It only seemed like five minutes ago that you were showing your son or daughter how to tie their shoelaces. And it doesn't seem that long ago that you were leading them down the path as they happily (perhaps) made their first-ever trip to school. Heck, it seems like only yesterday that you were telling them off for turning your ironing board into an impromptu go-kart! Good times! And now…
They've gone and flown the nest. They're now living in a flat of their own or private student accommodation if they've headed off to college or uni, and you are now left to cope, flapping your wings while dealing with this sudden change in your life. Just what are you supposed to do now? Who are you going to yell at for not washing the dishes? Who are you going to get to walk the dog? We jest, of course.
Empty nest syndrome is common amongst many parents. With overwhelming feelings of grief and loneliness (and not just worries about who is going to help them do the household chores), the adjustment can be hard to take.
If this is you, or if you are readying yourself for the experience, we have a few tips for you.
Be glad that your child has found their feet
Being honest with yourself, you might have dreaded the alternative, and that is your child staying at home forever, so be glad that they have finally become independent. Assuming you have taught them the necessary life skills for life on their own, be proud that they are now able to make their way in the world because of the effort you put in as a parent.
Remember that they haven't said goodbye forever
Okay, so your child might not be living under your roof anymore, but that doesn't mean you can't invite them round for a meal and a catchup. Go and visit them too, and stay in touch on Skype or FaceTime. You don't want to pester them of course - you might only annoy them if you're forever showing up at their door or on their smartphones - but a conversation every couple of days is probably okay. And besides, you will probably see them more than you thought anyway, as their laundry isn't going to wash itself, and they can only go so long living on a diet of Pot Noodles and baked potatoes!
Do something new with your life
Remember the hopes and dreams you had before you became a parent? Remember the hobbies you had to put to one side because your life was taken up with the demands of your child's hobbies and after-school clubs? Think about these things and then start to focus on yourself. Take the opportunity to go back to uni if that had been one of your goals (and not an attempt to see more of your child if they have gone to uni themselves). Return to your hobbies, and perhaps use the empty room you now have in your home to help you fulfil them. And do anything else to live your life as you, remembering the person you are above and beyond your role as a parent.
So, stop flapping your wings in a panic Daddy Bird. Change is inevitable in life, and it is something that we all have to put up with. But that doesn't mean that your life is over, so be happy for your child's independence, and be happy that you now have the means to have a little bit more independence yourself, even if that does mean you are now responsible for washing the dishes and taking the dog for a walk.