When your children leave home, think of it as chance to reinvent yourself ... a chance to be YOU.
You stare at photos of young adults gazing back at you, looking so confident and capable. Yet, as you look lovingly at these children, you see past the confident smiles filled with purpose, and straight into their vulnerable hearts.
You drift back to the long nights that seemed to never end as you held their tiny bodies, rocking them in an old rocker, afraid you wouldn't be able to protect them from the world. You think about the endless number of PTA meetings, carpool lines and sporting events you thought would never end.
At the time, it was all so crazy and busy, and you wondered how you would ever survive it.
Shaking your head now, you ponder how quickly it all flew by. A sudden sadness grips your heart as you listen for the laughter or fighting that always filled the house, but empty quietness answers you back.
Stepping to the mirror, you look at yourself. Staring back at you is a woman you don't know anymore. With a lost look filling your eyes, sadness hits you, and you ask, "What is my purpose now?" "If my children are grown and my role as 'mom' is over, who am I now?"
You might feel empty, aimless, or even worthlessness. Your confidence and sense of purpose are gone and in their place is only doubt.
You remember that once upon a time, you were a young, vibrant, single woman—secure and confident. You married and became a "wife." You had a career and were a successful "career woman." Then the children arrived and you chose motherhood as your new career of choice.
You made raising and nurturing your family your main focus and reason for being. You've been everything to them—the person that made sure the family functions, and that each of them felt deeply loved, cared for, and well-raised.
That tasks is complete now; their need for you is minimal. They are out of the house and functioning on their own. Your spouse is busy with his career and now you're left facing the devestation of "Empty Nest Syndrome."
The Mayo Clinic descrobes "Empty Nest Syndrome" as a profound sense of loss, which makes people vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis, and marital crisis. So, in this vulnerable time of transition, the most important task you have is to not get lost.
Here are some ways to reconnect with yourself and find your NEW purpose:
- Reinvent yourself in the work force. Start a new career path part-time or full-time, or go back to something you did before you had children. The possibilities are far more open than you may think. Go to a headhunter, an employment agency, or a life coach to help you decide how best to proceed.
- Attend a local community college and take interesting classes to finish a degree, or just take classes for fun.
- Join groups to meet new people and get out of the house. An example is Meetup.com. They have groups for business, recreation, and hobbies for people of any age range.
- Join a gym or yoga center and start reconnecting to your body. Get fit and meet new people. Exercise helps increase your serotonin, which is your "feel good" hormone. The benefit here is you will also look great.
- Try a new, updated hairstyle and makeover to help start this new journey in your life. Sometimes looking good is the first step toward feeling good about yourself.
- Spend time with your close friends and family who will support and love you. If you do not have a good support system built-in, then it is important to seek help. This is not something to feel bad about; this is a very real and normal feeling that happens to women who devote their lives to supporting and nurturing their family.
- Do not make any major, life-altering decisions for the first 18 months after your children leave home. It takes you that long to truly get back to being yourself and finding a new normal rhythm again.
"Empty Nest Syndrome" is much more devastating for a woman going through a divorce, retirement, menopause, or the loss of a spouse. If these circumstances compound the situation, it's in their best interest to get support and help. Hopefully, their children have the foresight to see how important it is to show support.
Finding your new purpose in life is very real; it just takes getting out there and seeing what new part of life feels the best to you.
Good luck with your journey and if I can help you with any part of it, please contact me.