Empty nest – it really can affect you more than you think

Four years ago my daughter announced, out of the blue that she was leaving home the following week. I had no time to prepare for this mentally or emotionally, just to help her pack and take her to her new live-in job 50+ miles away.  Of course I was excited for her – first full time job, first time living away from home – but I had no idea of how it would hit me. And it keeps on hitting.

You see, I’ve been a single parent since getting pregnant.  Her father chose not to be in her life so it’s just been me. Wherever I was, she was, pretty much. Add in to that I home educated her from the age of 8. We have been a very tight knit family all the way along.

So, once she’d left, for the first three months I quite enjoyed having the house to myself, doing what I wanted, when I wanted, no one else’s mess to clear up or live with etc. Then the cracks started to show.  I rapidly began going down hill, to the point where I was feeling suicidal.

Even though I lived on an estate and people walked past my house many times a day, I felt like I could die in that house and no one would notice. My daughter was being busy in her new job, working split shifts so not a lot of free time and so apart from work, I had no one to talk to.

She had been the person I had shared everything with, there is nothing about each other we don’t know. When you are an only parent to an only child, the bond is very close or at least it was with us; I know many other single parents who have that same close bond with their children. Without her, I felt totally lost.

I cracked up, ending up being referred to a psyciatrist for help. Not that she was much help to be honest; she just wanted to put me on medication instead of truly understanding what I was feeling.

What was my role in life if not to be a parent? What was my purpose?

Here we are, four years on and I still feel lost without her. Yes we see each other regularly, as much as our respective work schedules allow and we talk on the phone or via facebook regularly. We get on extremely well and I love being with her (although I also love being on my own, just in case you were wondering); our relationship has matured beautifully.

But I still feel lost without this purpose in my life – being a full time parent and all that that entails. I was educating her, involved with multiple home ed groups, we had horses, dogs, cats, my mum was still alive, a full calendar of activities every week. Busy busy busy.

Now I have a full time job and a great team of staff who are like my family, and I enjoy their company each and every day. But still, there is this emptiness. My purpose as a parent has been completed. That’s not to say she doesn’t need me, but she’s 23 and has her friends, her work and her own life. I am not one of those parents that continues to insert myself into their childs life even when they no longer live at home.

I still feel lost, rudderless, floating adrift on the sea with no port in sight.

I don’t suppose for one moment that I am the only parent who feels this way when their children leave home. A former work colleague with three daughters who’d all flown the nest, warned me this would happen and hit me hard but I didn’t believe her. Boy was she right.

This is something that I am having help with; learning how to be a person in my own right is not something I am currently good at, even though if you met me you would say, as everyone does, how very self-contained and self-sufficient I am. It’s affecting me more deeply than I had realised.

So I suppose the moral to be learnt from this is for mums-to-be, mums-in-waiting and mums of littlies: yes, by all means devote yourself to your children but don’t forget to devote time to being you, to evolving as an independant being outside of being a partner/spouse/parent. Finding your purpose in life as a unique individual is important to your own fulfillment.

Perhaps I know my purpose really. Maybe I have found it but just haven’t recognised it yet. Hopefuly the threapy will help me discover.


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