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The empty nest syndrome?

(31 Posts)
Nightrose Tue 27-Dec-22 17:25:36

Hello, newbie here, looking for support.

My eldest got a full scholarship abroad and left home last August. I was alright when she left and the weeks after that. It only hit me hard this month as at first she wasn't coming home for Christmas due to exams. I was depressed. That would have been my first Christmas without her. Thankfully, she managed to come home for a week. I hadn't realised how much I had missed her and seeing her was like a Christmas miracle. Then suddenly I was overwhelmed by a sudden sadness. She would be gone in a matter of days. Christmas day came and went. I managed to smile and we went out together but my heart remained heavy with sadness. So, is this how my life is going to be for the next 4 years? Counting the days for the next holiday when she will be coming home and then dreading to say goodbye again?

I have two other kids in high school and middle school who are still living with me, so my nest is not exactly empty. But why am I feeling like this??

I have never been a clingy or emotional person. Now I am a complete emotional wreck who feels weepy all the time. I lost appetite and am developing insomnia. I still drive my other kids to school every morning and go to work, but everything feels like a struggle. This isn't me and I hate feeling like this.

She is happy and adjusting very well both academically and socially. I am very proud and happy for her. At the same time, I desperately want her to move back home with us. I feel guilty and selfish for even wanting it. I am playing the role of a supportive mum in front of her but it feels more like an act because in reality, my heart is breaking for not having her at home.

Is this how the empty nest feels or is it something else? I'm not sure how to cope with this.

Bridgeit Tue 27-Dec-22 17:43:21

Perhaps a little help with counselling would help , it is a natural reaction to a big change which can take a little time to adjust to. Best wishes

Harris27 Tue 27-Dec-22 17:50:09

It’s hard. I felt the same with my last son. It does get better keep occupied anything to stop you thinking about the situation. It’s like a piece of the jigsaw missing isn’t it? I’ve always worked and I’m glad the time in there helps too.

NanKate Tue 27-Dec-22 18:08:11

I have one son when he left for university I felt bereft and I always assumed he would return to live at home, but he never did.

After a while I decided I had to make changes. I went back to education and went to university and just loved it. I’ve never looked back.

Best of luck.

Nightrose Tue 27-Dec-22 19:04:04

Thank you all for the much needed support and well wishes.

That's right, it's like a piece of the jigsaw missing. It reminds me of the time when she grew her first baby tooth and I suddenly realised that I will never see that adorable toothless grin ever again.

Yes, I am seriously considering therapy. I am in so much pain and keep tearing up for tiny little things. I also can't help reminiscing about her childhood wishing I can turn back the time and have her in my arms again as a little girl. I'm pre-menopausing too which isn't helping at all.

Any idea how long this feeling will last?

CanadianGran Tue 27-Dec-22 20:59:32

It does sound like you have a bit more serious issue than purely missing your eldest, since you say you are weepy even though she is currently home. I would go and have a word with your doctor, perhaps you are suffering from depression.

Insomnia, loss of appetite can be symptoms of mild depression, sometimes related to hormonal issues, so please do try to make an appointment.

When we dropped my eldest off at school I had a good cry in the car and that was about it. Of course I missed her, but was happy for her to start her new stage in life. Getting used to a quieter house can be a bit painful, but not enough for constant weepiness, even when your whole family is around.

Oreo Tue 27-Dec-22 21:30:33

What CanadianGran says👍🏻
Sounds more hormonal than anything else as you have other children at home and your daughter is happy.

MayBee70 Wed 28-Dec-22 00:42:28

I lived my life through my children and it took many years for me to get over them leaving home. I felt that my daughter was my best friend. You don’t mention her father. Is there a reason for that? ( don’t mean to be nosy).

Mom3 Wed 28-Dec-22 01:53:16

I had something similar when DS2 got married and spent more time visiting his in -laws than us. I felt I had lost him to that other family. I also was crying a lot and not sleeping. My doctor prescribed an antidepressant and it helped a lot.
Our lovely DG lives nearby and will probably go far away for college. I think her parents may struggle with missing her and I think I will, too. I don't let the younger generation know how sad it can make me.

Nightrose Wed 28-Dec-22 07:50:23

Thank you for all the responses. It helps to vent out and read all of your replies.

I have booked an appointment with a therapist but she won't be available until Jan 3rd. Might as well. My eldest will be leaving on Jan 1st and I'm bracing myself for more heartache.

