Empty nest syndrome… those three words can sound like much ado about nothing. Until you go through it or know someone who has.
If you are a full time parent that enjoyed the job, that can last the better part of twenty three years considering college schedules, ENS takes adjustment. Not all a bowl of cherries easy until you learn new life patterns to fill the big hole kids out of the nest free up, provide for other areas of living.
But if you were a parent who your kids, others around you often heard the big sighs. Saw your eyes rolling. And with disgust heard “boy, will sure be glad when you kids are gone, the house is empty”. Maybe the freed up financial resources. Easier, any time you want scheduling to get in to the bathroom mornings will be a cinch transition. Empty nest syndrome may affect you not so much.
Moms and Dads that raise families verbalizing that “poor me, when do I get my time to be happy” parent resentment are missing the boat. You improve yourself raising kids and teaching them responsibilty, consequences for your actions. Getting them to church and learning right from wrong. About manners, playing fair. And that parents make mistakes, miss cues, have to work hard for the give and take of relationships.
Lessons along the way. Not to run with scissors. Take turns. Pick up your mess. Hang up your coat. Wipe your feet. Say your prayers. Hearing good job. But learning the word no used. Discipline, rules that make a kid feel safer, loved with defined boundaries. Knowing limits, consistent rules that adjust for greater freedom if they earn it as they get older.
Kids reminded out of love to make good decisions.
Even though you are not in the room, or around to know if they don’t. Especially after they leave the nest. But you still mother hen worry about them out on the open road in the big wide world. Reminding to say please and thank you. Have respect for others including teachers, coaches, referees and you the parent, other family members.
To treasure the elderly, give up your seat. Hold doors and to smile. Be pleasant. To think of others besides yourself. To take care of your possessions and respect those of others who worked just as hard to obtain them.
Parenting is a challenge but didn’t your parents make the effort?
And how do you like how you turned out? Did they gripe, complain or deep down wish they had not had you? Or did you and your brothers, sisters add greater meaning to their life?
Were you part of a family that was at the same birthday parties, weddings, graduations, funerals, the Christmas and other holidays year in and out? Did your Mom and Dad hug, demonstrate love and fondness? You learn from them how relationships look. How conflict resolution happens to solve the problem together, not attack the person or brow beat.
I tell new parents to be, with a stork circling overhead that their life will go from black and white to color.
That kids are a hoot. You will wonder how you lived without them. Not know what was missing. Until they grow up, start their lives and become more and more independent.
To live fine and dandy without you because someday you will be gone. Happens to all of us. And that is not the time your children should start living, making their own decisions. Prepare them. Teaching them all you can while the clock ticks loudly.
Parents can be like big selfish kids themselves. Who whine about the expense of effort, household financial resource money juggling. Kids enhance, not deprive if you take the responsibility, privlege, gift, blessing seriously.
We all need to grow up feeling loved, appreciated and taught the skills required in the big wide world out there. Kids don’t enjoy feeling that they are a burden. They are not. All special, unique, and can teach you much in the process of parenting. Each stage they grow through, each child with a different birth order, parents at different stages as head of the household giving direction. Each boy and girl, brother and sister with different temperaments, talents, special needs like all of us. No two the same like snow fakes.
Kids, family is a joy not a curse. A blessing not a burden. You were a kid once, and you appreciate the effort, love and dedication your parents provided more the older you get. As you pass in to life areas that are “ah ha” moments where you get it. Realize what you could not further back on life’s journey. We all make mistakes, miss cues and should be running everything through God for direction, inspirations, the truth.
Kids make you a better person because you think of someone besides yourself.
You teach them values and are accountable because they are watching. They keep you honest, trying harder to take the privilege, blessing of being a parent serious.
Changing diapers, applying A and D ointment, hooking up vaporizers, rocking them to sleep. After microwaving a bottle of milk, testing it on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot. Dropping happy boisterous kids off at dance, little league practice, school. Bother local and at college. Picking them up from the movies. Reading bedtime stories, saying prayers, tucking them in after tub time and being all squeaky clean.
Putting training wheels on their first bikes. $300 prom dresses worn once you wonder if they could be made in to draperies. Have another use. Or handed down to someone who can use them, give them another showing. Braces, college funds, after school jobs. Family reunions, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Usually at a Maine lake. Or bean suppers, church bazaars. Or a state park, hiking Mt Katahdin or smaller hill trails. Maybe fishing for supper.
Grocery shopping more than once a week
Laundry and teaching kids to separate the whites, colors. And if you throw in a shirt inside out, that is the way it is being washed. And on the other end of the process you will have to turn it back out anyway yourself. Pointing out the roles all in the household need to assume for it to run smoother. So the parent does not get worn out, taken for granted. And eventually in a marriage expectations of someone else doing all the work. Being spoiled and unhappy if they don’t. Spoiling a child is way worse than neglect. Because when the parent is done, who’s job is it now? Everyone around them if you enable them like the parent did.
Watching them ricochet in higher kitchen doorway diagonals in the johnny jump up.
Spooning high chair breakfast with a higher pitched voice announcing here comes the airplane…open wide. Asking them what will it be today and pointing at the Gerber baby on the rice, oatmeal, barley box. Sippy cups. Burbing, bouncing on your lap and cooing. Going back in the room after they are asleep and just listening to them breath. In awe of the little person that is part of you, that will not stay small long.
Grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning house, changing beds, creating holidays, birthday parties. Helping with home work. Playing catch, tennis, or skiing, getting them to hockey practice. Or building a soap box derby gravity race cars.
Or just listening to them, making sure they spend time with other family members like grandparents who care and share. Letting them know there are lots of people around you that love you. Are rooting for you. That they have cheerleaders.
Thinking they are growing up way way too quickly. You were not done with that last life phase. But reminding yourself to enjoy it. To prepare as one by one they bean pole up and out, off to college then for good. But you don’t and can’t totally prepare with seamless segue to life after full time kids. It takes conscious effort. Or waiting for grandchildren for another part time taste of child raising.
Once empty nest syndrome arrives lots of healthy things can happen to fill the space, the void.
You can relax. Take a breath. More time dedicated to working on your relationships with others, stronger marriages. Service work through church or in your community are rewarding outlets too. New hobbies, education options. And reaching out to folks that were out of the loop because parenting is full time. Multiplies by the number of kids you have. Had six at one time. Whew.
Vacation traveling, discovering more about yourself reading, making the adjustment to the next phase of life. The one that can be the best is yet to come if you embrace it, avoid the slip in to a lonely pit of being dismissed in the full time parent role.
You never stop parenting, but the pauses between when you are needed get greater with the kids who will appreciate you more and more the older they get. And when they eventually try their hand at this parenting thing. And they too become Sunday school teachers, your grandchildren like them are in Christmas pageants too.
Maine, family is everything. Raising one in Maine is the place to do it with four seasons of uncrowded natural safe surroundings. Most of the upbringing is outdoors, with plenty of fresh air, less television, more use of their imagination.