Empty nesters….what does that word make you think of? Is it a yahoo moment that your children are leaving the house, or is it a moment of wanting to boo-hoo that they are off on their own in the big wide world? Whatever the emotion there is a bigger question left for us to ponder. What happens to us now?
I recently wrote a blog about becoming a mother and how motherhood changes us as people. You know that part of you that has been slowly emerging for the past 18 years, putting your children’s needs before yours, getting them through school, extra curriculum activities, and possibly broken bones or broken hearts. Then you turn around and they are off to a new adventure and we are left wondering - who am I now?
Oh yes, I remember that day three years ago when my twins left for university and I thought my heart would break. I remember asking my husband “am I still a mother because I do not feel like one anymore?” As I cried, and boy did I cry, I again had to work out who this new version of me was going to be without my children being the center of my life.
I was one of the lucky ones because I had a career that I loved, a husband that I enjoyed doing things with and wonderful friends and family. Yet for the past 18 years, my identity had been that of a mother and I felt lost.
So how do we find ourselves once our children have left the house? Well first of all I allowed myself to be sad. I slowed my life down from August to December and did what I needed to do to heal. If I wanted to read when I came home from work, I read. If I wanted to go out with friends I would, or maybe I just stayed home and went to bed early. I slowly allowed myself to grieve the loss of my children and the part of me that was being forced to change into a new version of myself.
Then in January, after my period of mourning, I made a decision to start engaging in activities again, the things I loved while trying to find myself. I had always enjoyed biking, so I started doing more off-road biking, my husband and I did a lot of beach clean-ups, saw friends, traveled, kayaked, scuba diving again (so much cheaper when there are only two of you), and being creative. I started to take notice of my garden and would spend time reading, something I had not really been able to do in the past 18 years.
Were there days that I really struggled - absolutely and were there days that I felt at peace, yes? It is definitely an ongoing journey and one that I have to keep navigating because next year in 2023, my children are going to be leaving university and starting their own lives in other states. I am going to have to adapt again as they set out on their new adventures, with their own partners, friends, work and activities and that is okay. It’s how life is meant to be.