I have 3 kids and I love them all dearly, but my eldest have always been special to me. There's 5 years gap between her and my second child, so for the first 5 years of her life, she was lavished with all the love and care that she needed. I literally totted her everywhere I went. I took a month maternity leave and went straight back to work with her along (we had a nursery for staff children). So yeah, we were pretty much inseparable.

She's a bright and beautiful girl, but when puberty hit, she started to become rebellious. Nothing really major, just talking back, breaking her curfew, getting some piercings and dying her hair unnatural colour behind my back which I wouldn't have minded if she had told me anyway. I am not a strict parent but I do have a few house rules which she wasn't happy about and tried to break every now and then. She became detached, started spending more and more time in her room, picking fights with her siblings, was mostly sulky, angry or restless and I caught her smoking cigarettes 'a few times which she knew I was against. Neither I not her were on good term with her father, so maybe that exacerbated the problem too. We had frequent rows and by the time she was in senior high, she was soooo ready to leave the house. To be perfectly honest, I was getting weary too of the frequent arguments at home, so when she received the full scholarship abroad and left home, I was more relief than sad until everything hit home a few months later. I guess there is element of guilt here on my part. I regret that we had so many arguments and I wonder if I was doing something wrong which ended up pushing her away. She was accepted in other universities here but she chose to travel overseas which I suspected to get away from home.

She is still here until Jan 1st and her room is of course a total mess again which was something that used to aggravate me a lot when she was still living at home. This time round though, the messiness of her room oddly brings me a little sense of comfort.

I just miss my little girl so much. We were as close as thieves and I don't know what went wrong with us. Was it puberty, my sour relationship with my husband or bad parenting? I wish I can figure it out so I can fix it, if it's not too little too late....

Oreo Wed 28-Dec-22 07:58:30

Stop feeling guilty.
She sometimes acted up as a teenager and it caused rows between you, this is actually normal tho doesn’t happen in every household.She may feel guilty about the rows too.
Put it behind you now and accept her as an adult.
You’re crying for the little girl she used to be when you were inseparable.Sounds like you’ve always done your best bringing up children alone.

Visgir1 Wed 28-Dec-22 08:06:07

It will be fine, I think you might need some professional help.

I was told once.. Nature has a way of you coping with letting your Children go.. Its called The Menopause.
And we all know that's not always a bed of Rose's. Speak to your GP.
Hope you are OK soon.

NotSpaghetti Wed 28-Dec-22 08:59:31

She is woman now. You have parented her to adulthood and given her wings.
She knows you are there and has actually come back to see you over this week when she could have chosen to stay away.
Try to be happy that she is bold and courageous and using her confidence to follow her dreams.

Try to enjoy your time with your other children now before it is too late. I'd take the opportunity to bond more with them as it sounds like they need some of the love you obviously have.

As an aside, I had a great relationship with my parents but would never have chosen a university close to home as that was a place just for me to grow and discover on my own.

Franbern Wed 28-Dec-22 09:10:49

Nightrose, look forward instead of back. Having Adult Children is a very wonderful, uplifting experience.

I also devoted several years to being a full-time Mum to my six children (plus foster kids), but did find that teenages were difficult. As each left home for University - there was shsarp sense of loss, but as time went on, and they got their degrees and started their careers, I found a new and wonderful relationship with them.

I loved it when they visited for a few days, always cried on the day they left, but slowly had to accept that I became lower down in impprtance to them as partners and then their own children came along.

So, along with my relationship with them (and with their children), I slowly became a different person to the one that had been Mum to young children. Life changes and I do try to find the enjoyment in each stage.

Redhead56 Wed 28-Dec-22 10:20:01

I suffered terribly with empty nest probably because I brought my children up on my own for quite a few years before I married again. My DD left for university that stressed me I never stopped worrying about her.
When my DS and DD left home to marry and settle down it just added to it. I think it’s because they were not here at home for me to protect them.
They both have good jobs and are happily married and I have beautiful little GC. But still I worry I admit the first thing I think about when I wake is my family.

LadyGracie Wed 28-Dec-22 12:19:27

DS left to go to university at 17, DD couldn’t wait to leave also at 17.

NotSpaghetti Wed 28-Dec-22 12:26:49

I left at 17 to University too Gracie. I never went back to live - though obviously visited.

