DEEPA ALEXANDER

Empty-nest syndrome encapsulates the feelings of sadness and loss that many women experience when their children no longer live with them. Confronting an empty nest requires enormous re-organisation. It means trying to rearrange the very architecture of your life, your identity and your connection to someone you love. No matter how sad women feel, they want to make it easy for children to go away and assure them that they’ll be all right. We spoke to mothers, a daughter and a psychologist on concrete ways to take charge of the transition, instead of just letting it happen.

Deal with it

T he empty nest is far more traumatic for women who had devoted their early adult years to home making and who have very few interests or resources to fill their time when the homemaking job lessens or comes to an end. The empty nest period occurs when there is a change of role for both parents and the child. The departure of children is a “cruel blow” especially to those who are widowed or divorced. Depression is a primary symptom in some of these women which at times can also manifest as somatic complaints such as knee pain, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, attention seeking behaviour, lack of interest and a feeling of hopelessness. Counselling is recommended in such cases. To effectively deal with ENS, individuals are encouraged to pursue old hobbies or develop a new one. Enrol in classes, take an active part in social work or community activities. Form a self-help group. Visit relatives regularly and keep in touch with old friends. Travel to places of interest and bring back the zing in your marriage. The positive aspect of ENS is that women restart their careers. With advanced technology it is possible to video-conference with your child. ENS can surely be reduced if there is unconditional support from the spouse.

Dr. NAPPINNAI SERAN,
Consultant Psychologist, Dept. of Psychiatry, Meenakshi Medical College Much missed My only daughter left home nine years ago to pursue higher studies in the U.S. She is now settled with a caring husband, an exciting career and two adorable children. I missed her so much that it took me a while to get over the trauma of separation that overwhelmed me. I came to the realisation that I have a satisfying profession on hand which has kept me busy. I have time to pursue my hobbies and also frequently meet with friends. We visit her every year and she talks to us every week at length. What more could we want? The world is small and she is very close to my heart.

Dr. MANONMANI SHANMUGASUNDRAM,
Consultant Anaesthesiologist

Her happiness firstMy daughter was keen to studyabroad though I wanted her tobe comfortable and pursue herstudies in India. She is our onlychild and I do miss her often,especially during festivals. I worryabout her safety but she has turnedout to be smarter now that she livesalone. My husband pursues his owninterests and I keep busy bylearning a new skill. Practising yogahas helped me. Sometimes I wishwe could be a complete family again, but I want my daughter topursue what makes her happy.Dr. SUDHA MANAVALANPart of usIt did seem easier when I was away in U.K. studying full time in the University. Though I didmiss home I was never really homesick. However things are quite different now that mom isaway at work. I miss her a lot especially when one of us falls ill and during family occasions. Mydad has been her strongest support. Responsibilities haven't increased much, but it would be alot easier if she was here, since she knows the do's and the don'ts around the house. She still hasfull control of the house as if she had a remote control, giving instructions to all of us over phone.She visits every weekend so family time is now more or less restricted to weekends but weensure we make the most of it when she's around.PRIYA SUNDARAM,
Assistant Manager Sales, FCm Travel Solutions

Stay active

Stamina is in the mind andif your health is good,then daily chores are notdifficult. If you are able tohandle this you don't needyour children around topitch in. Daughters movingaway is a terribly lonelything. For most women, itcoincides with retirementand menopause. Which iswhy it is important that a couple rediscovers theirrelationship and enjoys leisure activities together. Beingemail savvy helps me keep in touch with happenings in mydaughters' lives. A busy professional life is also a bigblessing. I visit my daughters often as they are unable toavail of long holidays. Most senior citizens miss theirchildren most when they become immobile due to sicknessor old age. When dependency increases so does depression.Dr. VIDYA NAIK,
Consultant Gynaecologist

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