations and realities…Most people marry or hook up in their mid twenties these days, although there is a definite trend amongst the younger generation to wait until they turn 30 to seriously consider settling down and raising a family….They would prefer to party and/or get a working life or business career established, and there is nothing at all wrong with that….

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In my generation, people married usually right out of high school or college, so 21 or 22 was considered the prime marrying years…Of course this was a spin off from the medieval days, when teenage marriages, sometimes as young or even younger than 13, arranged or otherwise, were the norm…..

According to the country and the place of residence in medieval times, farm, country or city, the average woman was 15 and the average man 23 when they married, but basically a woman could and often was married as soon as her menstrual cycle began, and an unmarried woman of 21 was considered an “old maid.” …..In fact, according to my Google sources, some statistics put the numbers even lower, with “An average peasant woman married at the age of 14 and giving birth to the first child at the age of 15. Mortality rate at childbirth was extremely high and as a result, many women died before the age of 25.”

But people had much shorter life spans back then, and with all the medical advances in childbirth and birth control options available to women today, they are able to comfortably put off any questions of settling down, childbirth, and raising a family until they feel comfortable with the concept….But inevitably, through choice or circumstance, most women do have children eventually, and it is then when the reality of life sets in…

Having children, raising children, seeing to their education and well being, with or without the help of the father is a maelstrom of mad cap activity for a mother, a whirl and swirl of midnight feedings and changing diapers and getting the kids off to pre school while balancing their own career or work life is a constant juggling act, ever if they do have a supportive partner….

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This is what most young people do, and they are consumed by the frantic, frenetic pace of life once they have children and especially when the children are young…But eventually, as the children get older and start developing their own network of friends and acquaintances there is less and less demand or need for direct parental involvement…They become children, people in their own right and then teenagers, wanting the whole world! Life’s mostly a big party!

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Itaas party time!

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But then comes that long awaited day, by most parents, when their children leave home, for either a job or to live on their own or to get married or to go to college, and this is precisely when Empty Nest Syndrome sets in, full force!

Again, according to my Google sources: “Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. This may occur when children go to college or get married. Women are more likely than men to be affected; often, when the nest is emptying, mothers are going through other significant life events as well, such as menopause or caring for elderly parents. Yet this doesn’t mean that men are completely immune to Empty Nest Syndrome. Men can experience similar feelings of loss regarding the departure of their children.

Empty nest syndrome isn’t a clinical diagnosis. Instead, empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home. Although you might actively encourage your children to become independent, the experience of letting go can be painful. You might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need your care. You might miss being a part of your children’s daily lives — as well as the constant companionship.

You might also worry intensely about your children’s safety and whether they’ll be able to take care of themselves on their own. You might struggle with the transition if your last child leaves the nest a little earlier or later than you expected. If you have only one child or strongly identify with your role as parent, you might have a particularly difficult time adjusting to an empty nest.

In the past, research suggested that parents dealing with empty nest syndrome experienced a profound sense of loss that might make them vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts. However, recent studies suggest that an empty nest might reduce work and family conflicts, and can provide parents with many other benefits.

When the last child leaves home, parents have a new opportunity to reconnect with each other, improve the quality of their marriage and rekindle interests for which they previously might not have had time.

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If you’re experiencing feelings of loss due to empty nest syndrome, take action. For example:

Accept the timing. Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own experience or expectations. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.

Keep in touch. You can continue to be close to your children even when you live apart. Make an effort to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.

Seek support. If you’re having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest, lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Share your feelings. If you feel depressed, consult your doctor or a mental health provider.

Stay positive. Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests after your last child leaves home might help you adapt to this major life change.

If your last child is about to leave home and you’re worried about empty nest syndrome, plan ahead. Look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. Keeping busy or taking on new challenges at work or at home can help ease the sense of loss that your child’s departure might cause”

But there really is no getting around it, having that last child leave the home is an emotional, gut wrenching experience, just like it was when you had your first child to begin with…It is the flip side of the same coin…In the end, all you can do is remember the good times, hope you raised them right with a good core value system, and wish them well, and realize it is an inevitable part of life….

Life is a cycle, and experiencing the empty nest syndrome is a very real and very necessary part of that cycle….just remember when you left home for the first time…It’s all a matter of perspective…

For more information on Medieval marriages see:womenofhistory.blogspot.com/2007/…/medieval-marriage-childbirth.ht

For more information on Empty Nest syndrome see: https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/empty-nest-syn
OR: http://www.mayoclinic.org/…/empty-nest-syndrome/art-20047165

For more articles by John Whye, click on http://www.johnwhye.com

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