Empty Nest Syndrome
Having had five wonderful children and spent the last 27 years of my life bringing them up, I definitely feel that ENS or Empty Nest Syndrome is a very real disease (not one that needs medication but one that needs preparing for). My youngest, having turned 16 last year is about to join the army and the feeling of emptiness now that all my children have grown up and formed lives of their own is almost palpable.
The bringing up of my children dominated my life in the most wonderful way, I was a stay at home mum and loved every minute of it, from the constant washing and ironing to the school trips I always went on because I was a member of the PTA (Parent, Teacher Association). I recently read about Nadiya Hussain from The Great British bake off feeling put down when she used to take her kids to school because other mothers would ask what she did and when she told them she was a housewife and mother, she felt they were not valuing her role. I felt the opposite, I loved being home with my children and felt sorry for the mothers who worked because they missed out on so much. When people asked me about using my brain I really just felt that happiness doesn’t come from using your brain, having said that, you don’t have to go to work to use your brain, I was very busy doing other stuff to stimulate my brain.
When I say dominated my life I mean it in every wonderful sense of the word, every decision made was according to what was happening in the children’s lives, and even listening to a music cd in the car was decided for me. I have been through favourites such as the Spice Girls, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Katie Perry, Rihanna, Jason Derulo, DJ Cammy, BlackEyed Peas, McFly to Take That and every boy band in between. Every car trip turned into a fight for cd domination, whoever was sat in the front got to choose which cd we played. Carpool Karaoke had nothing on us, we even trained all the kids to love and sing along to every song on the Bat out of Hell Album (the only one of our choice which soon became theirs), if there had been phone cameras in those days, we would have had thousands of hits with a video of our whole family, aged from 2 up to 15 and us parents singing Paradise by the Dashboard Light at the top of our voices.
But sadly those days are gone, my children are no longer children, they are adults with lives of their own and I feel empty inside. I love and respect the adults they have become but I so, so miss the children they were. I miss the life we had in so many ways, I miss the big things like every time they were picked for “Seren y Dydd” (Star for a day), or picked for the rugby team, won something in school, took part in Eisteddfods, the times when seeing my face in the audience was all they needed while they played various parts on stage from Mary in the nativity to the main part in South Pacific and all other parts in between. I miss the concerts I went to, watching them sing, play violin, play piano, act, dance and sing in amateur dramatics. I miss the driving back and fore to the various lessons they took, ballet, swimming, horse riding, violin, piano, singing, choir practice, rugby, football, rhythmic gym and anything else they wanted to take part in.
Everything to the small and seemingly insignificant things, to washed out camping trips, rained off picnics which turned into car picnics, time spent just sitting watching them play in the sand or in the garden, precious moments that I will never get back but will remain in my heart forever.
Their birthdays no longer hold the same excitement for me, making sure all the friends were invited and could come to their party, making sure all the right food was sorted, and for the bike parties, making sure all the tyres were pumped up and ready to go. The build up to their birthdays was a major event depending on which party they decided to have, we have had cycling parties, swimming parties, camping with midnight ghost walks into the woods. Bouncy castles, indoor and outdoor play places or parks, rugby fields etc. have all been part of our party themes. There were the many sleepovers that should have been called awakeovers, which, during the time I used to dread, due to lack of sleep, but I now would give anything to have them and their friends all laughing and screeching their way through the night. Halloween now just comes and goes, no fake blood, no fog machine, no dressing up. Whereas in the past we used to spend the week before, preparing for the party, which was always around half term, we decorated the whole house, spent ages making the food and on the night Nanna used to come up un-announced dressed as a ghost tapping on the window, there was a lot of screaming in my house on Halloween, I even miss that.
I am now in a position where I don’t know who I am, my film, TV, cd, entertainment was determined by them and what they wanted but it is only now when I look back that I realise this. The thing is their favourite things became my favourite things, after they were dropped off at school, Jason Derulo was still playing on the cd player, when they went to bed Friends was still playing on the dvd player (although they would always ask “Just one more episode mam?”) I loved what they loved and now they are no longer part of my decision making I find it hard to decide what to listen to or watch etc. etc.
