It seems to me that I always told my daughters that they had to leave home when they got to eighteen years old. I didn’t really mean it but I wanted to give them a sense that independence and growth was important to them. I wanted them to know that I had a life outside of them and not to feel that I needed them to be by my side all the time. I expected them to learn how to be an adult and sort of forgot to think about what I was going to do when they had gone.
It isn’t exactly that they have gone, they still are a huge part of my life and they still from time to time need their mum. Fortunately, I didn’t exactly devote my life to being at their every beck and call and as a full-time working mum and their dad wanted to spend time with them too; I was able to have some time for me. I haven’t been lucky in love as you will know from previous blogs and my book. So I found myself getting involved in all manner of activities when my first daughter started to leave, increasingly absent and doing her own thing.
I started to learn to play the guitar, my poor girls heard me poorly strumming and plucking out some riffs. I was trying to learn for a few months and then even my guitar tutor deserted me for a while and then never re-engaged. Story of my life, and yes, he was male. Then I decided to pack up smoking for good the day before my fiftieth and run the London marathon five months later, when I managed to get a charity place and a friend of mine said they were going to do it as they had a ballot place. The raising of charity funds was just as hard work as the race training and then my friend had a poorly hip and couldn’t run. I was picked as one of the official marathon bloggers that year. How cool and the prize was fab! Muggins made it round on her own and my daughters and best friend were at mile 22 to cheer me on to finish, I still think it was somehow not right that I drove us all home after the race and didn’t get home until 1 a.m. The passengers all fell asleep except my bestie who kept me company on the journey.
I carried on running after the VLM for a while and joined a Facebook running club called the Tea Dragons, such great people. Then I hurt my back and stopped. I also started an online network business, well two of them within two years. I had to draw a line on just doing one, but I keep the other one going in case I need to pick it up again. I went self-employed working on intense healthcare projects, published my first book, joined lots of social media platforms, became a Trustee for a charity, got on the NHS Staffing Bank, became a volunteer for Age UK in the pandemic. I think I panicked a bit!
So far in January 2021; I have brought an indoor cycle so I can recreate a spin class, re-started my guitar lessons with another tutor online and tried to learn to shuffle, which means spending too long on TikTok! Oh, and I have another attempt at finding love online in a pandemic- what am I thinking? I have had to stop myself from signing up to a Nutritionist Course and last night I was looking at a diploma in dog training because my rescue dog is still a right pickle and could do with some help. I am reflecting today about whether this is a symptom of that ‘Empty Nest’ Syndrome with some innate fear that my life has no value if I don’t keep myself busy and constantly learning new things. Or, it could be this whole pandemic going on; generating fear and forcing us to do things ourselves that we used to be able to access more freely, like a dog trainer (is it an essential service). On the other hand, it could also be my feelings of guilt that I am doing okay and so much better than so many others and I should do as much as possible to help others. Even if that is in some way showing others that it’s okay and that you can do anything you set your mind to.
I have spent more time this past year on mediation and listening to manifestation tracks as I fall asleep; I think they are also contributing to this level of energy and activity I have had this past year in particular. My current one is manifesting more confidence; the abundance and soul mate attraction ones didn’t seem to be working. Perhaps I am suffering from some kind of butterfly syndrome as opposed to an empty nest one. Someone in my family called me a butterfly the other day, it resonated. It’s not the first time. I flit from one thing to another. I drift into and out of people’s lives unless they are family or make me feel like I am their family. Maybe the butterfly syndrome is responsible to my every growing list of failed relationships.
What’s the difference?
Empty Nest: this was recognised as a response to the leaving home of your children leaving you with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety and agitation. How are they going to cope without you and how are you going to cope without them?
According to the internet:
Butterflies: are not only beautiful creatures, but do a great deal for the environment. Like bees, they are plant pollinators, and they provide population control for a number of plant and even insect species by eating them. They also serve as sustenance for other species.
Butterfly syndrome is actually a terrible skin condition. Being butterfly like, I think suggests that I’m a pollinator. I help grow things and provide a resource for others.
Either way, here are my top survival tips for when the children leave home:
1. Celebrate the event – it is exciting, a rite of passage and a time you will see that your great parenting skills have paid off. Despite them seeming small and vulnerable to you; recognise they are really pretty awesome and very capable.
2. Make a list of things that make you happy – it can be dancing about naked or learning a new skill. Just know that it’s time for YOU! Time that you can do the things you’ve been putting off or telling yourself you haven’t got time to do. Start some new adventure or venture.
3. Communicate – let your friends and family if you are struggling or having a bad day. Likelihood is that they still think you are an amazing Supermum who has got it all sorted.
4. Know your kids – you do really know your offspring better than they know themselves and you are still their parent, right? So, when they ignore your texts and calls and make excuses about not coming home; respect their need for space and growth without you on their back constantly. They need to know you are doing well without them as much as you need to know they are doing just fine. You will instinctively know when they need you.