Coping with Empty Nesting Anxiety
I posted last week about viewing the whole experience of being an Empty Nester in a positive light using Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for my examples.. I joked about trying to not over parent and leave the munchkins to spread their wings in peace. Like many things it is much easier to say something than actually follow through and this week I’ve come remarkably close to overstepping the mark several times! I can only thank my kids for their levels of tolerance of my constant urge to over-parent.
I’ve noticed that whilst things are going super well with the girls, I can ‘play it cool’ and stay reasonably detached, but when there is even the teeniest glimmer of any problem (however small) I am suddenly there, offering unsolicited advice, suggesting ways of fixing things, judging and generally being an all round pain in the neck! It is at times when I am particularly stressed that I would be happy to turn to any thing to help. I’ve heard that Blessed CBD is something that can make an anxious parent feel calmer. I’m open for trying it.
To return to topic, any desire to over parent at this time does stem from real worry about whether the kids are doing ok as it is quite likely that they will feel at least a little bit homesick and have their own ‘stuff’ going on. The irony is that in trying to help it is easy to exacerbate this. A worry (another!) is that I don’t want the girls to ‘not tell me’ things about their life because of how I respond. I’m also concerned that they have both inherited, to some extent at least, the ‘Flint worry gene’ and that this creates problems for them in their own life! This is definitely not good! If only I could go back in time and learn earlier about role-modelling. Or, if I could go back in time and learn more about the different ways to handle stress and anxiety I would. For example, you can learn so much in a blog post about CBD and THC, about how it helps those who are struggling with stress and anxiety. Of course I can’t, but it is never too late to try to improve. I am therefore determined to put proper strategies in place to cope with Empty Nesting anxiety. This is what I have come up with:
- Remind myself that we’ve spent twenty odd years equipping the girls to manage the complexity of adult life. They are not helpless.
- Remind myself that my anxiety linked to their facing new challenges is the same anxiety I felt throughout their childhood milestones. We and they more than coped then. The same applies now.
- Remind myself that the girls know that there is no issue too large and nothing too trivial that they couldn’t come to us with.
- Use strategies like re-phrasing to keep perspective and reduce harm. For example, instead of, ‘they will never learn how to navigate the city and will fail their degree’, rephrase to, ‘in time they will find their way around and they will catch up on anything missed.’
- Know that many other parents are feeling the exact same emotions as myself.
- ·Know that my children are not the only ones to have ever left home and gone to university.
- ·Know that ‘time’ means that any disquiet and turmoil of emotions will be temporary.
Distractions and Treats
- Use the time to indulge myself in a bit of retail therapy.
- Exercise a lot as that is tried and tested for reducing stress.
- Read for escapism.
- Write (such as now-it is helping!)
Acknowledge the Problem
- Keep a journal. I had an ‘Annie diary’ that I wrote in for the first few months of Annie going to university as a way of managing worry. Maybe I need to get a ‘Betsy diary’ too.
- Share with the kids how you are feeling. They are empathetic beings and will ‘get it’.
- Seek advice from the kids about what is appropriate and inappropriate for you to do. Daily visits are a no-no!
- Have your own version of ‘Saint Mick of Thana’ listen to how you are feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved.
- Chat to other mums (or dads) who may be feeling the same.
Be Practical and Realistic
- Only send one message or make one call for every ten you want to make.
- Allow yourself one self-indulgent over-parenting action a day – ok, a week!
It’s Just Mum being Mum
I’m not sure that is great advice to myself really, but I am completely aware of the negatives that over-parenting can bring. It’s a bit like knowing smoking is harmful but still not giving up. I’m also aware that my anxiety may be linked to other things going on in life so I’m mindful of not transferring this onto the kids. I’m not successful but I’m mindful!
I had a funny text exchange last night. Betsy told me she had made rice and egg for dinner. I asked how it was and the response was 5 out of 10. I immediately offered to buy her a rice cooker to get the score higher. Her response is in the image below!
I did find it quite funny, but I guess it also shows how annoying I can be. In our family the girls share what I am like with each other (I think!) and I suspect I am the butt of a few jokes. That’s fine and I’m hopeful it serves to lessen the irritation that my over-parenting brings with it. I think behind the scenes Mick also probably smooths things over when I’m ‘too much’ and reminds the girls that any over-protectiveness only stems from loving them so much.
Despite all of the above I still can’t help thinking that ultimately it is quite likely that mum does know best after all and that the girls really should seek my wise counsel and obviously follow everything I suggest! Right back to the drawing board. I need to re-read this post and try again!