I am a 43-year-old married woman, fairly healthy, financially dependent (though secure) on my husband of 20 years, with a son who’s 18 years old and shifted base to another place for studies. I am suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome.
Empty Nest Syndrome is driving me crazy
Can your expert Ms Neha Anand please help me out. For the past three years, ever since my son flew out, I’ve had severe stress, which has started affecting my health, especially my mental health.
It started with me worrying about how he would be, his safety in a big city, whether he’d eaten well or not, etc. I would even cry about what I would do with my life now, as he’s gone and I have no one or nothing to look forward to. I live in a small town where there is absolutely no recreation or opportunity for me, to do something in my ample free time.
The mother-in-law doesn’t let me breathe
I have grown up abroad, which is why I can speak and write well, but now I hate living here in this small town with a very negative mother-in-law who won’t let me breathe freely. My husband is a great guy, but due to work and the fact that he is the only son in a small family, we both have 4 elders to take care of now. So we both can’t think of moving out with our son. It’s a circus here, with each elder trying to outdo the other in playing spoilsport to our plans, put us down, make us feel guilty about anything possible. My mother-in-law is a typical one, trying to instigate fights and problems between me and my husband.
I worry for my son
My health is affected by mental stress. I can’t stop worrying that my son is sometimes breaking rules where he stays, fearing his removal from the hostel or even worse, fearing that he will stop respecting people.
My body is also changing
Now my problem is, I’m at an age when my body is changing my body has started bloating and PMS hits me like crazy. I completely feel disoriented, like I can’t even bring myself to do simple tasks too. They feel like giant responsibilities.
I want my own space
It’s affecting my relationships. I feel like running away. I pray that my husband decides to shift me to the city where I can stay with my son and bring him back to being connected with us. I want my own time to follow my dream of being a writer, but demanding in-laws won’t let me be.
I feel, if I get to shift out, I’ll have my own life while taking care of my son, who will start valuing me more if he sees me happy. But that is a distant possibility. What do I do? How do I cope with this stress? My only lifeline is the internet, due to which I’m active on Bonobology. Nothing else to look forward to.
First of all, let me congratulate you for your first step towards self-love which certainly starts from self-awareness. When we understand the problem well then only we move in a direction to solve it.
Now, I come to your concern. It seems you are trapped in an Empty Nest Syndrome. You are experiencing a void and a sense of loneliness as your son moved out of the house. It mostly happens with full-time parents who embrace the identity of rearing, caring and nurturing their children. This is the nucleus of their life.
It’s time to reinvent your identity and reinvest in self-care and self-love. Here are a few tips which might help you out.
1. Start accepting that change is a universal law
It’s okay to feel low at this time when you and your son are in a major transition in your life. Your love should not be a shackle or a negative force to create barriers in the ladder of his success. Take it in a positive manner that you have been a great parent. Not everyone gets this opportunity to go out and pursue their dreams and aspirations. You made it happen for your son. It’s a proud moment to celebrate!
2. Remember missing someone is not a negative emotion
These emotions are a part of us. Since you are ruminating negative and irrational thoughts are making you feel scared. It’s the time when you have to work upon your cognition and challenge your irrational thoughts. Trust your son that he has the courage to handle his own problems and after all, it’s a learning phase for him where he will learn to equip himself with problem-solving skills.
3. Start investing time and energy in yourself
Start looking for your comfort zone and do something for yourself every day as a ritual. Learn a new course, or gift yourself a spa trip, go to a parlour, dining out etc. Your me-time is very important.
4. Share your emotions and concerns with your husband
Let him know what you have been going through or how you are feeling.
5. You need to be assertive
If things are bothering you at home it’s high time you confront and speak about it. Being passive or passive-aggressive would not help you out rather you will be suffocated. You can stop that feeling if you start making your own decisions by acting more assertively.
6. Stop looking for emotional backup from your son or husband
Shift your focus from them towards yourself. Take care of your health and make it a priority. You can practice yoga and meditation. Also, I believe you need to seek professional help. Nowadays online sessions are available too. You can reach me for a one-on-one session if and when required.