When my last child left for college, I had been a mother for more than thirty years. I thought I was prepared, but nothing prepared me for the day my last child left home.
We took our son to his new dorm and got him settled in, but I felt so empty. I thought, “Who will I nurture now?” “Where do I belong?” Although I had continued with my education and had my psychology practice, this loss was deep—deeper than anything I had experienced. I remember the next week offering coffee and a bagel to my accountant when he came by my house to update my books. “What is this?” he asked.
“I need to nurture someone, ” I said. He smiled and enjoyed.
The term empty nest trivializes the painful passage for many women. The nest is our life, our memories of our lives with our children. We nurtured them and nudged them out to fly. Who is here to nurture us and nudge us toward a new life? It is a very hard time but there are ways to cope and eventually enjoy the process. I am reminded of a poem, by Kahil Gibran.
Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
During my daily walks, I learned to breathe and connect to my body, the body that had carried three children, given birth, washed, fed and cared for, laughed with, tied their shoes, and comforted their hurts for so many years. I learned to smile knowing that my children were independently living their lives.
Today, my children are living their lives in a different time zone. They share their worlds with me when we visit each other. The best times for me are when we are all together and I refer to this as having “all of my chicks in the nest.” It is comforting for me to see them together, safe and happy.
Living life creatively during the empty nest phase can be a wonderful experience. New research in psychobiology indicates that creativity is connected to living in the flow of daily rhythms, which affects our energy levels, moods, sense of stress, and addictions. Living with the flow, instead of resisting helps us to move through one transition after another. I teach this concept of creative living and have adapted it to my daily life.
When at home I enjoy naps in the afternoon, which are a new pleasure, sleeping late in the morning is divine, especially when I crawl back into bed with my French pressed cup of coffee so that I can read my favorite book with no interruptions. I can read what I want, eat what I want, and sleep when I want. This is freedom I have not known for many years.
I am also living more mindfully, finding pleasure in “being” instead of “doing” There is a world of difference between the two. Our culture’s expectation has been that women give to others. I was taught to care for others and that self-indulgence was selfish, maybe even a sin. It took me many years to rebirth my passion through journaling. I taught an Artist Way course at a local art gallery. I learned to nurture myself by spending time alone writing, and listening to my inner voice, a part that had become silent during the last busy twenty years.
Living creatively and savoring empty nest time is the best thing we can do for ourselves. I have developed a six-step plan for creative living that I share with my life coaching clients. I encourage and help them to enjoy the empty nest transition because I tell them, “You never know when your children may return.”
A new phenomena called boomerang kids has popped up in recent years where children, upon graduation from college, and sometimes their partner and children, move back home after years away. According to CNNMoney.com, the New York Times, and Time Magazine web site, 85 percent of college grads move back home after they graduate.
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*Copyright (Jean Pollack)