Across the country, women in midlife are experiencing an empty nest for the first time. When a child leaves, it can be quite an emotional experience for both parents and child. For many, it is viewed as a positive life event where we lovingly let our children go and step back a bit from our day-to-day parenting. Most kids are excited to embark on this independence as it symbolizes adulthood.
However, the transition may be strange at first. Some women feel lost and depressed until they adjust. If you feel this depression lasts a while, I recommend reaching out to a therapist.
We never stop being parents (so that doesn’t go away), but when our kids spring forth from the nest, we have our chance to spring forth. You may find you have time now for an encore career.
My husband, David, and I have two children who are two years apart. So when our oldest, Sarah, left the nest, we still had our son, Jack, at home to keep us busy. But very soon, it was about time for him to leave, too. I spent his whole senior year of high school mourning his impending move-out. I kept reminding David of all of the “lasts” in our lives: our last time having Jack and all his buddies over for enormous quantities of homemade cookies, our last time wishing he would take a shower after shooting hoops for two hours. Our last time going to one of his band’s gigs in Phoenix.
The thought of the children not living in the house seemed lonely—and quiet!
But the date still came. It was time to take Jack to New York University, where he would join his sister in building their own lives as adults. We moved him into his freshman dorm, and I kissed him goodbye with tears dripping down my face. I sobbed most of the way back to Phoenix.
Then, it happened: We got home and realized our schedule didn’t need to revolve around anybody but us! Suddenly, it was as if David and I were dating again. We had the most fantastic time during that first week as empty nesters.
By the end of the week, Jack called. “Mom, are you doing OK,” he asked. “Jack, we are having the time of our lives!” I immediately chirped back. I sensed his shock. He figured I was sitting in a pool of tears that I started back in his dorm room. He was happy that David and I would be more than OK without him. We were both starting a new chapter of our lives.
Whether it’s our kids moving out or our fertility shutting down, it’s easy to see ends as final. If we look over, under, and around them, we can see the beginnings that follow in their wake. When a so-called ending comes your way, remember it’s just the start of something new.
My Motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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