I still listen to the cds they have left in my car and still watch some of the films we used to love to watch together but it very often brings a tear to my eye as they are no longer there to cwtch up with on the sofa, they are living their own lives. Parenthood is by far the best thing I have ever done and the people I have brought into the world are the best people, but losing them to life is hard!
I miss the camping trips with their friends, I miss the friends coming over for tea, I miss the chats with their friends. I miss their friends!
I miss the Christmases when they believed in Santa, they were magical, from putting up the many decorations and our collection of Santa’s which we added to every year, the hiding of all the shopping the endless concerts and parties in December and then Christmas week was just so special. It just doesn’t hold the same excitement for me now, I have grandchildren but they are not mine and my children will provide all the excitement they need I am just an onlooker.
When I was young I never had huge career ambitions I just knew I wanted to have children, I achieved my dream many times with my five wonderful children. As well as missing the children they were, I miss the person I was when I was bringing them up, I was just Mami! I cooked for them, cleaned for them, took them wherever they needed to go with extra trips to the school when they forgot their various kits or lunch boxes, or jumper/coat etc., I joined the PTA so I could spend more time with them being able to supervise on various trips, organise the fundraising events and got to spend time in the school during the organising of events when they would just pass through the dining hall and be waving frantically at me, so pleased to see me there.
When my first daughter left to go to university it was hard but made easier by the fact that I still had four children at home but it was still like a knife in my heart when I suddenly realised during her time at university that she didn’t need me in the same way anymore, it’s hard to say why or what event made me feel this way, but it was just a knowing that she had gone from me, she had other friends sho told things to and boyfriends, but like I said, it was made easier by my remaining children, but now my youngest has gone, he is staying with his dad while I go on my travels until he joins the army in a month, but he had gone from me a couple of years before probably, being the youngest, the others used to tease him about being a mami’s boy so he stopped cwtching on the couch, holding hands, kissing me etc. If I could have my time with them as children again I would jump at the chance, they are very special adults and I love them very much and we still share a lot of joy but nothing compares to the time when you were the most important person in your children’s lives.
I remember the story reading before bed, for the girls it was the Famous five and Little Women as well as doing their reading, every night diligently reading the English and Welsh home reader books given in school, with the boys they enjoyed the Famous Five books but they also enjoyed learning capitals of the world, we used to practice them all before bed, testing each other on which they remembered, they now know all the capitals of everywhere in the world. My youngest used to go to sleep listening to Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat when he was a baby.
My older girls were involved in amateur dramatics, so as a family we became hooked on musicals and had all the sound tracks which we used to all sing along to, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat were the favourites. Not forgetting The Sound of Music, we dressed up and went to see singalonga Sound Of Music in Swansea Grand Theatre, I made the children’s clothes from curtains and dressed up as Maria myself, we had such fun singing along while watching the film, and we also did the same in Cardiff with Joseph.
I watch them with their children and see the joy they feel and know how much more they have to come and the joy I feel with my grandchildren is very special but I still miss my children, maybe it is a phase I need to go through and I’m sure with time the tears won’t be so ready to fall at every song on the radio that we used to sing together or every place I go that we used to go, I’m sure there are other parents out there who feel the same as me, I can’t be the only one surely?
I know that the memories I have will never be erased but I just need some time to develop myself again. I feel like I grew up while bringing my children up, as everyone knows they don’t come with an instruction manual and you learn as you go along but the responsibility of it all encourages you to grow up and put your own needs to one side while you try your best to give your children the best start in life. For me it seemed that giving them love and ensuring their health through healthy diet and lifestyle was the best I could do for them and this is what I tried to achieve. I know that some of the things I did with my children has made a difference to their lives as I watch them do the same with their children. My job is done and it feels good in many ways but in one huge way I feel bereft. Time will heal the pain, no doubt and I look forward to discovering myself again.