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The Empty Nest Syndrome (5)
By: Beth McHugh 2008
Today we look at the story of Emma who, despite having four children and devoting part of her working life to caring for them full time, has successfully managed to avoid the distressing feelings that characterize the empty nest syndrome.
Emma’s motivation for doing all she could to avoid the problems associated when her children left home were strong: Her mother had suffered terribly when Emma, the youngest of her birth family, had left home. She had felt enormous guilt and also enormous anger at her mother at the time and she did not want to suffer it herself when her own children left. Nor did she wish to inflict these same feelings onto her own children.
After she had her second child she gave up full time work outside the home in order to spend more time on her children. This was a conscious choice on her part and she was fortunate enough to be able to do it as she had an adequate income provided by her husband. But she was also aware of the potential dangers of immersing herself totally into childcare. Once the last of her children had gone to school, she picked up part-time work here and there which didn’t affect her children too greatly, yet gave her an outlet for her own interests.
She also completed additional studies with a view to returning full time to the work force if she chose at a later date. She also made a point of spending quality one-on-one time with her husband away from the children. Many years later, when her first child had moved away from home, she felt sadness but also joy that she had successful produced a son who was achieving well and operating independently. Again she continued to combine her outside interests with her family life.
Ten years later, her “baby” moved out. Yes, there were times that she missed the busy mayhem of the active parenting years, but Emma had always taken care to build a life for herself that did not wholly revolve around her children. She loved them, but she wasn’t unhealthily attached to them.
Not many of us can be as well prepared as Emma, but then Emma had the unfortunate experience of learning the hard way how detrimental the effects of the empty nest syndrome can be.
The lesson here is to diversify: be a mother and be the best you can be, but never forget that you are also a wife or partner. But most importantly, always be aware that you are an individual. An adult with hopes and wishes that must be earned by your own efforts, not secondhand through the lives of your children.
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