Empty nest syndrome can come in unexpected ways, especially if you are a solo mom.
Parents often feel a mix of sadness, relief, and guilt when their kids move out. But if you're mothering solo, this might be hard to accept because you don't have a partner or spouse going through the same thing with you.
You might feel different things, like fear, relief, worry, anger, regret, and so on. You may have fear and worry because you think your child will get hurt or be in danger when they live on their own. You may worry that your kids won't be able to make good choices once they leave home. Or might also feel guilty or regretful because you might think you're leaving your child behind. I didn't do enough to prepare my kids for life, was one of my biggest worry.
You may also be glad that the most difficult part of being a parent is over.
But it's also important to talk about the good things about having an empty nest. Researchers have found that this can make your life better.
Losing the responsibility of taking care of your child is a deeply personal event that can be hard to deal with. The first thing to remember is that you now have time to connect with friends, family, and other people and build relationships with them. You can make your own network and build a life that your kids will be proud of. Because they still have their eyes on you.
So don't worry about what they think.
In times like these, your new network can include people who can give you the unconditional love you need. Aside from that, you might find it helpful to do some therapeutic things on your own. Besides it may be time to develop self-awareness.
“You’re never too old set another goal or dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis
What to do to reduce the effect of empty nest syndrome
- Start early. Even though you expected it and planned for it. It can still come as a shock when your last or only child leaves the nest. So always best to think ahead and develop a sense of self beyond parenting.
- Accept and understand your feelings. You will definitely feel a lot of different emotions that are all legitimate. And it's natural to grieve and be content at the same time.
- Seek support - You're not alone! It's true that one in four American kids grows up with a solo parent. So there are other people who can offer guidance and advice. They will know what it's like to be in your situation and may be able to empathize. Browse online and join a group or join/start a MeetUp group.
- Maybe it's time for some self-discovery. How self-aware are you? Do you know what your gifts are? Have you uncovered your purpose? Now might be a good time to carve out some time for self-reflection.
- Your parental responsibilities as you know it is gone. You now have time to look after other areas of your life. Maybe it’s rethinking your career or setting some new goals.
- Consider exploring your interests. This is your chance to have more time for yourself and explore things you enjoy doing. Maybe you would like to travel, play the piano, or paint. Revisit what you enjoy doing or start something new.
- Be prepared for setbacks. You'll probably start to feel better over time, but it's important to know what to do when specific triggers bring down your mood. Talk to a friend. It can help if you find yourself feeling depressed. Especially when being reminded that your child is now an adult triggers you.
- Practice Self-Care - Take time out to care for yourself. You may feel guilty but you have nothing to be guilty about. Keep a regular sleep schedule and go to bed at the same time every night. Find ways to relax that work for you when you need to. Running in the morning or taking a warm bath before bed are great ways to relax your muscles.
- Consider counseling. If you live alone, it's important to watch for any signs of serious depression or anxiety. There are hotlines available if you find yourself crying or drinking excessively often. It is always ok to seek professional help if you need it.
- Document this part of your journey. Keep a journal if you don't already. Write down what you are grateful for concerning your child daily. Record your thoughts and feelings about this new phase of life.
Dealing with your adult child
- Be open to new experiences. Your relationship with your child has evolved, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for it to grow even stronger. Maintain a positive attitude and don't rule out any potential opportunities for bonding.
- Even if you both live in different places, try to make time to keep the connection going. Your kids will appreciate hearing they are important even when they need less guidance and support from you.
- You can use all the latest technologies like text or video to stay in touch when you're not able to meet in person.
- Make room for significant others. Your child may meet someone. Try to be open to a relationship with this new person in their life. This is a positive!
- Encourage your kids to solve their own problems and have some independence. You can always text or phone them, but try not to hover too much. Instead of just mom, consider yourself as mentor, coach, and trusted advisor should your child need that from you.
Now that the time has come to help your child fly the coop, it can be difficult. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for raising such a capable person. It is good to look toward a new future where you can build a deeper relationship with your adult son or daughter.
Action steps to maintain a strong bond with your child:
- Embrace change. Your relationship with your child is different now, but it may become even more satisfying. Think positive and remain open to new possibilities. Plan fun activities you can do together.
- Listen closely. Even though you’re spending less time together, you can stay connected by paying attention to what your adult child needs. Let them know they can still count on you for guidance and support.
- Use technology. On the practical side, there are any number of devices and apps to help you communicate now that you’re no longer living under the same roof. Collaborate to find a schedule and methods that work for both of you.
- Welcome significant others. Both you and your child may wind up with new romantic partners. Unless there’s any evidence of abuse, try to make potential new family members feel at home.
- Encourage independence. Respect your child’s privacy and let them find solutions to their own problems. You can still remain close by expressing your affection and getting together in person regularly.
An empty nest can be a challenging but rewarding transition. So, congratulate yourself for raising a responsible adult. And look forward to new achievements and a deeper relationship with your adult son or daughter.
But you've spent decades raising children solo. And as the kids get older they spend less time with you and more and more time building their own life.
Which means you have more time on your hands than ever before. How do you fill it? What's next for you?
How do you find fulfillment in this new phase of life?