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Empty Nests: One mom recounts her personal experience

Empty nest syndrome refers to the grief many parents feel when their children move out of the home. Here one mom recounts her experience.

All parents have to face the moment when their children leave home one day. Margie Cunnama shares her “empty nest” experience.

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth”, so said Kahlil Gibran, best known as the author of The Prophet.

Remember that moment soon after the birth of your first child when you realised that you would kill or even die for that little scrap who would be always joined to you by an ever-lengthening invisible cord?

You spent nine months anticipating this moment but nothing could prepare you for it! You went from being a self-absorbed, probably fairly selfish, independent individual who kept her commitments firmly in their place, to an intuitively unselfish and fully committed parent.

In some cases, this realisation is a terrible shock for which we are totally unprepared and which leaves us in a state of depression until we allow our maternal instincts to take over.

Remember the first time you stretched that cord and left your precious angel with grandma for a few hours, and then stretched it a little more the first time she slept over with grandma? It was like you were missing a limb. And the time you stood in the grocery queue and realised you were rocking backwards and forwards and you weren’t even holding your baby?

And the first time she was sick and you thought your world was ending. You would happily have been on your death bed yourself if it meant your baby didn’t have to suffer.

Remember leaving your darling child on her first day of preschool? You went home and cried your eyes out and counted the minutes until you could fetch her again, feeling the cord tugging ever harder. And you were so excited to see her and she ignored you and wanted to stay and play with her new best friend.

What about her first sleepover with a friend? You were convinced that you would get a call at 10 pm to come and fetch her but instead, she called the next morning to ask if she could stay another night. And then in the blink of an eye, you have an 18-year-old who is going overseas for a gap year and you have to say a teary farewell at the airport and watch her head off into the big wide world. The invisible cord is stretched halfway around the world but still, it does not snap.

For a few weeks, you live every moment that your now-adult child is experiencing. You console her in moments of homesickness and console yourself when she is having the time of her life and forgets to call. You look back over 18 years and wonder how it all happened so quickly. All those precious moments which you thought would last forever concertina into no time at all and you wish you could have it all over again.

Would you spend less time moaning and complaining and wishing for ‘me-time’ and more time treasuring every moment? Probably not, but you do realise that your empty nest is filled with a lifetime of precious memories and you start to enjoy the newfound space and freedom in the knowledge that your most important life’s work is complete.”  

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