A NEW LESSON FROM THE EMPTY NEST

The empty nest always has new lessons to teach us - are we ready to learn them?

THINKING I KNEW IT ALL

After several years of being an Empty Nester I thought I knew it all. I've written quite a few posts about how to make it work and how to let your children fly the nest and not cling on to their tailfeathers as they take off. I've waxed lyrical about re-discovering life with my husband and the peace and quiet of living with a couple of cats and no kids. I write about how much I love them coming home to visit and how lovely it is to have the family back together for a while.

THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW

But, just recently I had an additional awakening as to my understanding of the whole "letting go" thing. Up until now, I had always made the assumption that our grown and flown kids felt as attached to us as we do to them. I assumed we took up part of their headspace like they do in our thoughts about them. I honestly thought that they loved hearing from us all the time and looked forward to phone calls and visits and long conversations to fill in their spare time. I thought they would be fascinated with how our lives were going and more than happy to fill us in on the minuatiae of their days.

What I had left out of my calculations was the fact that they are busy getting on with creating lives of their own. Our life stays much the same - same work, same homelife, same routines, same cat stories, same weekend outings, etc etc. Theirs is constantly moving and evolving and being built on. They are investing large amounts of time in their careers to establish themselves and earn payrises and recognition. They are paying mortgages, juggling finances, working out what their priorities are, combining their lives with another person and finding out how to make their values and backgrounds mesh. On top of that there are babies to plan for, time off work to mother them, a resultant drop in income, changes to routine, sleep, socializing etc etc.

WHERE DO WE FIT?

Trying to fit a couple of middle aged parents in the loop and finding time for them is an added weight to carry. A regular phone call or catch-up seems like a small thing to ask for from our point of view, but for our kids it can be another thing to juggle in amongst all their other commitments and it's tough for them to fit it all into the pressures of everyday life - it becomes a duty rather than a pleasure. 


One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of what you can't change

A lovely young woman who comes from a very interconnected family told me the other day that sometimes she'd just like a month off from her family. She finds it hard to balance her time with her husband and baby and then meet the extra demands her parents put on her. They would be horrified to think that they were imposing - but from the other side of the fence, that is what it seems like.


WHAT TO DO?

I've come to realize that I can't be the one who determines the amount of contact, or who feels sad when the calls and conversations are less frequent than what I'd like. I need to look at it from their perspective and realize that they have a completely different set of agendas going on and parents aren't right at the top of the list (quite understandably).

Sometimes letting go means more than you realize at the time. Sometimes we have to suck it up and let them put the boundaries in place. Sometimes we have to drop the expectations and let it be on their terms. Sometimes we have to put ourselves further down the pecking order and acknowledge that we aren't as high on their list of interesting people as they are on ours. Sometimes it feels like we're left to our own devices and maybe that's not a bad thing. Sometimes we just have to let them go and hope that they eventually find a happy medium where they don't feel pressured to connect and we don't feel left behind and forgotten.

LESSON LEARNED

Balance in relationships is in constant flux depending on where everyone's at on any given day or time. Being the empty nester means giving them space and accepting whatever they feel able to offer at any particular time - even though it may not be what you'd hoped for. 

It's been a tough lesson for me to learn and there is still some fallout to get through while I redefine my expectations and learn my place in the new order of things. But, I'm a grown up and I can see the bigger picture - it's a tough one to get my head around at the moment, but I'm sure I'll get there eventually. In the meantime it's about creating peace and meeting the needs of others - sometimes by putting mine in second place and that's okay because harmony is what we all ultimately want.


The empty nest always has new lessons to teach us - are we ready to learn them?

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26 comments

  1. I am feeling the pain of letting go all over again - Miss 20 moved back home for "a while". In actual fact it was all of 2 weeks and she is already gone to a place near the city, so a good 30 min drive from us. Love her to bits but she is busy establishing her own life now xxx

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    1. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise Janet - a short and sweet return to the nest and gone before all the niggly little things start to raise their head. Letting them go each time is hard but rewarding too.

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  2. Life is all about lessons Leanne and I can't complain about contact with my children as I was always encouraging them to fly away and make something of their lives. We can't have it all ways. I have a great relationship with my children, and see my daughter more because I mind Ethan. However, I also realise that they have their life to live and actually so do I. Now is the time for hubby and I to do what we always wanted to do. So I say enjoy the family times when you have them but also enjoy your freedom.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

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    1. I agree completely Sue - it's about re-creating your life and not waiting around for the next visit/phone call/email. We need to fill our world and let them come and go on their own terms - which may not be as often as we like, but that's life isn't it?

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  3. I nodded at all of this. I used to think we should have been contacted or thought about more...especially since we had been the adult kids' main child carers for their kids (our grandkids) so they could return to work etc. Nope. Did not happen and still does not. It has taken me a LONG time to come to terms with what used to be almost daily catch ups. Now, nothing unless there is a need from their end. I grew up obliged to keep in touch with my parents and realise that I really don't want my kids to feel the same as I did. So, I let go and it's hard but it is the truth. Thanks for linking up today for #lifethisweek 25/52. Next Week: Halfway Review 2017.

