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Is Empty Nest Syndrome an Overblown Problem?

Do all parents suffer tremendously when their nest empties? Barbara Torris doesn’t think so – in fact she believes this can hold our children back from making their way in the world. Read more from Barbara on her blog, Retire in Style.

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I have written about almost every issue that Boomer parents deal with. Boomerang kids, downsizing, grandparenting and wrinkles…but I do not believe I have ever taken the time to say what I really think about Empty Nest Syndrome. Boomers going into a deep funk when their children grow up and leave the nest is something I have a hard time buying into.

It took a conversation with my daughter who will become a mother with grown children before long to make me face how I really felt. When I mentioned the fact that parents her age are having a hard time letting their children go, she just wrinkled her nose. She couldn’t imagine. We share the life experience of leaving home to attend college. It was a wonderful time in our lives. I believe that neither of us would want to deny the next generation that same opportunities to find a life of their own. My parents did not want to give me any reason to think that growing up and moving on was not the best thing in the world. I did the same for my children.

So you can understand why I think the thing that is missing in the empty-nest conversation is the effects this trendy syndrome has on the growing children. In fact I think that boomerang kids may be the fallout from parents bemoaning the child’s independence in the first place.

But it is all the trend to talk about Empty Nesters and the burdens they must bear. The New York Times carried an article in their Style and Fashion section called Empty-Nest Book Hatchery. It was taking note of all the books coming out right now with “The Empty Nest” theme. In the article one author promoted the idea that previous generations were not focused on their children. I could only think that my generation must come off as a bunch of slackers in that book. I took exception to that notion with more emotion that I thought was possible. Here is a quote from that article:

“There is a huge difference between this generation and previous ones,” said Wendy Aronsson, a therapist in Greenwich, Conn., and the author of “Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave.” Unlike their forebears, who cheerfully waved goodbye as their offspring headed into the world, “parents today are challenged because they are much more front and center in their children’s lives,” Ms. Aronsson said. “They approach their parenting as a career, regardless of whether they work outside the home.” from Empty-Nest Book Hatchery, NYT


Mother-Daughter team

Really?  Really?

Later in the article another “expert author”, Christie Mellor of Los Angeles, the author of “Fun Without Dick and Jane: Your Guide to a Delightfully Empty Nest”, was quoted. She said:

“The next time an empty-nest expert suggests that you might be feeling lonely, sad and abandoned, run as fast as you can in the other direction,” she continued. “You’re not a bad parent because you’re excited about finally having your freedom.”

That is more where my generation fell in the scheme of things. But there was a reason…we rejoiced in our children’s opportunities. It was not a given that child would go to college or even have a job and be able to leave the nest. We did not take that for granted and neither did our children.

From the child’s perspective, the whole world was waiting to be explored. I even felt that way when I left the nest to go to college. I don’t think my parents were unhappy and if they were, they did not tell me. Why should they? I would have had a hard time understanding how they could feel sad when I was so excited and happy.

What is missing in this discussion is the voice of the child…growing up and trying their wings for the first time. Why should any mother or father burden their child with the image of them pining away because the child has done exactly what they were reared to do…fly away? It doesn’t seem fair to me. If the child were to be asked, I think they would tell their parents to grow up too. They are all starting a new stage in their life and that is the way it should be.

I might also add that if a child can go to college they are very privileged…there are so many that will never have that opportunity. Finding a job and moving out to become independent is a real accomplishment. Joining the military is an act of courage. I applaud the tenacity of young people today. Let’s be happy for them…OK?

What do you think?

Barbara Torris

I am a retired educator turned blogger. While I have been retired for 15+ years and am now 72 years old, I still feel very connected to women in their mid-life. I am an avid reader, traveler, writer, grandmother/mother and lover of life. My blogging life can be seen at Retire In Style Blog where I have posted over 1000 posts and have had about 310,000 viewers. I also post a blog called Gift Boomer where I pick and choose what I think are the best gift for every age group. Instagram: barbblogtwits

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Tuesday 18th of August 2015

I think you can look at both sides. As a parent who has sent off three of my four children to college, I can definitely say that there were sad moments when I missed having them around, going to watch them play sports in high school or taking pictures before various dances. Of course, my excitement for them to enter into a whole new world of college and the experience that brings was evident as well. I think it really depends on the family. I just took my daughter to school this last Sunday. I know she is having fun and meeting new people but I do miss seeing her sweet face everyday. Do I love the new freedoms I have? Absolutely. Is my life going on without her around? Of course. But she has been a big part of my life for the last 18 years so yes, I am a little sad but I am happy too.

Barbara Torris

Tuesday 8th of September 2015

Kristin, I think you are striking a perfect balance. Your children see what you do and learn that they are individuals with unique ideas. In the end, it is the example you are setting now that is so important.

Candace Allan

Monday 17th of August 2015

oh I so agree. I wrote one of those books - Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest - but I like to think I was launching them into a world of high adventure and new escapades. Sure there were some lonely nights on both sides but it really is a 'feel better' book about our family getting there bearings again.

Barbara Torris

Tuesday 8th of September 2015

I always felt as though I wanted to be a mouse peeking out of their pocket and just feel the wind under their wings. The loneliness was not so much for them as for the time on my hands. But, like my children, I embraced the new adventure and am very happy.

Barbara Hammond

Monday 17th of August 2015

I could not agree more. For me, it was about feeling pride in getting them out into the world, and rejoicing in the freedom I felt I'd never had before. Having raised siblings and then having my first child 9 months after getting married, I was ready for ME time. I don't apologize for it. I remember asking a friend of mine who was vying for the mother of the year award every year, "What will you do when they leave home?" She replied, "Well I hope I'll have grandchildren!" I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. Great post! b

Barbara Torris

Tuesday 8th of September 2015

I know what you mean. So many women I know cannot even bring themselves to leave their house because they are still taking control of a child or grandchild's life. Retirement and enjoying time with their husband does not even enter their mind. It is very sad.


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