I had a very happy childhood and loved my parents dearly. Where you live/study doesn't mean you don't love, just that you have grown as you should, and are creating a new life elsewhere.

Nightrose Thu 29-Dec-22 07:44:21

Went out shopping for a few hours with my eldest yesterday and bought her a bunch of stuff that she needed to tale back with her. On the way home she looked at me and said, "thanks, mum, for buying me all these stuff. I love you", I felt like bowling and begging her not to go back, but I didn't of course. I simply smiled and told her that I love her too. And then she went to her room, stuffed all her new stuff into her suitcase, built 3D shape puzzles with her siblings a bit and then watched Netflix for the remaining of the night. I wanted so bad to sit with her and talk, but I just let her did her thing.

My house is a lot quieter since my kids became teenagers. Each of them has their own room and most of the time they're busy doing their own things in there. Sometimes they don't go out of their room unless I call them. I'm okay with it. Of course they go to school or out and about with friends, but at the end of the day they always come home and I'm happy knowing that they are safe and sound in the house having everything they need.

This is my first time ever not to have all my kids in the house for a long stretch of time and I found it hard not to have one of my kids at home. The empty room and dinner chair makes me very sad. Cognitively, I knew this would happen and that it's something good when kids are learning to be independent by leaving the house. I thought I was prepared for it but I guess I was wrong.

Parenting is hard and I haven't the slightest clue how to parent a young adult. Neither do I know how to deal with the mixed and conflicting emotions inside me to see the change in my daughter or where to draw the line between a caring and overbearing parent.

I am ever so glad to have found this forum. All of my friends are slightly younger than me. They have teenage kids but are still in high school. They still have a good couple years until their kids go to college, so I feel kind of lost and alone at present. I am all ears for any advice, opinion or just to read personal stories from those who have experienced this before.

glammanana Thu 29-Dec-22 13:02:56

Nightrose Congratulations on raising a strong young lady who is independent enough to travel abroad and settle into her new life style you have done a good job.
Of course you are going to miss her and she will be missing you,as your other children are growing & can be left with family for a couple of days I'm sure you can manage a few week ends for a quick visit on a budget airline every now and then for a catch up with

clementine Thu 29-Dec-22 18:51:20

Think of it as being an adventure for both of you and plan lots of lovely things to do when she comes home for her breaks. Also I am not sure what age but as soon as I read your post I immediately thought hormonal /menopausal symptoms Might be worth speaking to your GP Take care .

ThomasRed Sun 05-Mar-23 17:27:05

Consider it an adventure for the two of you, and make a list of enjoyable activities for when she visits during her breaks<a href="https://">.</a>. As soon as I read your post, I also assumed hormonal or menopausal symptoms, but I am not sure of the exact age. It could be worthwhile to consult your Physician Be careful.

ExperiencedNotOld Sun 05-Mar-23 20:11:46

When I waved my daughter off on the train to Plymouth to join the Navy I sobbed so hard I couldn’t see to walk down the steps to get off the platform.
9 years later, after a visit last week, my husband and I agreed that it’s nice having her back but just as nice when she goes away again.
It’ll get better.

GrannySomerset Sun 05-Mar-23 22:23:43

Well done for getting the first child on to the launch pad. Time perhaps to devote to the younger ones?

Our children are not, and never should be, our best friends thought we can be there to support and care for them always. If we are lucky and our adult children like us and enjoy spending time with us we are blessed. I was never a grown up child and had to navigate the relationship with my own but it has proved the most worthwhile thing ever. I am sure this will be true for you.

nanna8 Sun 05-Mar-23 23:38:06

Well done, you have obviously brought up a strong and independent young woman. Your other kids will be missing her,too though they might not say anything. She is in the next phase of her life and life is like that, isn’t it ? It wouldn’t be good to always be stuck in that dependent child phase- really.

biglouis Mon 06-Mar-23 00:40:21

My mother was very weepy and clingy the day I left Liverpool to go to uni in Manchester. Selfishly she tried to guilt me but it didnt work. She somehow assumed I would return to my home city when my studies were over but I never did. First I did a masters and then a doctorate before getting an academic job in Manchester. My visits to Liverpool after that were fewer and fewer as there was nothing to attract me back. I could not see how it served my interests to return because in those days with 4 major universities Manchester offered so many more employment opportunities. People will go where the job opportunities (rather than the clingy parents) are.