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    1. We get caught between our needs and the duty we give to our parents and the new order of things don't we Denyse? Adult kids today just don't seem to feel the same obligations as we do and maybe that's a good thing. At least when they do call or visit we know it's because they want to and not because they feel obliged to.

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  4. The first few years of married life my mother-in-law would call two or three times a day - usually to tell us things she thought we should be doing. We made it through that time and things changed, but not without hurt feelings all around. I didn't want to be that woman, so unless there's some information I need to share, I usually wait until they call me. Now it's the daughters-in-law who call and my sons send text messages as group texts. We join in those and that's how we all stay in touch. It's a fine line for sure. This is a lesson we all need; thanks for sharing it!

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    1. My kids don't do Skype or Facetime - it would be nice, but they tend to stick to the occasional phone call, email or visit. I do get some lovely little videos of our granddaughter every so often and I love those. I think for me, it was realizing what a small part of their world we actually take up and learning to adjust my expectations accordingly - still working on getting that right!

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  5. I know it is super easy for me right now because the 11-year-old is smothering me :-) all I can think about is how eager I am to shove her little fledgling legs out of the nest. But once they are strong and she's ready to stride away I'm fully aware of this will get hard. Again.

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    1. Make the most of the mother and daughter time - the adjustment when they leave is a tricky one Carla - some stay really close and others need their space. I thought I had the former, but it turns out I have the latter - kills my heart a little but such is life.

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  6. I get what you are saying and I felt this way for awhile...but when you lose your parents you realize just how important they were in your life and then they aren't there anymore...so I try to let my kids know this and I think they do...more now as they are getting older...but you never get that time back once your parents are no longer alive...I wish mine were..

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    1. I love the closeness I have with my Mum Renee and I can't imagine not having a long chat with her each week - I guess I expected it would be the same for me and my kids, but they are so busy and weeks slip by and boundaries are adjusted - distance can be a bit of a killer at times unfortunately.

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  7. Exactly, you don't want to be a burden but throw you bone with a text that is truly just fine! I was just talking about this with my sister. Thank goodness for long commutes and bluetooth and FaceTime one the phone and Skype! My sister mentioned that her son's wife talks to her Mother all the time and she thinks that is why her son calls her or Facetimes her often. It puts the idea in his head, call your Mother!Whatever works!

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    1. I agree Haralee - sometimes I wonder what's so hard about finding half an hour for a chat each week, then I realize I'm viewing it from my worldview and not theirs. It's pointless trying to figure it out - now I just take what's on offer and have to be satisfied with that.

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  8. I so identified with this post and all the comments. It's good to read other people's take on the topic. I have three kids, all married with children, and I have made a point of not being a demanding mom. But there are times I have to swallow hurt and remind myself about the times when my own mother or mother-in-law must have felt neglected by my husband and I. (Sorry Moms!)

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    1. I'm exactly the same Shirley - I think I'm pretty undemanding in what I want from my kids, but apparently parents today rank fairly low on the priority list. I guess our kids think we're doing fine and don't need much contact and you're right about probably being similar with our own mothers - hopefully we were a bit more connected than once a month though!

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  9. My parents got around this by creating a once a month Sunday dinner at their house. It was a standing invitation but not mandatory. Since my father was a chef and we all missed Dad's cooking (and it meant that we didn't have to plan or cook anything,) most of the kids showed back home for that one day a month--families in tow. Not everyone could make it every month, but Dad always made enough in case everyone did.

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    1. I love the whole idea of Sunday get togethers Jennifer - trouble is it doesn't work when your kids live hours away - visits are pretty limited and phone calls and emails are what we hang out for - I think the distance puts us out of their minds a bit and any prompts are seen as demands - easier to let go and wait for them to find the time to call.

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  10. This is a great post. And you are right. I'm so not an empty nester because I had my children later. Most of my college friends are on the brink of being an empty nester. When we are empty nesters, we'll be even older and probably even more of a burden. Your advice and wisdom is good to remember.

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    1. It's strange to think of ourselves as nuisances Leigh - we assume our kids would be fascinated with how their parents' lives are going, but that's not really the case - they are too busy living their own and I think they like the idea that we are getting on wit our lives and not waiting by the phone for them to call! Enjoy those later in life babies of yours :)

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  11. My oldest son has been gone from home for over 20 years. I let him contact me on his schedule. I am amazed when some of my friends say they call their adult children everyp.

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    1. Everyday. I hate this auto correct that is not correct.

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    2. I have friends who speak to their adult kids every day - it weirds me out a bit to tell the truth - I think I had the idea they'd call weekly, but for kids these days it seems like monthly is more their preference - and that's better than nothing I guess!

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  12. I was very close with my mom and called her every day after I moved out. It wasn't expected, it was just something I enjoyed. I suppose I have always expected that my own kids would do the same when they move out, but I have no idea. We're not there yet, but it's coming! Great food for thought!

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    1. I think you've described exactly how I feel Kim - I just thought our kids would want to maintain the connection - but they redefine it on their terms and we need to adjust to that or negotiate it to something we are comfortable with.

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  13. So true! I had to let go of a lot of things and I have felt so much better

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