Having seen my eldest son off to university this weekend I, like many others, have felt the first real symptoms of empty nest syndrome.
Even knowing he will be back for holidays, potentially for a while at the end of his course – unless he secures a great job and rents or buys somewhere – there is a strong feeling of transition both for himself and myself as his parent. This point marks a major change in the family dynamic. Whereas before the emphasis was on us as his parents to be ultimately responsible for his well-being, he is now in charge of his day-to-day life.
What does empty nest syndrome feel like? As with any change, there are mixed feelings of fear, sadness, a little grief and some uncertainty. The negative thoughts that like to bubble up, like ugly blemishes, are that this marks a slow path down into old age and a lessening of my importance and role in the life of someone who has relied on me, for so much, for so long.
In spite of this redundancy in the parent role there is also a slowly growing sense of personal freedom and a lightening of the load. This also marks a time for me to look at myself, where I am going and what I am doing. Although children are always our children, once adults, we do not have to put them first in our lives.
I am personally using this point to move around bedrooms, swapping my other children around as they grow too. This means I can allow myself to focus on the positive, to see this as a time for growth, change being physically represented in a fresh coat of paint, a re-feathering of the nest for my remaining brood. Yes, I may be growing older, my children moving into adulthood being a reminder, but like so much natural change, the process is gentle. I can heed this, treat myself gently and embrace my empty nest syndrome, enjoying the ache but also being proud as I watch my fledgling learn to fly.