I looked forward to the “empty nest” with a fervor that made me question the very existence of my basic mothering instincts. Where was the angst, the wringing of hands, the worrying that I would never see my fledglings again? Somehow I was fairly certain they would still be about and had no worries that I wouldn’t still be a part of their lives. So many of my peers seemed to be stressed and crying over the “last one leaving the nest”. As a friend I would listen intently, while wondering all the while what on earth was wrong with me, and then I would ask them the million dollar question. What are you afraid of? The answers were common with worries over not being needed, having no idea what to do with themselves, being alone or even more worrisome, being alone with one’s spouse after many years of focusing on the children. I would ask what they liked to do before the children came along and most said they couldn’t even remember. A vast majority of my friends replaced the children with dogs or cats and resumed parenting. I am all for adopting animals from the shelter but surely there is something more to do with this pivotal time of life.
All these conversations lead me to some serious thinking and a theory began to spring forth. Why do we need someone to nurture and yet neglect ourselves so completely? Here’s my life changing strategy: be your own baby. Aren’t we every bit as deserving of all that support, attention and guidance? I spent some time really thinking about what I used to enjoy, what I was passionate about and may still want to do. I also tried to stay open to new ideas and ventures. But most of all I became my own baby. Decisions were based on the question “would I approve of this for my child?”. You would be surprised at the choices we make for ourselves that we would never approve of for our children. Would I let my child spend an entire sunny day glued to the computer playing games and social networking? Of course not, so why do I think that’s a healthy choice for myself. Would I let my child go all day without eating then give them processed snack food for dinner? Let’s hope not, but I have been guilty of thinking that was good enough for me. When I am irritable, clumsy, and in a funk of a mood instead of berating myself I ask myself, what do you need? Are you hungry, tired, worrying over something? I then address the need with the same love and kindness I would show a child.
Try stepping back to take an outside observational look at yourself. On a deep level you are still the same person you were as a youngster. Most of us maintain a certain kernel of “self” that remains intact over the years. Nurture that tiny soul and watch it flourish. Applaud your own accomplishments with the same gusto you gave your kids. Make healthy choices to ensure plenty of rest, fresh air, good nutrition and daily learning. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and comfort yourself when you experience loss or sickness. You are already an experienced hand at being a good parent, so how lucky would you be to be your own baby!
For those rolling their eyes with the self-centeredness of it all, be rest assured you will still have plenty of opportunities to parent the ones that flew the nest. In my experience they are like tiny homing pigeons and can always find their way back. There are always plenty of others that need nurturing too, aging parents, spouses, friends and family are all there to ensure you are still needed on a consistent basis. But why not take just a little of that love and tend to your needs? You will be a stronger and happier nurturer if you do.
Go ahead, nobody’s looking, be your own baby!
*Disclaimers: On the one in a million chance that my own children may decide to read something I wrote and found their way here – no worries, I love being your Mum and honestly wasn’t waiting for you to get the heck out. I was full of anticipation of the chance to regain some passion for the things I was, well, passionate about. You all have children; read this again when they are off making their own way in the world and it won’t seem so harsh.
*No offspring may use this blog or any past or future blogs to bash what an awful parent I was. Start your own blog for that.