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Children away and avoid, Mothers left void: Empty Nest Syndrome

“Do you miss me? Why don’t you talk to me? Are you coming home this weekend? Why don’t you pick up my call? Are you safe? Have you eaten something? Why was your phone switched off? You’ve been avoiding me since long. I hope you have not forgotten your mother?”

There comes a time when the little feet you taught to walk step out to fly and you are left with just a teary eye. The heaviness of the moment can only be understood by the parents who see their child leaving their home. All they are left behind is emptiness and an empty nest.

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Illustration by: Andy Chase Cundiff; Source: Amarillo magazine

Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS) is a psychological condition that affects parents when their children grow up and leave home. Doctors and Psychologists don’t consider this as a medical ailment but raise their concern towards the sufferers. The condition makes some parents void of feelings, and others annoyed. Anxiety and depression take the place of their kid that keeps growing in the house and in their minds.

Many parents unknowingly suffer from ENS, but the case becomes worse for those whose kids don’t talk to them or shun them. More than the voidance, it’s the avoidance that sends the parents into the depression zone. It becomes difficult for them to accept the ignorance after separation and they feel they are being avoided by their offspring.

Bringing up children is such a physical business especially for women. From pregnancy to giving birth, breastfeeding to changing diapers, from ABCing the toddler to the time they fly away from their parents, the attachment with offsprings is too high. This increases in the case of single mother wherein the mother forget her individuality for her child.

Questioned about the last day with her daughter, Kirti Sharma, an empty nester from Delhi recalls the day when a call letter brought to her a bagful of emotions. Controlling the tear valve of her eyes with a big fake smile, Kirti hugged her daughter Shreya. Soon a question darted her emotions, “Are you not happy with my achievement Mumma?” By this time, the feeling of upcoming-loneliness burdened her eyelids and the pressure broke the valve. She gave a sobbing reply, “What will I do after you are gone?” She had never been away from her daughter, and the very thought brought a series of flashback.

Kirti has more than movie-length memories of her and Shreya. The unending conversations, the cookery sessions, being gossip girls together and much more, their togetherness had no end. The mother and daughter duo shared not just one bond but many. Being a single mother, Kirti wore a father’s moustache too for her daughter. Therefore both of them were entirely dependent on each other for guidance and as friends. After Shreya was gone, Kirti became lonely and depressed. She had no one to talk to, no shoulder to lean on, no one to cook for, and no one to share love with.

“It has been two years since Shreya left home and me, to go to Leeds. She got a new place to explore with new friends. Amidst the new environment, responsibility, classes, assignments, work, parties and more, she forgot me”, Kirti said watery eyed. She heavy-heartedly recalls her daughter’s once said words, “I feel ashamed when you call me zillion time Mumma. I am not a kid anymore. Stop calling me!” The mother confessed that even after being bawled by her daughter, she calls her once every day but most of the time, her call is left unanswered.

Kirti spends most of her time waiting for a reply to come. In order to pass her time, she keeps on turning pages of the photo album and adding more pictures to it or keeps on arranging Shreya’s wardrobe. Her usual topic of conversation with people is Shreya and this has driven her more into the syndrome.

Contradictory to Kirti’s situation is the single mother of two daughters from Bengaluru. Shikha Singh has moved on in her life after sending her daughters away for the job. Initially affected by Empty Nest Syndrome, the mother felt dejected in life. But later understanding the importance of time and the significance of the situation, she devoted the time to fulfill her long-lost dreams. She joined theatre classes which she left after her husband passed away and the responsibility of two daughters came on her shoulders. She has understood that her daughters are busy in their lives and career, and so she is focusing on hers.

Meenakshi Chawla, a housewife from Agra and a mother of four children never thought she and her husband will ever have to face ENS. But after their elder daughters were married and gone and the two younger sons shifted to Delhi and Pune, they were left helpless. They get to talk to their children once in three-four days but the couple supports each other. Also, the children send cards of gifts to their parents once a while, Skype with them and try to celebrate festivals together. These small gestures help the old couple to decorate their Empty Nest.

Prerna Agarwal, a psychologist from Delhi points out the period of mourning that follows when children pack up and go out on their own for the first time is the most crucial one. She suggests, “The parents should prepare themselves to cope up with the future days of lonesomeness before the children are gone. They should go around and talk to people in office or neighborhood. Keeping oneself busy can also help the empty nesters to be out of the situation. Children should also help their life-givers to be out of the melancholic state by being in regular contact.”

She concluded saying that in today’s scenario, parents don’t expect their children to take care of them during old age. Parents just want a warm reply and a feeling of concern. Both parents and children should understand each other, give space to each other but talk. Though technology cannot convey the real feeling but somewhere it helps and fills in the emptiness that is left in the empty nests and minds of the parents.

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