Avoiding the Empty Nest Syndrome is not something you can accomplish in a week. I believe the process covers a long span of time and depends on so many factors. It will be different for every family. We are not psychiatrists or social workers and by no means “perfect” parents. We are just a little family who have seemed to have survived the transition. I thought I would share my reflection on how we seemed to have avoided the “syndrome”.
To begin, in September 2014, our one and only child moved away to attend Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. It is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from our home in Toronto but it is far enough away that we don’t drive there to have lunch, for example.
So many friends and relatives ask us how we are doing as “empty-nesters”. I must admit the transition has not been at all troubling. Believe me, this is not to say we do not miss our baby because we do ever so much. However, the missing has not been overwhelming or debilitating.
Last week, Miss Nice was home for her “Reading Week” and it was so wonderful to have her here even though she was … well … reading, beginning her search for summer employment and catching up with friends. However, when I dropped her off at the bus station on Sunday night, I felt a real pang of “missing” I had not really felt before. This pang made me think about what we have done to ensure the “pang” is just that and not a relationship ruining syndrome.
After some reflection, here are my thoughts:
- Firstly, let’s go WAY back… Marry your best friend! As a young professional, I was very independent and somewhat particular about who I got involved with. Then, when I was 26, in walks a recent British immigrant, wooed to Canada by an international Accounting firm. What can I say! We became BEST FRIENDS! We shared and continue share, so many interests.
- Expose your child to all kinds of activities. Even for a brief time just to find out what activity could be “their thing”. As a college professor, I was fortunate to have flexible hours enabling us to introduce her in many after school activities over the years. We tried to focus on lifelong skills like skating, swimming and skiing. I must confess sitting on VERY cold bleachers watching her learn to skate or standing on the sidelines watching a very disinterested soccer star, was not easy. But it was still fun and we all learned from it. We learned she was not a “jock”. She too knew she was not “good” but we downplayed the being “good” to just being able to do it and enjoy it.
- Encourage them be independent. This can be so difficult. In some ways we failed and in others we did well. Eventually, Miss Nice began to participate in competitive dance at an early age. In reality she is a bit of a “triple threat”, as in singing, dancing and acting. We supported her dreams wherever we could and beyond the studio’s program. BUT we were realistic and made sure she was too. Through the time consuming (and expensive endeavor) of Competitive Dance, she gained much confidence. She was never an “in-your-face” child. I can proudly say to this day, she carries herself with a quiet self confidence.
Independence really took hold at 13 when she asked to go on a French exchange program FOR A MONTH!!! TO FRANCE!!! The family took her to their summer lakeside home with NO INTERNET so contact with us was not available. She survived. She learned much about relationships too with this great experience. While she was away, we travelled to Portugal to indulge ourselves in our love of travel and exploring countries on the road… Just the two of us… Magic.
When I review this post, it may sound as if we were selfish parents who sent our kid away a lot. Perhaps we did, but mostly at her request. When it counted, we were always there. In 12 years of competitive dance, and over 100s of performances, I think I missed TWO routines! and those were for work commitments. My husband who runs a busy business was also there for far more than many dads. We tried very hard to not “helicopter” but we tried hard to be there to celebrate her achievements.
You must be asking “So what are you trying to say? What is your point?”
I think I am talking about “Parenting 101” …
- support / be there
And lastly, remember being a parent is about them but sometimes, it needs to be about YOU!
Back to the “Empty Nest Syndrome”
All the while we were supporting her, doting on her, driving her, etc. we never gave up our own interests.
- Cut back? Yes.
- Try to include her in our interests in tennis and golf, etc. Yes.
- Sacrifice everything so she could do all the things she wanted. NO!
We continued to squeeze in time for ourselves so we could golf, play tennis, go to yoga, start a book club, have date nights and entertain OUR friends when we could. Miss Nice was told often how important she was to us but we also reminded her, we were important too. And she seemed to grasp that early on.
Her activities were a privilege NOT a right!
We love golf and for YEARS wanted to join a golf club … together. Knowing she was leaving for university made us realize this was the time. We joined a club in May. Then in September we joined their curling program. Never curled before and we a loving it. We are planning a summer holiday that may or may not include Miss Nice. She has travelled with us quite a bit and has announced she is “tired of old cities and history”. I’m thinking Ireland … without her.
Regardless, Mr. Nice and I will do it TOGETHER. Because we are back to being TWO best friends who can focus on the wonders of each other. No longer distracted by every day parenting duties and … car pooling.
In conclusion, I must admit we have been blessed with a great kid. Who is now grown. Who has entered adulthood.
So my advice to avoid emply nest syndrome is:
- work hard to encourage your child to be independent
- do not completely give up your interests for the interests of your child
- remind your child they were a very welcomed addtion into an existing family… two best friends or two best friends with other children.
I hope this will give some of my younger parent readers something to think about.
What tips do you have on how to avoid
the “Empty Nest Syndrome”?
Are you an empty nester and how is it going?
Love to hear from you! Makes my day!