Empty Nest Syndrome: Do More than Just Cope

There's Coping... then There's Cavorting!

Red Tail Hawk

If you’re looking for a new hobby, nothing – absolutely nothing – beats birdwatching.

This is interesting. At least it’s interesting to me. Women tend to prepare and brace themselves for Empty Nest Syndrome years before the last bird has left the nest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be two or three “back and forths” into an e-mail relationship when it turns out that the very sad mom I’m talking to still has at least one child at home.  The last time it happened, I tried to wrap myself around the fact and I think the explanation is simple: The relationship between mothers and their children is a very intimate one. You can’t spend the majority of your life nurturing, protecting, and caring for a cherished little person without developing a bond that’s stronger than any single member of the justice league.

Because of this bond, a mother knows the pain and sadness that she will experience when “the day” comes.  That’s what most of us call it, isn’t it? The DAY.   Boom-Boom-BOOM- BOOM (accompanying doomsday music).

It’s sort of like bracing yourself for a flu shot.  You focus so much thought and energy on the needle that, before you know it, that thing is 3 feet long.  You grimace and tighten your arm because a 3 foot needle is going to hurt like the dickens of all dickens.  The problem is, bracing for it makes the pain that much worse.

I’m sure you see where this one’s heading. I’m about as subtle as a 3 foot needle.

When we focus all of our thoughts on “emptiness,” it won’t be long before our room, home, car, or even the very world we live in seem as vacant, quiet, and deserted as a school’s playground in July.

Focus, instead, on what IS – not what ISN’T, and certainly not what you fear will be missing down the road.  Remember the 3 foot needle. If you still have children in your home, begin to fill your life, home, and yard with so much that the thought of “emptiness” never crosses your mind. If your nest is already empty (or in the process of emptying!), you haven’t any time to waste, begin filling it immediately.

Even when my husband’s at work and all the beloved young people we love so much aren’t in the house, I never, ever feel alone.

For example, right now I’m the only human in the house.  But alone? Far from it.  I have two cats sleeping by the back door, one in a chair basking in the sun, and one lying on the desk right in front of me (I have to move her tail out of my way like a billion times a minute… a billion and one).   My front yard is filled with birds, oblivious to the chubby sleeping cat two feet away. I put bird seed on the windowsill by my desk, so I have the constant companionship of doves, goldfinches, sparrows, and cardinals.

A squirrel was at his corn station for about an hour and has now ascended to the top of his favorite tree.

Lonely? Far from it!

The only things I’m thinking about at the moment are:

  • Watching the NFL Draft later today.
  • Baking a cake.
  • Getting more birdseed at the store (doves eat more than any teenage boy ever thought about eating)
  • Updating 3 more websites.
  • Swamp People is on tonight! Choooot!

Someone who read about how I used to walk every day with a few of my daughters asked me if we still went for our walks and talks. I told her that it had dwindled to a few days a week when we could all walk together. She asked what in the world I did without daily “walks and talks.”  I told her, “Silly goose, I still walk and I still talk every day.  The only difference is now I’m always right!”

Chaos vs Calm

I think a lot of people (men and women) have trouble rolling with the flow of life. In my opinion, there are different stages of life and to truly enjoy each one, you have to embrace it.   Not just accept it, not just hug it… you have to wrap your arms around it and squeeze it like it’s a long lost pet.

When our children are little – even teenagers – we’re at an age and place in life where we “fit” the situation.  We’re up to the task! As years go by, we enter the years when we have the luxury of being able to slow down a little. Make no mistake about it, these years don’t mark old age.  40s, 50s, and 60s are far from old age – especially these days. Today they’re like 30s, 40s, and 50s.  What a wonderful age in which we live.

To try to illustrate my point, I’ll use a popular (and outstanding) tv series: Parenthood.  My youngest daughter Stephany and her boyfriend got me seasons of Parenthood for Christmas. Every now and then, on my lunch break, I’ll pop an episode in and my cat and I laugh, cry, and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

Zeek and Camille Braverman, played by eternal hotties Crag T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia (Ha!  My spell-check wants hotties to either be “potties” or “hogties.” To heck with it I’m sticking with hotties. Bonnie Bedelia is not an eternal potty, nor is Craig T. Nelson a hogtie  no matter what my software says.).  Zeek and Camille have grown children who have children of their own.  During just about every episode I’m struck by the stark contrasts between chaos and calm.  You’ll have a scene of one of the adult kids rushing to work while dropping off a small child at school… all while battling the dramas of each.  Then it’ll cut to a scene of  Camille cutting flowers in her garden.

Chaos…. Calm.

You’ll watch as a tense scene unfolds between one of the grown children and her teenage children (cue that doomsday music again!). Drugs, boys, girls, parties… Then it’ll cut to a scene of Zeek in his kitchen drinking a cup of coffee.

Chaos…. Calm.

I happen to be at a place in my life (even if the 40s of today are yesterday’s 30s) when the calm looks infinitely more attractive to me. Infinitely.  Is there a word that means infinitely x 2,000? If there is, insert it here.

If you are currently circumnavigating an empty nest or your children are approaching the age where you see it on the horizon, I’m here to tell you that your world will only be as empty as you allow it to become.  Fill your time with hobbies, pets, trips, passions, interests, and pastimes.  DO NOT focus on what’s missing, focus on what’s there right in front of you.  Remember, calm isn’t such a bad thing and quiet is probably the most underrated word in the entire dictionary.

Find things that make you excited to get out of bed in the morning. If you can’t think of anything that has that effect on you at the moment, it’s simply because you haven’t found it yet. Keep looking! One of the secrets to being happy is surrounding yourself with things that make you smile.

Now if you’ll excuse me. That cake isn’t going to make itself and God knows the birds aren’t going to feed themselves.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are disrespectful, offensive, or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Empty Nest Syndrome: Do More than Just Cope

  1. We couldnt agree more about your idea regarding “embracing the moment” for all that it is. Every situation and circumstance (pleasruable & painful) is an opportunity for growth and development so you can become a more powerful, complete, and ultimately happy individual. Everything occurs so you can grow to express your full potential. Once you realize this its very easy to roll with the flow of life on your own terms!
    Cece´s last blog post ..Multimillionaire Entrepreneur Shares Four Keys to Success

  2. ‘DO NOT focus on what’s missing, focus on what’s there right in front of you. ‘– I think this is what I always forget to remember, I always look to something I don’t have not realizing what I really have.
    Thanks, very well said.

    Uly´s last blog post ..Barrière sécurité bébé

  3. You are more than welcome, Uly. That’s easy to do – we all have to learn to stop ourselves the minute we start looking at what’s missing and find somewhere else to focus our eyes and attention. That’s another wonderful thing about pets – they take your mind from someplace negative and make everything in the world positive. It’s almost impossible to feel sad or lonely when looking into a cat or dog’s eyes!