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Emptynester

(60 Posts)
happyfeet210 Mon 08-Apr-13 18:02:32

I am new at this and a little scared to say what's on my mind but here goes!
Are there other middle aged mums who struggle when their children leave? I am a retired 51 year old. (I have always worked until last year) My 20 year old daughter (only child) just headed back to Uni. She is in the 3rd term of her 2nd year. I am really proud of the way she has flown our nest and is getting on just fine but every time she leaves I just feel she takes another little piece of me. I still feel redundant and sad. I know looking back is wrong, I just need to take a can of "man-up" and get busy, and this is what I do, but it doesn't get any easier! Got any tips?

AgathaF Mon 08-Apr-13 18:15:54

No tips, but I can relate to how you feel. Our son is at uni, and although he comes home regularly, it's not the same as having him here full time. Our daughter is looking to move out with her boyfriend, she hopes this year. So we will have an empty-ish nest then.

As you say, it's lovely to see them getting on with their lives, but yes, the feeling of being a bit of a spare part is not so nice.

MarjorieAntrobus Mon 08-Apr-13 18:19:18

Hey Agatha! I was just thinking of replying to the OP (oops, hello OP blush ) to say I have no tips but much empathy, being a similar age and heading into the same stage.

I think it is as big an adjustment as becoming a parent was all those years ago.

MarjorieAntrobus Mon 08-Apr-13 18:22:26

I was talking to a friend about this a few weeks ago. We were both surprised at how redundant this stage made us feel, yet we know that we're not redundant in any real objective way, iyswim. It's not as if all of our identity was tied up in our children but, even so, their leaving changes things hugely.

Sheila Mon 08-Apr-13 18:26:07

Hi Happyfeet, I can identify with you, although I'm not there yet. I have one DS who's 13, and I'm already wondering how I'll cope when he's moved on.

My tip would be to work on your own life and your own projects - travel or a new job?

AgathaF Mon 08-Apr-13 19:03:26

I think its that your children are such a core part of your life, coming before work, hobbies etc for all of those years.

Someone said to me when I had our oldest one, "make the most of her, they're not babes in arms for long". It is so true. Sometimes when they are growing up it is hard fitting everything in, yet their childhood goes so very quickly.

cjel Mon 08-Apr-13 19:17:09

Have Ds who is 28 (also married DD) and has been in marines, gap year, to degrees and three children with his partner. Just moved out 2 weeks ago and I left my DH 2 years ago so am 53 and completely onmy own. Like you say I am very busy with loads on but I have had several days when I have sat and cried.!! You are not alone!!

wundawoman Mon 08-Apr-13 20:02:06

Perhaps try some voluntary work??

happyfeet210 Mon 08-Apr-13 20:25:39

Thanks Guys, sound advice, this is the hardest part of parenting yet. I am trying to get on with my new more "selfish" life, I went travelling for a month recently and am looking for temporary work to fund more travelling - I think keeping busy is the way to cope. I thankfully have my husband (who struggles too) so really feel for you who are single. Children are great and enhance your life, its a joy to see them grow and yes that was good advice that they are not babes in arms for long - Its good to know other older mums are out there!

Hi Happyfeet, empty-nester here too!

I have two dds, (22 and 19). I knew it was going to hit me hard, this emptying of the nest that I had built, and feathered and nurtured and loved for 22 years. I was actually fearful of how I was going to feel when my youngest went to uni. When DD1 went, I was so proud of her for her achievements and the way she was going bravely off into the world, and I still had dd2 at home, but I was gutted the day I left her there for the first time.

It's actually making me cry writing this, and that was over three years ago! She has now finished uni and is a grown up and lives her own fab life, and we talk very often and see each other less often, but are beautifully close.

But the prospect of my dd2 leaving, and it all being over, the motherhood stuff, worried me. So, between me and my husband we hatched a plan in advance and somehow it sort of worked! We decided to have our own adventure, and move to somewhere we'd dreamed of living, by the sea! And basically we moved just before she started at uni.

This gave me something exciting of my own to be getting on with so my daughter could go off to uni, and I could know that I wasn't giving off too many any desperate vibes, as I was fairly focused on the move as well. I won't say any of it was easy, and I didn't entirely escape the empty nest syndrome thing, as I really suffer with it sometimes, I really do. I'm still getting used to not being a mumma what dd2 calls me on a daily basis. Now it is in spurts.

