There is very little preparation in motherhood for becoming an empty nester. One day you are cooing over your newborn baby, the years pass by in a whirr of activity and, suddenly, it’s the day that you will also remember for ever because it is your empty nester day. Today, 11 February, is my first anniversary of becoming an empty nester. I will henceforth remember it the way I do birthdays and anniversary days but not quite with the same joy reserved for these days which involve cards, balloons and cakes.
Empty nester anniversaries are down days unless your child happens to be the equivalent of a bag of used tissues that you couldn’t wait to get rid off.
Kids! They come into your lives, upend it, move out and upend it all over again.
You know what the one thing is that I hate the most about being an empty nester? It is the silence. I used to complain about the noise level. There were Sundays when my daughter would have her friends over and they would be up till late playing music and singing. Drove me up the wall. I would get quite grumpy and tell them to quieten it down. I regret that. In the silence of being an empty nester I can literally hear the clock tick by these days. There are no sounds of giggling or, even for that matter, grumbles over how I haven’t done the washing on time.
Nothing prepares you for becoming an empty nester. What I did read promised me sunlit uplands of ‘finding myself’ in the acres of time that I would have once my child didn’t need me as much anymore. A fat load of twaddle that was. I cried buckets in the lead up to her move. I was labouring under the delusion that letting my anxiety and sadness out would leave me better equipped emotionally to deal with things once she had left. After her move, I cried oceans and found it so hard to get through the days that I had to hire a confidence coach to help me get back on track.
After three months, I was able to regain some semblance of my old self. I threw myself into my career, creative aspirations and gardening. The garden flourished, I was promoted, I rewrote my novel, and felt able to smile in the sunshine. The photo montage above visually charts my progress. The last photo is of a wedding which we attended in September last year. I look like my old self, smiling and optimistic but there are still many days when all I want to do is sit in a corner and turn the clock back.
Apparently it takes between 18 months to 2 years to fully recover from that sense of loss over your child’s departure. I can believe that.