Filling Your Empty Nest
Humorist Erma Bombeck once said that empty nest parents don’t miss the work that goes along with being a parent, but rather “they’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” The day you become a spectator, you may feel it came too fast and far from ready to let your baby bird fly away into adulthood.
For some, the first 30 days of enjoying your empty nest can be an oxymoron. It’s hard to celebrate when you’re experiencing very real feelings of loss and questioning your identity. “When our kids left, there was a measure of sadness, but also a measure of trepidation,” says Sal Santonastaso, a land surveyor from Rensselaerville, NY. When his two children, Jesse and Anna, left for college, Sal and his wife, Deb, were left with many questions. He remembers thinking, “Are they going to be OK? Have I done my job well? As a land surveyor, if you make a mistake, you can make what’s called a revision. But when you raise your kids there are no revisions.”
Though you may worry about how you will move on with your life and how your kids will turn out, try to look at your first 30 days of enjoying your empty nest as an opportunity to learn about yourself, work on relationships and start a new chapter in your life.
Empty Nest Syndrome
Experts define empty nest syndrome as a collection of symptoms including sadness, loneliness and/or grief experienced by parents whose children come of age and leave home. Unfortunately, because the empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, there are few statistics on how many people are affected by it.
While researching The Happy Empty Nest: Rediscovering Love and Success After Your Kids Leave Home, author Linda Burghardt estimated that approximately 75% of the parents she spoke to suffered from some symptoms of the empty nest syndrome, even if they denied it. “After about an hour of talking with them, many admitted that they didn’t want to talk about it—it was just too painful for them,” Burghardt remembers.
These feelings are not always the result of the last child leaving the house—they often result when the first child flies the coop. This is the first sign that your role as a parent is evolving. It’s the end of an era.