Knowing she was leaving didn’t make dealing with Empty Nest Syndrome any easier. It had been just my daughter and I – for the most part – from the time she was one year old. We had lived in Spain, the U.S., and ultimately India, which is where she flew the nest. In the months leading up to my daughter’s departure I craved her attention and wanted to constantly create “moments” for us. Just before her departure, we even set off on a 1-week road trip and that was the best gift because it left us with loads of memories. Of us singing for hours in the back of an SUV, making the driver crazy with our playlists of AWESOME 60s, 70s, and 80s music! Of dinners eaten in tree houses and wild buggy rides … and of breath-taking views and a pottery class. It was a perfect goodbye to the best era of my life.
Empty Nest Syndrome: How It Works
Generally speaking, kids know that we’re going to be sad and needy in the ramp-up to them heading off to university. I’m sure in the back of their minds they’re thinking, “Okay okay, this is a small – final – price to pay before adulthood and freedom”. And it should be!
But for some of us parents, their absence hits us harder. Or perhaps the change in our day-to-day life is so drastic that we realise life was definitely better before things changed.
And absolutely nothing is ever the same. The relationship we had with our child changes because they are adults now and can’t be told what to do or if/when they will speak with us. There’s a little birdie who used to need us to survive back when they were little, yet as time went on that lessened for THEM … but for us we never stopped feeling the weight of responsibility to protect them. So now they’re gone and we have new feelings we don’t know how to handle.
Empty Nest Syndrome: My Story
My little birdie flew the coop in 2013 but it wasn’t until 2015 that I realised I was suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome. Fast forward to now until I finally realised how epically unfair this has been on her. Being her mom was the most fun I’ve had in my life. She was my favourite travel companion. To this day, she IS what I’m most proud of in my life. And I love her more than any other person on this planet.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on my daughter (or on most any human I suppose). Yet it’s true. So the weight of losing her – or what she represented to me – hit me hard when she was suddenly gone forever. Not away at camp or for the summer to Spain but GONE. GONE gone! Never to return again to the nest as a child … and only as a visiting adult.
Here’s How I Behaved
Losing my angel was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. If I had a genie who could cast spells, I can easily see myself living in a constant loop with my daughter as a girl at home forever … maybe re-living her teen years from 13 – 17 over and over again. I miss her so much I’m literally (softly) crying as I write this right now, which is inconvenient because I’m out in public at a café! But that’s the truth and thank goodness I don’t have a genie.
Over the past several years, I’ve been sad, hurt, and even resentful over what my daughter WASN’T giving me and how she WASN’T behaving. Today, if we have one video call every 2 months or if I hear back from a whatsapp within a couple of days I feel lucky … and I guess I’m responsible for that treatment. I missed her and wanted our old life & relationship back so much that I would feel hurt when she didn’t. I put a ton of pressure on my daughter to speak with me and share her life. A part of me also wanted her to be unconditionally grateful for the life we lived because I feel like very few parents are forced to say “no” to child support because their ex-spouse threatens them.
Empty Nest Syndrome: It’s Unfair On The Child
Trying to force my adult daughter to revert to her younger self, or to persuade her to love her mommy like she did when she was little, or to expect her to give the same attention to me that I want to give is INSANE. My daughter never signed on for any of that and it’s unfair of me to ask it of her.
As parents, we deal with a lot of changes in life. Kids are disruptive on every level but we signed on for the ride. But kids don’t sign up for it nor do they want to start nurturing their parents so soon. Leaving home and attending university is one of the most exciting times in a young person’s life and they should be free to enjoy it 100%. They shouldn’t need to worry about parents who are missing them back home. It’s already a ton of pressure to start taking care of oneself as a young adult and to navigate the waters of adult life or a first job. The last thing kids need is some needy parent dragging on them.
Yet that’s what I did to my little birdie. Looking back now, I should have never expected more than what she wanted to give and that was wrong of me 1,000%.
It’s wonderful to finally feel at the tail end of Empty Nest Syndrome and to (hopefully, finally) see it from daughter’s point of view … and to move on. Maybe if I was in a romantic relationship or had a cat to nurture I wouldn’t have been so needy and pathetic, waiting for any bit of love and attention from her. But that isn’t the case so it has taken me as long as it needed to take (I guess) to move on. I can’t change the past but I’m hopeful for the future and that one day she and I will be close again. After all … she’s my birdie!
Read my other pieces on this topic >>
– Original Empty Nest Syndrome article
– Feeling Needy & Pathetic as a mom with an empty nest