For me, it has been like a kind of grief for the loss of all that lovely mothering stuff we've been doing for all those years. Yes, I enjoy the freedom I have now and yes, I am pleased that my DDs are out there in the world spreading their wings, and yes I know that means I did my job well, but I miss them sometimes and it hurts like hell. But then, when I get an email/text/call from either of them, I see that it's not over, it's just different.

I am very lucky that our move to the sea, while being a bit further from the dds, has proved to be an absolute delight, so I do have other really good and new stuff in my life. It is just odd, getting used to this phase of motherhood.

I apologise for banging on about myself, it's just that your post resonated strongly and I just wanted to say maybe if you think of something you've always wanted to do and then do it, or make plans to do it, then perhaps you can distract yourself in some way? There is no escape though, I don't think. I think it is a perfectly natural sadness that comes at the end of an era.

It is also a sign of how much it has meant to you, bringing up your dd.

And, whatever age they are, they come back, they need advice, they teach you stuff, you still teach them stuff sometimes, and actually, YOU ARE STILL THEIR MOTHER. It's just different.

So sorry op, that I'm not being much help, but I do actually feel your pain.

happyfeet210 Mon 08-Apr-13 20:54:16

oh thats so much help - thanks very much you know exactly where i am coming from. We are heading into a new relationship, she does call when she wants a "rant" and our conversations are borne out of mutual respect, she has grown so much. Hubs and I are really keen skiers so we headed off to the Alps for a month, something we've always wanted to do and I think we may go again next season, a move is possibly on the cards too. You are right it is a bit like grieving - for that great time we had. I am inspired - thanks and good luck to you.

Winterlight Mon 08-Apr-13 21:07:11

Funnily enough happyfeet I was thinking of posting something very similar earlier today, having just had a few sad reflective days.

I'm 51, my two DD's are 22 &25 and both now live away from home, after a few years of moving back and forth between traveling and University.

It's coming up to a year now since my youngest left and if anything I'm finding it harder. In the first few months I had more contact with her as she settled in, but now she is busy living her life (which is exactly what I want of course) but it really feels final now.

This past year I've gone on walking holidays, got another dog, taken up voluntary work, renewed creative projects, joined a meditation group; gone to festivals, etc done all the stuff that I promised myself I would when I had the time. But to be honest, lovely though it all is, nothing really comes close to filling the gap in my life.

It's difficult as I don't think that these feelings are discussed much and have found that most people expect you to embrace your new found freedom with open arms. But letting go has been, as you say, 'the hardest part' of parenting for me so far. (And I say that even after some terrible teenage years when I couldn't wait to get rid of them!)

Sorry not to be able to offer anything more positive at the moment, but you are not alone.

happyfeet210 Mon 08-Apr-13 21:27:01

Thanks Winterlight I appreciate your thoughts. There is so much advice and encouragment around for new parents but at the other end of the parenting journey we all keep quiet and feel we should man up just like with the menopause, but we are feeling just as frail and confused as those new mums, its another stage isn't it. But as Scarletwoman says "you are still their mother, its just different" - we are, each of us, heading into a new grown-up relationship with these incredible women we have shaped and I guess we should all be proud and embrace that.

AgathaF Tue 09-Apr-13 06:48:12

It's interesting to hear more about your house move Scarlet (I know we cross paths on other threads, so knew you had moved there relatively recently). My DH and I would love to live by the coast and have long dreamed of doing that. We live in the Midlands though, so it would be a big move for us. What puts us off at the moment is that, although I know our DD (and her boyfriend) would move with us and start a new life down there, our DS plans of staying in his uni city, which he really loves and is further north of us currently, and so we would be even further away from him. That worries me as ideally we would want to live near to our DC.

So, it's interesting to hear how well your move has worked for you from that perspective. Something to think about....

Hi agatha. We came to the conclusion that there was no guarantee of living near the dcs, because their plans may change as they go along. We didnt want to make our plans according to where we guessed they might end up, then find that one moves to paris, one to scotland or wherever. We decided to live where we wanted and go from there. My DH has two dds as well, so we would have been talking about basing where we live on our guesses of where four very different young women may choose to live.

rubyhaha Tue 09-Apr-13 07:20:10

I started reading this thread out of curiosity I have 3 dc under 7 and so all of this feels light years away but just wanted to say reading it made me cry as I know this is coming one day and I shall feel just the same.

