Editorial: Desperate housewives

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Pawan Luthra’s editorial on empty nest syndrome

empty nest
They call it the ‘empty nest’ syndrome: the loss of a sense of purpose that develops in parents when the children leave home. As young adults move out to go to university or to a new job in another city, or because they are married, their middle-aged parents need to make adjustments in their own lives. The sudden feeling of bareness inside a home thus far filled with the exuberance of youth, can take some getting used to. Sometimes the loss of the close relationship with children can also lead to depression, particularly in mothers who have been the primary care giver in the family. This can be starker for stay-at-home mothers as compared to mothers who work fulltime or part-time.
For migrant Indian-Australian parents, especially mums who follow traditional maternal roles, this change in the family situation can stir up issues of identity. After migrating to a new country, often armed with tertiary degrees from back home, they set about building a new life, settling into jobs and setting up homes. However, once the children arrive, there may be a collective family decision for the woman to stop working and become a full-time mother. Motherly responsibilities morph from preparing school lunches, drop-offs and pickups, canteen duties and homework supervision (and doing the odd school project themselves), to sleepovers, organising play dates, Saturday sport and selective school/HSC coaching, besides of course, running a full house. The professional world seems miles away. As the children grow into teenagers, their dependency on the parents gradually lessens until they are ready to leave home.
While it is manageable when the first-born leaves home for studies, or travel, or work, or marriage, the empty nest syndrome hits hard when the youngest goes out into the world. After the initial feeling of freedom, there can be a sense of hollowness as the mother tries to find new meaning in life. By this time, the professional skill set and qualifications are out of date, and they could be at a time in their life when the desire to re-skill may be low. This issue of empty nesting could be at a difficult time when their own elderly parents are experiencing health and frailty issues. This emotional vacuum from a generation above and the one below can be somewhat daunting. There could be perceived (or real) lack of support from the husband, whose energies are fully employed on the office front.
While there is no easy way to combat this situation, the women need to take this opportunity to find a new passion in their life. Efforts need to be made to rekindle the relationship with one’s partner. If there were activities like travel which were put aside for “when we are free of the kids,” these can be now be indulged in. When the motivation strikes, new skills could be acquired at TAFE or community college courses. These might well be hobby courses, such as art appreciation or photography. Exercise to get in shape and stay healthy could be another activity. Finding other empty nesters and organising travel and other adventure options can also be undertaken.
But perhaps one of the solutions is to be a bit more selfish while the children are growing up: start a hobby which can be carried on with more vigour when the children have left home. Planning ahead for this next stage of life, thereby ensuring that you’re looking forward

Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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