Empty nest syndrome is a general feeling of loneliness that parents or guardians may feel when one or more of their children leave home; it is more common in women. The marriage of a child can lead to similar feelings, with the role and influence of the parents often becoming less important compared to the new spouse.A strong maternal or paternal bond between the parent and child can make the condition worse. The role of the parent while the child is still living with them is more hands-on and immediate than is possible when they have moved out, particularly if the distance means that visits are difficult.
I can’t remember how many times my husband said, “I can’t wait for these kids to grow up!!” to me over the years. I was never in much of a hurry for them to become completely independent. I really, really loved being a mother. Especially since my kids were interesting little humans. I knew that when the day came that they’d move out and plod along the path of life without my safety nets, I was going to be a mess. It is almost scary just how right I was. When my youngest daughter joined the USAF, and then got shipped to Japan, I lapsed into a depression that I thought I’d never come out of again. When the earthquakes and tsunamis hit Japan, I had several panic attacks. I want her home. Now.
But, the USAF has a contract with her, and I sometimes think, “Why didn’t I make her sign a contract with me??”. I could have withheld her birth certificate or refused to tell her what her social security number was. There had to be something I could do. But, alas, it is too late now. She’s really, really far away.
My husband, who was going through his own version of Empty Nest Syndrome, had the poor luck of having to nurse me back from my debilitating depression while grieving the last child’s leap into the real world. He actually decided to get me some babies to love…Much to his chagrin, we squeezed in two kittens last year to replace my daughters and my son. This added to my two dogs, made a very tiny two bedroom home seem even smaller.
Today, I had to laugh because they all follow me around from room to room. I spoil them terribly, and I think part of it is because I never have to teach any of these animals how to be independent. There is no salvation plan they need to understand, no jobs they are going to have to hold down, no hurt feeling that arise out of relationships. They merely exist in this house so I would have something to love and adore. Something to baby….
This was one of the last pictures I took of my babies when they all lived at home:
These kids are a hard act to follow.
And here is my Empty Nest Syndrome medication:
This is Milo.
Sometimes I wonder if this is why God created animals that we were able to domesticate. Because He knew that in between the lapse of time between the kids moving out and grandchildren, some of us mothers, and fathers, would need to pour out that love on something. They aren’t quite as good as having little baby humans around, but they help a lot!!