That is why you have to make sure that you enjoy your time with you little ones, through every stage! This is actually just another stage, but I have found it the most difficult of them all.

Can I just say that the whole thing has been very difficult for me, and I have even, at times, felt that I have abandoned my dd2, sort of left her before she left me if you see what I mean. sad

I had this idea that they would grow up and keep coming home, to the place where they had grown up, and there I would be ready and waiting with a lovely roast for them, and the washing machine at the ready etc. But my dh pointed out that I would still be sad while they were not home and still miss them, and that I might as well do that from beside the sea and with some new stuff to do! The were many reasons for the move, not least my health, and the life we were living before was more expensive and difficult to maintain.

My dds dad lives in our old area so my dd2 can stay with him whenever she wants, so she can see her old friends etc. if this had not been the case we might not have moved as I would have felt far too guilty at uprooting her.

She is actually getting used to what we have down here, and is starting to we the benefits now. She loves surfing, which is available here, and has started to talk about inviting friends down, and getting a summer job here too, all of which have made me very happy, as I was scared I was sort of losing her in a way. But I'm not.

It is a very difficult and emotional time when our babies grow up, and I have tried to make it easier for myself. But actually, you can't avoid it altogether because it is a natural stage of motherhood.

FellaNextDoor Tue 09-Apr-13 07:50:34

I found dropping DD 1 off at Uni on her first day the most emotional and DW and I sat in the car (round the corner) and had a hug and cry. We knew that life would never be the same again.
DD 2 has now finished Uni and is travelling having lived away for a year.
I miss them both but know that life has to move on ( would not feel right to have say a 50 and 52 yr old at home) and I am proud of who they are now.
We have found that work has become more demanding and is filling lots of time and we dream of a couple of years when we can both stop and spend all our time together as a couple.
We do now have lots of quality time together and have found we treat ourselves a lot more
As another poster has said - you need to really enjoy every single day with your children as they grow up and bottle as many memories as you can because the years do just skip by.

AgathaF Tue 09-Apr-13 09:56:52

I agree with what you say Scarlet, there is no knowing where they will end up living. The advantages of them being able to visit you by the sea must be lovely for them too, and looking ahead, your grandchildren will love staying at the seaside with you (might be getting a bit ahead of myself there grin).

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 09-Apr-13 10:13:17

Have this coming this autumn. Plan to embrace it as a chance to be a couple again, (hilariously, when DH became self-employed and began working from home I took at least 4 months to adjust and the idea of "more time for just the 2 of us" lost a little of its allure! Better now thankfully).

It is great when DS comes home on visits so I tell myself DD will be back too and I mustn't be selfish and spoil her excitement.

We plan to move house so we can start afresh. Strange this time settling somewhere without having little ones to break the ice or meet folks at playgroup etc. I guess I feel it will be a positive close of one era, not just left behind pining for the past.

noddyholder Tue 09-Apr-13 10:18:53

I will have this this autumn too. Have only one child and just not sure how it feel without him! Dp and I are looking forward to some things and we have seen a lot of our friends go through this and all bar one have their children back living with them after uni! But I am also hugely proud and try to keep that to the front of my mind. smile

springyhappychick Tue 09-Apr-13 10:32:53

oh it's just horrible. I brought my kids up alone and, although I tried to prepare myself for when they left, nothing prepares you. It is like a bereavement and you wonder what the point of anything is tbh. (not serious gloom btw!, just gloomy).

I am patiently waiting for the emptiness to pass and for my new life to eclipse the old one. It's a long time coming but I'm patient. It's good to be alive, at least...

A gratitude list is a good idea. At least to help tip those scales a bit. Every little helps smile

springyhappychick Tue 09-Apr-13 10:35:30

Gosh, you've got me going now. I live in an area full of young mothers and I find it a bit unbearable sometimes. I look at them with their buggies and their straggling toddlers and I think 'that was me once!'. It went by in an absolute flash. It feels like it's been ripped away and I wish I had some camcorder stuff to look at to remember them, in motion as it were.

<blub>

coffeeinbed Tue 09-Apr-13 10:39:24

I don't think you should man up, TBH. You feel what you feel and you cannot force it.

On a practical note, could you get a dog?

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