Almost an Empty Nester…Change is coming
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters, compared to what lies within us.”~ Emerson
Parents are mixed with feelings of pride, excitement, and anxiety. You are on the countdown to the big hug goodbye.
Honestly, it isn\’t real until you come back home to silence. Here are some TIPS in the transition of changing your role with yourself and your children.
1. Be GENTLE and PATIENT with yourself. You will need to be nurtured. Think about what nurtures you. Make a list; comfy food made ahead and frozen, DVD\’s , spa day, peace in nature, friend who will listen and be with you, guided meditation on tape, music, get away with partner or friend, journal writing, exercise, flowers, bowl of fruit, candles and aloe Kleenex.
2. Tell YOUR STORY. Telling how you feel about parenting, what has been fun, challenging, what\’s up for today, is very healing. You can write it and talk to someone about this journey you have lived for years as a “full time” parent and how that is changing.
3. Make time to RE-DIRECT YOUR ATTENTION to yourself. You have been giving for decades.
4. Think about what you liked doing before marriage, before children. Look at what does uplift you during the day and on weekends. I love gardening, photography, writing, walking in nature, cooking, going to lunch with a friend, movies, etc. I found my DORMANT WRITER after my daughter left for college. I just didn\’t remember that I loved writing so much until I had empty space to be and grieve the changes. I enrolled in a writing class and loved it.
5. Endings and beginnings have been part of your life. Review when you have lived that and what did and didn\’t help you. In between the changes, something does germinate.
6. Feel what you need to FEEL whenever you need to feel it. Feelings are simply feelings. They won\’t drown you. They aren\’t about someone else. They are yours. They are very valuable to you.
7. Delete the need to compare yourself to others.
8. You know your family better than outsiders. Emptiness is the common thread with other parents going through the transition, but there is no one like you. BE YOURSELF. Honor you.
9. WRITE A LETTER to your child. One could be what you wish for him/her. Another could be what you like about him/her, memories of fun times, for example I remind my daughter of the time when she was around two and afraid to step from inside the house to outside. She didn\’t like walking over the “threshold.” Once you sit and write, the memories will flood in. I tucked the note in her suitcase in an envelope. She said she didn\’t want to read it until she was settled at college. Something to look forward to, is actually what I remember her saying. I added some photos.
10. GRIEVING the role you played, the community you had at school, the times together, the times you missed out on, is different for everyone, so LOWER YOUR SHOULDS in your head of how you should be over the sadness or you should be happy you have free time or you should be grateful your child has the opportunities, or one that I often heard, you should just go volunteer and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Your child will be back. What won\’t be back is how it used to be. You change. They change. AND YOU WILL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOUR CHILDREN. (That doesn\’t mean you won\’t be angry or disappointed in their behavior)
11. If you need to be busy and run errands, then run. If you need to be home and flip the channels, then flip. TRUST you will learn what you need and you will ask for the help to get it.
12. GET SUPPORT no matter what. No one needs to go through this major life transition alone.
When our ROLES CHANGE, we feel like we have lost our bookends. The titles we carried, fed us; mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, worker bee, committee leader, etc. In the falling, there is new growth. It is unseen for awhile, but life and choices are there. The QUESTION that gets EXPLORED is who you are now that you are no longer his /her mother full time. You are moving beyond that role of parent and into woman, man. It does not mean you won\’t always be mother/ father, but you know you are at a transition where they are growing up. They will be making mistakes and choices that they will learn to deal with and that you might not even know about. Other people are moving into their circle. You aren\’t the only center anymore.
So, who are you and who might you become? The UNKNOWN is a good thing. You don\’t have to have a map today. Thoughts will flow in and out and then something will grab your attention. You might have crazy thoughts, night dreams of clues, intuitions, lifts and falls of things you try, going places and leaving since you are the adult and YOU GET TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, so keep note of them all.
I have a NEW FREEDOM I couldn\’t even image in that first year of the transition. I found my new rhythm and interests. Growing pains for sure! Build a NEW COMMUNITY and learn how to have fun, again, by making time for yourself. It takes time to figure out what is fun, what brings vibrancy, what adds NEW MEANING at this stage of your life. Talk with other empty nesters. Let yourself off the hook of needing to have the answers NOW.
Take good care,
Change is inevitable. Get ready. Get Support.
Empty Nest Support Services featured in NYTIMES, LATIMES, WASHINGTON POST, USA TODAY, BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS, LIVE RADIO and more
Toll free 800-446-3310
Local 818-763-0188 Los Angeles
Natalie Caine, M.A.
• Invite her to speak
• Call for a telephone consultation
• Join a support group
• Start a support group
• Attend a workshop