Surviving the empty nest after dropping your kid at college
The empty nest –
You knew it was coming, but it’s completely overwhelming! You knew when you dropped your kid at college you’d find yourself crying – but these big ugly crying jags; really?!
You find yourself in Walmart trying to pull it together as you see a sweet six-year-old picking out her new pink back-to-school backpack. Has it really been that long? A song comes on the radio and you find tears streaming down your face. You walk past their room and it’s eerily quite – even the dog knows something’s up!
For me, my “empty nest meltdown” was in the grocery store. I picked up a package of six pork chops and realized that it was now TWO dinners instead of one and some leftovers! To make matters worse, my fifteen-year-old son was with me and was mortified!
It will sneak up on you out of nowhere, like a rogue wave on a sunny day.
Surviving an empty nest is not for the faint of heart!
Learn five easy breath techniques to calm your anxiety here.
A wise mama once said, “When they’re little, they sit on your lap; when they’re big, they sit on your heart.” The first few days and weeks after dropping your kid at college can feel like an elephant is sitting on your heart – there’s no two ways about it – it is tough!
And yet, you CAN not just survive, but thrive! This “empty nest” stage of life is bittersweet. I’ve lived by the idea of giving our kids “roots and wings” and I’ve always said that the wings were a lot harder!
For many moms, our identities have been so tied up in our mothering, that this normal right of passage triggers feelings of anxiety, grief, loneliness, and loss of purpose. The empty nest feels SO empty!
I would never suggest to just ignore these feelings or pretend you’re not experiencing them. That’s like pushing a beach ball down in a pool – it is just going to pop up again somewhere else! Don’t judge yourself for having these emotions – they are natural and thousands of other moms are feeling the effects of an empty nest right now too.
The easiest ways to deal with these feelings are to keep in touch with your son or daughter – without smothering them! With cell phones, texting, Snap Chat, etc,. it is very easy to stay in touch; and yet, it’s very important to realize that they are going through a transition too and they need space!
Empty nest is a time to reinvent yourself!
When you’ve sent your son/daughter off to college and they are no longer your primary focus, you can focus on yourself. You now have the time and opportunities to explore and pursue new hobbies, sports or crafts. What have your secretly wanted to do or learn “if only I had the time”? Now you do! Have you wanted to take up yoga or Tae Kwon Do? What about learning a new language or how to brew Kombucha? Between local Adult/Continuing Education programs and the abundance of options through Meetup.com, you can find something for almost any interest level!
It’s also a great time to revive your relationships. This is not the time for you to hole up by yourself. If you are married, this empty nest time might present you with the opportunity to rekindle passion and your relationship. Whether you are married or not, this is an important time to stay connected – or re-connect – to your girlfriends. If they too just sent their kids off to college, they’re probably going through some similar challenges with an empty nest. There’s also science showing the importance of maintaining those friendships. A landmark study at UCLA showed that in times of stress, women don’t only go into “fight or flight”; they also release the hormone oxytocin, which lowers stress and calms. If you don’t have friends who are going through empty nest syndrome, why not consider starting your own support group?
With all of that, you WILL find yourself with emotions bouncing all over the place when you drop your kids at college and come home to an empty nest. You CAN find your emotional balance again. Get five easy ways to calm stress and anxiety from my book “Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Freedom” for free here.