Indian Culture is known for being collectivistic. It is extremely common for young adults in India to continue to live with their parents even after they start working. Although the number of nuclear families is on the rise a good number of adults continue to live with their parents even after they get married. Most commonly, a woman moves in with the family of her husband.
But things are changing and more and more children are choosing to live independently. Many believe that this is a western phenomenon being imported. Not according to Malashri Lal, a professor at Delhi University who edited the anthology The Indian Family in Transition. She says “In small towns, young people always had to leave the family to make a living. Now it is happening within the city because the metropolis is becoming the megalopolis.”
With the working population moving to metropolitan cities for work, the upgradation of culture and movements against patriarchy, more and more young adults prefer to move out of the parental home. Some of them leave off shores to study, visiting their parents once in a year or more, until they return briefly to tie the knot and are soon on their flight back. Others leave to a different city or country following their ambitions of professional success. Some move out after getting married in the hope to create their own space and settle their own family unit.
Whatever the reason may be, and no matter how prepared the parents thought they were, a considerable loss is experienced by them. It is extremely natural and very common. This phase can be especially hard for some, and that is known as “Empty Nest Syndrome”.
Empty Nest Syndrome
“Without my children, my house would be clean; my wallet would be full but… my heart would be empty”
Empty Nest Syndrome is the emotional discomfort and loss experienced commonly by parents when their child leaves home. Parents often feel a profound sense of emptiness as a result of the change in their role in their child’s life.
When not dealt with in a healthy fashion, this can make them more prone to mental health concerns such as depression and alcoholism. There is a change in family dynamics and a role shift that for some people takes time to adapt to. They may face marital conflict or even an identity crisis.
Two sides to the coin
Dr. Sameer Malhotra, who is the head of the department of mental health and behavioural sciences at Max Hospital, Saket, refers to it as a normal transition. He shares “Parents usually go through a phase of depression but are comforted by the fact that their child is learning to be independent”.
An empty nest has its upside. Parents now have more time than ever to lead their own lives. They can travel, take out time for each other, reconnect and make time for all those things that had taken a backseat when they were focusing on their children.
Shelley Emling, Senior Editor of the Huffington Post, shares her experience when her oldest child left home for education. She writes “I always knew this phase would be hard. But I guess I never knew it would be this hard. A few weeks ago, I was melancholy down to my bones… The range of emotions I feel has shifted away from grief and moved more towards excitement over what’s to come. A chapter has ended but another has begun.”
Tips on preparing for an Empty Nest
You son or daughter has become an independent adult. It can be hard to see your child as an adult, even when they’re 40, but acceptance is the first step.
Take the time you need to vent, clear your doubts and prepare for what to come. You can try to plan your life ahead and focus on all the good things coming ahead. You can decide what you would like to do with the extra time and space in the house.
Albeit emotional, this is also a proud moment. Irrespective of whether the child is leaving to study work, or to establish his or her own home, your child is taking a step towards independence and adulthood. Look at it as an exciting adventure that you may have had back in your time.
Keeping in touch in today’s day and age is easier than ever. You can decide on timings and days for when you can talk, video call, or catch up.
Don’t hesitate to get all the support you can from friends and family. Make sure to not isolate yourself at such a time and you will soon have a supportive ecosystem around you.
This is the time when you can really do what you want. You have the time to explore your own interests and hobbies. You can explore a fun class to take (maybe with your spouse); you can join a gym or a book club; a dance or music class or take out time to travel to various destinations.
Couples often find themselves so busy in raising kids and managing the household chores that often they lose out on time for themselves and for love. This is good time for you to reconnect with your spouse and find time for romance.
‘The changing parent trap’ by Saudamini Jain; featured in BRUNCH, Hindustan Times; Mar 30, 2013 19:44 IST
‘4 Things They Never Tell You About Empty Nest Syndrome’ by Shelley Emling; Huffington Post; 10/08/2013 07:55 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014
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