In the last few months, David and I had been experiencing odd moments of solitude at home as Joel increasingly spent time at campus, with his friends, on industrial attachment at the hospital or with his girlfriend – just fill in the blanks because one never gets a straight answer from him to a simple question of “Where are you going?”
The environment seemed so quiet and peaceful, sans the occasional barking of the dogs when the newspaper delivery guy appeared at our door. Instead of cooking a feast for the family, we both would be munching on salad leaves and left-over’s for lunch or dinner during weekends. In the past when the dogs were automatically walked 4 times a day by magic, we now have to roster the dog-walking duties between the 2 of us. While I used to have a car-door opener and shopping bag carrier during our window-shopping trips, I now have to carry my own bags. As there is only 1 other tea aficionado at home, I now have to brew my own cup of tea.
I reckoned this is what they famously called, the “Empty Nesters Syndrome”
When I searched Wikipedia, it defined “Empty Nest Syndrome” as a feeling of grief and loneliness parents 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. This can result in depression and a loss of purpose for parents, since the departure of their children from "the nest" leads to adjustments in parents' lives. Empty nest syndrome is especially common in full-time mothers.
Let me qualify here that I am not a full-time mother and I am certainly not depressed. While it took some time for me to get used to the quiet surroundings at home without the boy, it definitely gave me a lot of time to pursue my own interests like taking on more Tarot reading appointments and Tarot coaching sessions on weekends. I know David felt the same because he too started taking on more photography assignments and had even used his spare time to help a friend manage her pub.
Seeing that we should be more accurately termed as “Pre-Empty Nesters”, I then started searching on the internet for ways to “prepare for his move to the next phase of his life – out of my house”. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I can’t contain my excitement. It’s just that whatever I could do to make productive use of time when we had it, I wanted to ensure I was doing just that.
Preparing For The Chick To Leave The Coop
I found the following information on WikiHow:
1) “Prepare for the departure. If you're expecting your children to be leaving within the next year, take this time to check that they are aware of how to do the basic essentials for caring for themselves alone. Make sure they know how to wash their clothes, cook for themselves, balance a checkbook, …”
Houston, I think we may have a problem. The boy needs a map to get himself to the bathroom for a shower, his room currently looks like the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and by the weekend, his allowance is down to a mere 20cents, enough for him to call me from prison should he stupidly land himself there. While he is adept at making tea, he can’t do much else like wash his own clothes, cook a decent meal and balance a checkbook.
2) ”Explore the ways that you intend to keep in touch with your children. You'll feel a sense of loneliness and emptiness when they're gone because you can't just turn around and tell them things as you always used to do. Keeping up constant communications is vital for maintaining a sense of family togetherness..”
Honestly, I think it is better that communication is kept to a minimal. If there is communication at all, someone needs to develop a dictionary to go with it. You see, communicating with someone from teenage to early adulthood is quite frustrating. Can someone please explain to me what “ROFL”, “LMAO”, and less than 3 mean? Less than 3 was picked up when he sent me this text that said “<3”.
Recognize The Symptoms
3) “Understand what empty nest syndrome is, so that you can recognize the symptoms in your own situation. Empty nest syndrome is a psychological condition that affects principally women, producing grief when one or more of the children leave home..”
I haven’t experienced that grief yet. Perhaps I am still experiencing Pre-Empty Nest syndrome which is more accurately described as feelings of being in love with spouse again, feelings of glee because I now have the entire house to myself, feelings of satisfaction because I now have more time to accept more Tarot appointments, feelings of exhaustion because I now have to carry my own shopping bags, and feelings of thirst because no one is there to make tea for me.
Looking After Our Own Needs
4) “Start looking to your own needs. Once you're satisfied that you've set your child on the right path, you'll start noticing the big change in your life. The way in which you choose to perceive this change will color your feelings and approach to it – if you see it as a gaping hole, you'll feel much more miserable than if you choose to see it as an opportunity to revive some of your own interests and pursuits. Avoid creating a shrine out of your child's bedroom...”
Now, this is possibly the only piece of advice that I resonate with. David and I have started looking after ourselves better. i) We started creating a salad bar at home, upon the suggestion of a friend. At dinner time, we would just fill our plates with different types of vegetables, nuts, fruits, some roast chicken or smoked salmon, and whatever is available in the fridge. It’s a simple dinner but it had transformed our eating habits and hopefully will contribute to better health for us. We couldn’t quite do that in the past because Joel had an aversion for anything green in colour. ii) We started spending more time on our passions. David had been taking on more photography assignments and I had been accepting more Tarot reading appointments and Tarot coaching engagements. In the past, we were conscious that time spent with Joel was very limited during weekdays due to school. However, now that he had been spending more time with friends, girlfriend, and school projects both on weekdays and weekends, we had decided to keep ourselves busy with our respective activities.
Rediscovering My Husband
5) “Rediscover the love of your life…”
This is the best advice ever. In the last 12 years of marriage, David and I had been so busy juggling our respective careers, family commitments and other projects. For the first time in 12 years, we started walking on this journey of rediscovery. Age is a wonderful thing. One’s perspectives, interests and passions evolved with age. I thought David’s evolved for the better. He had become more interesting a person to talk to than he ever was 12 years ago when we first got married because of his varied interests and his very bold “dare-to-do”/ “no-harm-trying” attitude to life. I saw this in the way he passionately rehearsed his guitar for his gigs, I saw this in the hard work he put into his photography assignments and photo-editing that he would do through the night in order to get the photos to the client the next day. I saw how gamed he was in agreeing to help a friend run her pub.
Even our weekends now are never pre-planned. In the past, we had every activity scheduled like a school timetable. Now, we might just take the car out on weekends saying “ Let’s see where the yellow brick road takes us.”
I like being a Pre-Empty Nester. It’s somewhat like dating a new guy, only somehow, I know him and like him even better. As for the boy, I am hopeful that this Pre-Empty Nester period is teaching him new skills to hone his independence for the day I become an Empty Nester.
About the writer:
The writer of this blog post is a 43 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketeer at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 19 year old son. She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".