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Wikipedia actually takes the time to tell you that Empty Nest Syndrome is not a legitimate medical condition. Thanks Wiki, good to know.
Maybe they felt that needed to be cleared up, since it goes on to say that “symptoms of empty nest syndrome can include depression, a sense of loss of purpose, feelings of rejection, or worry, stress, and anxiety over the child’s welfare.” Also that “full-time parents” can be hit harder. Full Time Parents? vs. those who got the gig as a part time side hustle? Oh, I see. Reading on for clarification = stay-at-home moms (or dads). That’s absurd, Wiki, but whatevs.
Anyone who has had a child leave home for college knows what empty nest syndrome is … mom, dad, sibling or pet. Everyone deals with it in their own way, although our dog seems to be doing the most sleeping on the subject. It definitely feels like a loss. Not quite like the loss of an elderly parent, but in the same galaxy. It is an inevitable part of life and an appropriate and not unexpected next step.
After all, you’ve been working toward this day since Kindergarten drop off. But there is a hole in your life, that’s for sure. The good news is that you’re only mourning the loss of a time you loved, not a person you loved. Big difference.
And there is as varied and plentiful advice for this stage of parenting from those who have been there as there is for every other stage from conception through grandparenting. Everyone has a story and their favorite tips, and they’ll share them whether you want to hear them or not. And so…
We dropped our only child off on September 2nd, and proceeded to ease the transition with 3 solid days of win-ing and dining in DC, where we lived for 10 years pre-baby. A return to the scene of the crime so to speak.
The pros = The mojitos at Colada are the perfect Empty Nester cure and we need this place to expand to Charlotte NOW. We will all have much softer landings.
The cons = 3 days of DC fun just made the return to the empty nest all the more depressing. Definite buzz kill.
Scoop Tip = Plan your couple celebration a couple of weekends after the drop off, so you go on and get through the first bad two weeks and can really enjoy your hell-raising. When you get back home, that empty nest will seem almost familiar.
Figuring out the right level and format for communication with your child is one of the early major challenges. How often and when does it become helicoptering? Who’s on point for initial contact? Them? You? What if they haven’t called and it’s been 2 or even 3 weeks? (oh yes, more than you would ever guess). Should you have a set plan? Should you just reach out whenever the mood strikes? Should you worry if they don’t respond? Here are a few of the options our friends use:
- Call your mother Every Week Without Fail or I will cut off your allowance
- FaceTime Every Sunday Afternoon (when the kid wakes up lol) with both P’s
- Dad texts every day just to say hey
- Mom thinks of an excuse to text every day or so
- Wait til they reach out ~ after all, no news is good news (nostalgic throwback to our own parents’ m.o.)
- Follow them on social media just so you know they are alive (and ok, what they’re up to)
- Try to figure out their F-Insta so you can see what they are really up to
Here are a few options no one should ever use:
- Comment on their Instagram, Snap with perky, pithy parental quips. Stealth is critical here. You can be blocked in a flash.
- Friend request their friends since your kid won’t let you on their social. (that works in high school sometimes though) You will just embarrass them with their new grown up college kid friends.
- Drop in for a surprise visit
With our son over the course of the last month, there has been one on-demand FaceTime, one administrative & monosyllabic phone call with me, and lots of texting back and forth.
Plus a ridiculous amount of communication comparison between my husband and me. That first two weeks it was like we were waiting to be asked to prom or something.
- Did you hear from him today? Yes.(jealousy). Did You? Yes. (deflated). / No. (concern). Did You? No. (mild panic).
- He texted me today of his own accord. (Trying not to gloat).
- He sent me a photo today. (Flat out gloating)
- He emailed today. (said no iGen parent ever. I just made that up to piss my husband off)
From what I can tell, girls tend to call when they’re having some drama, unload on the parent, freak the parent out completely, the parent doesn’t sleep all night and the girl has moved off the whole thing by the next morning. Boys = two word responses to text. So, we’re on track with that, and thank the Lord for inventing texts every single day. I will literally slap the sense into the next parent who complains about the advent of texting in 21st century communications.
There is lots of debate among our friends over the use of phone apps like Life360 and FindMyFriends to keep “tabs”on your college child. I am way too new at this to judge, and have helicoptering issues bordering on stalking so I am not a good resource. I would just say know yourself. If you are going to be up all hours of the night trying to find out where your child is all hours of the night, Life360 is not your friend. However, if you haven’t heard from your son in days and just want to make sure he’s getting up and going to classes without have to be such a nudge as to ask him, well, there’s an app for that.
Basically I’ve spent this first month of Empty Nesting trying to find the happy middle ground between Peace Of Mind and Mind My Own Business.
It’s a work in progress and I’ll keep you posted.
And now, to make you cry, because this IS a post on Empty Nesting after all, my most favorite essay on this time is by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post here. #somuchtruth #sowellsaid, Our next article on the topic will be 100% upbeat, pinky swear.
“Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough.” Michael Gerson
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