Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS) is differently defined either as a feeling of grief and loneliness that parents or guardians may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college / university OR a feeling of loneliness or depression that occurs among parents after children grow up and leave home.
It is not a clinical condition but definitely as bothersome.
I am currently going through my second episode of ENS. My second daughter was married on 30th November. I had my first attack in 2008 when my eldest daughter got married. Surprisingly enough, when this daughter of mine left home for a year to pursue her education in 2009. There was no ENS!
For me ENS, is a mix bag of diverse feelings – emptiness-yes, a lot! Feeling of loneliness despite not being lonely (in 2008, I had 2 more daughters with me and now I have one with me); no sadness but happiness; definitely, no grief and no sense of loss. Only a feeling of EMPTINESS! And, finally a sense of immense satisfaction – of having brought up a child in the best possible way (not only by my scale but even their in-laws’).
If I was to use a corollary, you lose something you value the most, in the best possible way, leaving behind a feeling of contentment despite the loss!
It is said that working mothers feel it less as compared to full time mothers. Well, I do not agree. You don’t need spare time to feel emptiness when you miss your child!
In 2008, I experienced butterflies in the stomach – worrying? No, wondering how she will adjust to a new city (Mumbai to Chennai), new set of people, new set of responsibilities? Despite my own certainty that she has been brought up well enough, some amount of uncertainty was permitted. Won’t you agree?
The doubts were rested when her MIL said “At times I get confused, whether she is a daughter or daughter-in-law!” And I was instantly cured of my first attack of ENS.
This time round, the emptiness is definitely more – but with a glow of happiness. Knowing well enough that she is capable of managing domestic as well as career chores and come up trumps in both. The emptiness will be relieved watching (hearing) about how she is managing a new world.
And my ENS will also tell her how much I miss her and that she was, and will remain to be, a valuable part of my life!
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.