Empty Nest: Identity Crisis
(Part Two of Seven Parts)
Raising our children requires so much of us, in such an all-consuming way, that it is easy for us to blur the boundary between where they begin and we end. Though well meaning, what comes with this is a subtle process that happens right before our very eyes. Of course we want the best for our child, always. We make all of our decisions by what is most beneficial for them, for that is precisely our job as parent. And yet, somehow in the smallest ways, parts of us are left behind on the trail to raising the child we adore…
“Darling I know travel is our thing, but it’s just not worth getting a toddler off her schedule.”
“I was a voracious reader, and um, the back of the cereal box can be very entertaining.”
“Honey I promise, when he’s three we’ll move him out of our bed.”
“Mom, you can’t wear that, it’s embarrassing! My friends will make fun.”
“I’m too exhausted to workout. Can you believe I actually used to teach Fit Class?”
“Dad, why did you say that at the parent teacher meeting!? Everyone is talking about you now! I wish you could just stay quiet.”
“Remember when we used to go out dancing?”
“I’ll finish that degree dear, right after soccer, dance, swim, gymnastics, scouts, and carpool.”
“I know it’s our anniversary honey, but if we leave town now there will be a high school keg party at our house.”
“Oh dear God, I’m driving a mom van.”
We meld so completely into our role that as a parent there is a slow, invisible process that erodes our individuality just by nature of the job. Dreams, desires and goals are put on the back burner, so much so that we don’t even remember we used to want those things for ourselves. They are buried so deep, when we are asked, “What do you want for your own life?”
Our answer is most often, “I don’t even know.”
Now is the perfect opportunity for you to reclaim yourself in the world. And because this process has been so gradual, over such a long period of time, the real you may not be immediately apparent. It may take some deliberate time examining your life from an observer’s view. What life patterns have you boxed yourself into, simply because it made life easier then?
Ask yourself if you are doing this because it works for you or because it worked when you were raising children? Do I always do this, in this way, because that’s the way it is done? Or with a closer look do you find it was always done that way because it made life less hectic, avoided a battle, or prepared you for the next twelve things. Begin to question every thing you do in your day, from how you wake up and prepare for your day, to how you communicate, eat, and move about the world in your daily and weekly tasks. Just observe. Does this really work for me? Does this way of doing things fit me now? Can I make the distinction of claiming this as my own?
Our lives have been so slammed with multi-tasking, answering questions, mentally working calendars as if it were a game of Tetris, using our powers of persuasion like the president of the debate club, and constantly assessing,
“If I react this way, will it scar them for life, teach them something, build or tear down their self-esteem? Will they remember it forever and need therapy over it for years, or by tomorrow will they forget it ever even happened?”
Whew, it’s exhausting. And what we’ve learned from that lifestyle is that we can never sit still, quiet, or just BE. We feel guilty or lacking if we are not going a thousand miles an hour, triple layering effectiveness on everything we are doing.
What if we did something simply because we wanted too? What if it would not move us ahead, couldn’t cross it off a list, wouldn’t help effectiveness, make us look good, or earn us a dime. What if we could put aside our ‘must get it done’ for a moment and engage ourselves just for the pure joy?
Well, guess what. Now. We. Can. And we should. I know what you’re saying…
“I wouldn’t even know how to do that.”
Go easy on yourself. You can start with small things. Little changes that you claim in your routine, small moments just for fun, and lots of deep breathing will begin the process of re-claiming yourself and your own identity.
One of the reasons this feels so uncomfortable, and we don’t know how to start is because we’ve lost our ability to decide. I know this sounds ridiculous to say to a grown person, but hear me out. Since the moment they were born, every decision has been for them. We don’t know how to make a decision for ourselves. In part three of this series, we’ll take on: DECISION MAKING ANEW: WEIRD RIGHT?
Next in the Empty Nest Series:
Part Three – Decision Making Anew: Weird right?
Part Four – Time To Stop Being The Fixer
Part Five – Being Ok With Not Being Needed
Part Six – How to become a Frienarent (Friend Parent)
Part Seven – What’s In Your Next Season?
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