Memoirs Of A Mum: Coping With My Empty Nest

By Chinwe Kalu

Many years ago, my little sister, who is the last born, had finished secondary school. There was something peculiar about my family. My parents lived apart though they were not divorced. My sister had lived with my mum and wanted to leave home. She wanted to live with my dad for the next phase of her life. My mum could not stop her because she was of age. She seemed to be for it, but I can never forget the distraught look on her face when we drove off that morning. It was heart-rending. I did not realize how agonized she was by the entire move until that moment. I don’t think my sister noticed. My mum died 3 years later from cancer. These days, I remember that look on her face a whole lot.

I’ve felt pretty much the same about my kids leaving home. I recall taking my son to his new school. After dropping him off, it was not so bad. The girls were still home. Then 2 weeks later, I had to drop off two of my girls too. The kids were so happy to leave home, it was embarrassing. You would have thought they were leaving a boot camp rather than a loving home but was still okay because my baby was still home. Then we got home and it hit me. My kids had left the house! It was dead quiet. My baby was still home, but she could not change the quietness. Even she was alarmed. There was no sound from the entire house. No running up and down the stairs. No slamming doors. No giving the same instruction a million times. The nutella jar lasts for more than a week. Cakes, biscuits and chocolates last forever. Cooked food goes bad. Then, she left too.

I felt, “What happened to my children? Where are they? How will they survive away from here?”

Luckily, they are doing so well, I’m amazed but I’m not sure how well I am doing. I know for sure that I am not anywhere near as distraught as my mum was, but always need to adjust and tell myself repeatedly that all is well.

It dawned on me that my mum might have succumbed to cancer out of depression. She probably didn’t realize the impact my sister leaving home had on her, but she seemed to have lost something precious.

Now, I have the privilege of calling my children whenever I want, I can send chat messages, I can skype, I don’t need to wait for the postal system to get in touch. That takes away a lot of the anxiety. My mum did not have all that. It makes all the difference in my current experience.

I am grateful to God for the things that I do that keep me busy enough not to have time to ponder my ‘loss.’ I am also grateful for my husband who now practically has me to himself. He’s not complaining as much as I am.

Judging from my experience, I think there should be some kind of training for mothers to prepare them for their emptying nests. I know that it won’t make all the difference, but it will make some difference. For me, there were no teary moments but the weeks that followed were tough. Now, I’m always looking forward to when they’ll be home.

For any mum out there whose nest is empty or emptying, struggling with coming to terms with it, like me, you’ll be fine. You’ll get through this. It will pass. You’ll survive. You’ll come out stronger than you ever imagined. Try to birth other ‘children’ that will make your life whole. They could be new businesses, ministries, books, songs, anything. They will fill this new season you find yourself in. In my case, my new ‘baby’ is a new business. My ministry is taking a new turn, all in this new season.

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