Help … I’ve got Early Empty Nester Syndrome!

Welcome to my first blog post ever!

You see, I just launched my new website and my web designer, Adina of Napkin Marketing, said I should start blogging. She says it’s the thing to do, that people expect to see it – especially from a writer. As she put it: what writer doesn’t have things to say and stories to tell? When I asked her what I can possibly say that hasn’t already been said, Adina simply said, “Write what’s on your mind.”

So what’s on my mind? My mood. It has changed. One minute I’m relaxed and happy and the next I’m cranky, angry and confused. For the past year or two I couldn’t figure out what’s been irking me. But finally, after much introspection, I’ve finally decided what it is: I’m suffering from Early Empty Nester Syndrome and, believe me, it’s not a pretty sight. I started seeing early symptoms about five years ago. After what felt like a lifetime of being a single Mom and devoting all of my energy to my kids’ every move and need, they grew up. GAH! What a shock.

It happened like this. Kyle graduated from high school and went overseas for a gap year before heading to university. He wasn’t gone more than six weeks when his younger brother, Brett, announced he wanted to move in with his Dad. A few weeks later he did just that. The house was so empty … clean, but empty. I remember coming home from work one day, plopping myself onto the living room couch, and actually hearing the eery silence. Sure, I was an accomplished journalist, had terrific friends and an active social life, but I felt like I’d lost my most important role – that of Mom – and it stung.

It took me months to get used to the new normal. Once I did, it proved quite liberating not having to cook, clean and do laundry as often as I used to when both boys were living at home. But I still missed them and longed for signs that they were happy and safe. Thankfully, they were.

Today, Brett (in pic, centre) is 20 and studying Criminal Justice and dabbling in forensics (think CSI for car accidents). He’s also a heavy metal drummer. Brett lives with his Dad a few blocks away and occasionally pops by for a visit, though we do go for breakfast every so often to catch up. Kyle, a self-confessed hard-core gamer, is 23 and just graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Media. He’s working as a junior programmer and digital artist (he’s looking for an entry job in video game design … leads welcome!). He splits his week between his Dad and me so I feel a bit more clued in to his life.

Well, Adina told me not to write long blog posts so I guess I’ll save the rest for later. In the meantime, here are a few things I’ve learned since catching Early Empty Nester Syndrome:

  • Out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind – One day your children need you every minute and the next they don’t need you at all. Or so it seems. If they don’t call, they’re probably content. When they do call, they likely need the car, some cash or just a healthy dose of unconditional love. And that’s okay by me. Keep the lines of communication open and let them take the lead.
  • Silence can be bliss – For years, our house has been the centre of attention on Saturdays. That’s when Kyle, Brett and four of their friends spend hours playing board games and computer games while overindulging in junk food and (lately) beer. As the sun sets they come up for air, often heading to someone else’s house or shuffling off to their favourite pub. Though I love their energy and enthusiasm, six males in a small space can be overwhelming. Allow them do their thing and then bask in the stillness when they’re out the door.
  • No expectations, no disappointments – My sister-in-law Eva is big on this one, though I’m just a beginner. I do feel let down when they say they’re coming for dinner and then cancel at the last minute. But I’m doing my best to let it go. That way when they do show up it will be a bonus.

Have you experienced Empty Nester Syndrome? Share your thoughts – I’m desperate for tips!

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