That photo with my daughter was taken six years ago and I love it even more today than I did back when she was 13! She is my biggest joy in life and there is honestly no scenario I can imagine where a man or a job or an experience could ever even come close to replacing the unending happiness that her mere existence brings me.
In the spirit of honesty, I should confess that at times it seemed like ‘18’ wouldn’t arrive soon enough. In fact, I can actually recall keeping track of the number of years it would be until she would head off to university. I mean, some years seemed to CRAWL! We absolutely had fun over the years but being a single parent can be rough – especially when there is no child support being paid and the burden of responsibility falls on just one parent, which in this case was 100% me. That made the countdown clock to 18 even more interesting because I ignorantly imagined it also meant I’d have my financial freedom back (man was I WRONG about that because she has a long university career planned!). With all that said and done … now that my little nest is empty, I only wish that period of my life had lasted longer.
I miss her all the time, more because she lives in the UK and I can’t see her often. Just like every other teenager on the planet finding their way during the first years of absolute independence, my daughter is an absolute angel most of the time and then completely awful from time to time just to keep me on my toes. She’s caring, adventurous and a hard worker, and I’m amazingly proud of her.
We were living in India when she went off to uni. It’s been two years since she started down her own path, and since then I’ve moved to Hong Kong. The funny thing is though, even though I’ve physically moved, I haven’t ‘moved on’ since India. I went from being a VERY outgoing, VERY active, VERY social person to being … well, sort of a hermit. Where I should be going a bit crazy now that I live alone for the first time in 18 years, it’s completely the opposite. I rarely even leave my flat.
For the longest time I thought it was because I was pining over of a guy I left behind in India. That he was the reason I stopped socialising and have done a total 180 on my way of living and my personality. Then this week I realised…it has nothing to do with a guy! It’s my empty nest. I’ve been sad and – sadly depressed on some level I guess – because the love of my life has flown the coop. What a revelation!
Being empty-nested and the hole that it has left in my heart is something no one warned me about. When my Mom came to help out in Spain when my daughter was born 19 years ago, she showed me how to be a calm, loving mom…but in all these years it never occurred to her to prepare me for this hell. Probably because I was a handful and she was actually happy to see me out on my own. There are oodles of books that people recommended on being a new parent but no one seems to push ’empty nest’ books on parents when their child heads off to uni! There must be some good ones out there but I’m gonna give them a pass now that I’ve noodled out this problem on my own.
Is Empty Nest Syndrome worse when a child leaves to join the military? Eve Sproat-Traill, an old school friend from back home, shared this: “The day that my son left for the Navy when he was 18 was one of the worst days of my life. My husband and I went into a state of shock. No more kids at home, and when recruits enter the military it’s kinda like they drop off the face of the earth, no phone calls, no text messaging, only the occasional letter for the first several weeks. All of the sudden there is silence in the house, and it can be deafening. The energy that young people inevitably bring is suddenly gone, the wind is let out of the sails etc..I know after my son left, I had to re-evaluate my priorities and redefine my goals. It took a long time for my husband and I to readjust, but we have become closer.”
Losing someone or something we love most certainly leaves a scar, even if it’s not a visible one. That is 100% true in the case of a parent suffering on any level from empty nest syndrome. Sorting out how to mend that wound is the tricky part. Not living in my hometown, alongside friends who’ve all had kids, played a role in me being unprepared for all this ’empty nest’ hoopla I’m sure. Well, and being divorced and dealing with it alone … but it’s going to be okay.
Honestly, this epiphany has just done a world of good for my spirit. Not because remembering how much I miss her is, like totally awesome, but because it is a problem that I can absolutely manage.
My ‘Cure the Empty Nest’ Plan of Attack is Looking Something Like This:
- More calls to my daughter to get my ‘fix’ of birdie love! Instead of waiting for one big Skype catch up session, I’m going to call spontaneously from time to time just to stay in touch.
- Push myself to go out and reactivate my social life. More friends here in Hong Kong and fun things to do would be great, and I am the only person standing in my own way to being more active.
If you’ve gone through it and have some advice I would love to hear it. I’m feeling pretty good tonight, better than I’ve felt in ages. Now I just need to pull my little birdie on board with the new programme. It’s her turn to nurture and take care of me for a little while!
[August 2018] CLICK HERE TO READ MY FOLLOW-UP>> Three years have passed since I wrote the above post in Hong Kong. I wish I could say things were sunshine and rainbows but they aren’t. But today in Kuala Lumpur, it’s different to what I was dealing with back then.