According to CIGNA HealthCare, family life cycles have five stages:
- Independence from your parents
- Settling down with a partner
- Becoming a parent to your own children
- Launching your adult children into their own independence stage
- Your retirement years
Dale and I have reached number 4 and are quickly moving toward number 5. So what is this empty nest syndrome you hear so much about? Many people experience a range of emotions when their last child leaves home. These can range from anxiety, sadness, depression, feelings of emptiness, loss of purpose, to excitement, satisfaction, and even a new found sense of purpose. It really depends on how you approach the empty nest, and what your expectations for this new phase in your life are.
I was a stay at home mom. Even when my sons started school, I chose to start a small online business rather than go back to work. I wanted to be that mom who was able to attend all of my kids events and activities. I wanted to be the classroom helper and the field trip chaperone. I will always be grateful beyond words to Dale for making sure that financially and emotionally I could be that person. That time was so precious, and while it flew by, I never have to look back and wish I had spent more time with my kids or be sorry that I missed something wonderful that they accomplished. No, I am not bashing working moms here. Staying home is not for everyone, and not possible for everyone. I am just saying that it was the best part of my life and I am so thankful that I did it.
So, since such a great part of my life was invested in my kids, you might think that the empty nest would have been particularly difficult for me. Maybe it will make me sound like a bad mom, but it wasn’t. Dale and I have always been the type of parents who celebrated our children’s successes, and we knew that with each success, with each accomplishment, we were raising our boys to be the kind of men we wanted them to become. We were leading them to the inevitable fledgling stage when they would soon go out on their own and we could enjoy and celebrate even more successes. Now don’t get me wrong, there were tears on that first day of moving them to college. There were tears the first time we had to take them to an airport and watch them leave on their own for job interviews. There are still tears each time I leave my son in Seattle and know I won’t see him again for quite a while. But, that is not about the empty nest. That is about the distance and how much we will miss him.
Dale and I decided from the start to embrace our empty nest with a sense of adventure, instead of sorrow, with a feeling of newfound freedom, instead of dread, and with anticipation of things to come…watching our children succeed in what they do, marriages, grandchildren, etc. So, bring it on, we are ready for it all. As our youngest, who made a return to the nest after college, gets ready to move out once again,
Dale and I are ready to reclaim our empty nest and make the most of it. The adventure starts now, come along for the ride!