Coping With The Quiet After Children Leave The Nest

Categories Parenting

After college, or during college for some, most people go through life as bachelors.

This is quickly followed by the stage of being a father or a mother, when children dramatically make their debut into this world.

Then follows the tedious,  but welcome, stage where parents lovingly raise their young children, starting with the sleepless nights which seem endless, as the infants mark their territory and declare that they can only be ignored at the parent’s peril. At this point, the thought of them ever leaving home is a non-issue. They slowly, but surely, however, learn how to do things on their own, for themselves.

Before long, the children grow into the teenagers, and they slowly start sending clear signs of wanting to be left alone. They want the parents to loosen the grip and give them some space. They can’t wait to be independent. The teenagers are at this stage busy developing networks and attachments with friends as they slowly inch away into a world of their own.

They then start leaving home, one after the other, and become independent, reason being they have joined a college which is far away from home, or they’ve graduated from college and have gotten themselves some employment, or they’ve gotten married, or some other venture.

When they leave, they dedicate more and more time to their work, friends and workmates. Unlike in the previous stages, the parent is no longer able to access them at will. It is a new world where the parent is only a welcome visitor and has no control anymore.

Then, when the last child leaves, parents are left with empty bedrooms. All children have left the nest and are comfortably eking an independent life. Just like birds, they have learnt to fly, they have flown the nest, and they have launched out into the world. Taking with them all the love and advice parents have filled them with over the years, but, worryingly, none of the wisdom or experience of the parents.

The parent remains at home, worried about how they’ll fare on out there on their own, whether they will take good care of themselves and properly manage their social life and their studies. The parent still sees them as too young to move away, especially those who have left to join college.

The ensuing transition sometimes takes time to sink in. But very soon, it begins to dawn that the separation is permanent and the parent is left with feelings of sadness, anxiety and loss. And this is true for both fathers and mothers. The sudden shift from the chaos that parents have been used to, to a deafening and palpable quiet does not make things any better.

But it need not be a period of loss of purpose for the parent. It’s not the end of the world.

It should be a time to take pride and celebrate having achieved the ultimate accomplishment as a parent, namely, to raise children, who have the desire to venture into the world on their own. The children have left, not to abandon the parent, but as an expression of a job well done, the job of letting them to grow up and preparing them to move into meaningful adult lives. It is a time to support the children because, just like the parent, the following few years are a learning period for them too. The children are learning to become independent, successful adults, and the parents are learning to become independent again without the children, the goal for both parent and child being to step into the future with courage and enthusiasm.

It should be a time to move out of the isolation parents got themselves into when raising the children. It should be a time for the parent to relish, and embrace, the opportunity that the new situation offers. It is a period that can be one of heightened excitement and renewed relationships. The extra time can be used to pursue new goals, without worrying about children, such as rediscovering the spouse, siblings, and friends. Parents now have the time, and most probably also the money, to hang out with friends, and even to focus on themselves.

For those who are still parenting young ones, start early to prepare for post-parenting years before they arrive: “Opportunity favors the prepared”, they say. Those toddlers and young ones will, soon and very soon, surely leave the nest. And the reason will be because you are a good parent who is doing what good parents are expected to do, namely, to prepare their children to eventually fly out of the nest safely, on their own.

I am an epic introvert, who quickly becomes an open book when I pen what’s in my significantly fertile mind; fertile as a result of bombardment by realities that are continuously captured by my inquisitive eyes, ears which are constantly rubbing the ground, through constant reading, and through dreaming too.

Writing provides an opportunity to ‘say’ what my unapologetic quiet mouth will not say; which not only soothes me, but also bequeaths to me a relief, a release, and a hope that the written words will change the world, even if only one person at a time.

And so should you seek, that’s where to find me; deeply tucked inside the blankets of reading, seeing, listening, dreaming, and then writing.

15 thoughts on “Coping With The Quiet After Children Leave The Nest

  1. I’m honoured to have read this article on kids leaving the nest from a real life case.

    I may not be anywhere near your state of parenting but I shall surely prepare for this eventuality.

    I just hope I can get the link to always read this stuff whenever I have a minute to spare.

    Keep writing and sharing.

    God bless you.


  2. Wow! You have made me look at “empty nest” in a whole different way- “as an expression of a job well done”

    1. Yes. It is a job well done and the birds have grown wings which they can’t wait to use without asking for permission when they are of age.

  3. This is such a fantastic and positive article, written with humor and borrowed from experience. Thank you classmate; I’ve thoroughly seen myself in it!

    1. Thanks very much my classmate for the positive sentiments. I am slowly but surely following in your footsteps. Aging gracefully; so help me God.

    1. Amen Pat. You shall overcome because of the knowledge that you now have from those of us who arrived here ahead of you. Karibu sana and thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for the article. Just this week I was talking with my college son and I was asking when to expect him and to my shock he said in August. I almost fainted. I asked why August and he said the April holiday is short and he’ll use it to prepare for his KNEC exams. I’m sure he knew when he talks of academic related issue I’ll “understand”….. He went ahead and said he’s inviting his younger brother over there in April. Anyway, August is “few” months away. I’ll wait.

    1. Thank you Caroline for your response. That’s how they start and then, before you know it, they’re gone for longer periods. They just fly off the nest for indefinite periods.

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