Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Empty Nest Syndrome

As human life gets more and more complex, new terms come up to define what before existed but was unamed. Restless Legs Syndrome, Narcisistic Personality Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (lack of sunlight in winter) and Empty Nest Syndrome comes to mind. Kids with ADHD in the past were just “disorderly, full of energy or hyper”. Girls with ADD were just “distracted, dreamers, umotivated”. Depressed people were called lazy or sad or unmotivated. Men with NPD were just vain, self centered, selfish or egomaniacs. People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder just had a bad habit (nail biting, hair pulling, etc). Empty nest syndrome is a relatively new phenomena in modern human life ever since kids started to leave their parents’ home at the age of 17 to go live in College dorms. It is an uniquely American phenomena since in most other countries kids continue living at home while attending College and many times only leave their parents house to get married. And if they don’t get married, they stay home indefinitely. In many countries, young people do not make enough to pay for rent or buy their own place until much later in life. The 30 year mortgage is unheard of in many of those countries with less stable economies. Therefore, people need to save money all through their 20’s in order to be able to buy a house, sometimes with a 5 year payment plan. Additionally, the sense of family and extended family is weaker in America. Many kids cannot wait to have their freedom and many parents cannot wait for the kids to leave so they can travel and dedicate themselves to their hobbies. Still, there are many parents who suffer when they see their children leaving home at such an early age. As a mother, it is especially difficult for me. It is sexist to say it is more difficult for mothers but we see more cases of mothers crying after dropping off their kids in a College campus than fathers. Obviously, men have a harder time showing their feelings. For those who had their kids in their 20’s, being childless while still in your 40’s is a strange situation. Suddenly, you have no more family! If you happen to be married, you go back to being a couple and sometimes do not know what to do with each other. For divorced mothers, it can be very lonely. She goes from being a mother and taking care and responsability for her children to being suddenly single and childless. As if she had never gotten married and had kids! To make matters worse, some kids are so busy with their college lives they barely contact their parents-unless they need cash ) Many of these parents are still young themselves and find themseves with a lot more time in their hands. If it sounds attractive to have all that freedom and extra time, it is also a loss of the life you planned in your early 20’s: to get married one day and to have a family. Sure your kids come back, but they come back for short periods, and they never feel the same at their parents home anymore. As for the parents, they get used to the silence and order and have a hard time getting used to their kids stuff strewn everywhere. As more and more Baby Boomers and Generation X parents go through a delayed adolescence, or a second adolescence (as well as a second marriage), the more they relish their newfound freedom. Now they can party until wee hours! Now they can go on tropical island trips in September when the fares are cheaper! After all, 50 is the new 40, right? Or is it the new 30? I tend to be somewhere in the middle, pending more to the feeling of loss. For me, seeing my last child going away to College is a mixed blessing. I am happy that she is starting a new chapter of her life, but I do feel that she will change into an adult and not be so close to me. I cried when my firstborn was left in a strange dorm in a strange city, and I feel I will cry this time again.

July 18, 2008 - Posted by | Being a mother

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