Working Through Empty Nest Syndrome

Working Through Empty Nest SyndromeBy Christy Schutz

Telecommuters have a myriad of different reasons they enjoy their work from home status. The biggest benefit is obviously the flexibility it offers… and for parents, this is a big plus. But, what if your kids have left or are in the process of leaving your home for college, military service, adult life, etc? What is the best way to navigate this tricky transitional time (sometimes coined as the “empty nest syndrome”) as a work at home professional?

I am wrestling with this issue personally as I prepare for my 19-year old son to leave for the Navy tomorrow. I have had the advantage of working from home since 2005, so, for the last 8 years or so, I have had a lot of wonderful opportunities to stay involved with his life. Now I wonder… will it be easier or harder for me to make this transition?

So, in today’s article, I’ve decided to share some of my reflections on the different stages of the Empty Nest Syndrome and how I can best cope with them as a Work at Home Woman. I’m hoping this exercise of publicly processing some of these emotions, mixed with your insights and feedback, can help me as I attempt to bid farewell (for now) to my oldest son.

The Farewell Stage:

This is when everyone prepares for your child to leave. There are countless discussions about what everyone needs to do to prepare your kid for his/her departure, how your family will properly celebrate their “last birthday” or holiday at home, how will everyone officially “send them off” during the days before they leave, what will happen to their belongings, or room, or car, and more. As I look back over this stage, I can admit that I have been extremely blessed to have a flexible work arrangement and the ability to get work done from my home office. There have been errands, and discussions, and preparations, and celebrations, and on and on and on that I have been able to facilitate with quite a bit of ease given my current Work from Home arrangements. So, at least I can go into it with the peace that I was able to get a lot done… both personally and professionally, as we got ready to say farewell!

This is Really Real Stage:

This is when your child actually leaves, and you and your family must come to terms with the actual impact of their absence. Reality sets in and the emotions kick in with it. If there are other children still at home, this can be a very challenging time for them, too. This is the case in my family, and my youngest daughter seems to be struggling even more than the rest of us. I think it will be important for all of us to determine what the new relationship dynamic will be like with my son.

  • How often will we be in contact?
  • How will we strike the balance between maintaining our relationship with him while still allowing him to develop his own life and claim his independence?

Family rituals and our day to day routines will obviously change, and throughout that process, we are bound to experience ups and downs. As the reality sets in, I imagine I will be glad to have a Work at Home lifestyle. I can take a few minutes and go vent some sadness and tears without losing too much time and productivity, or, on the flip side of that, I can dive into some additional projects to keep my mind busy. Mostly, I am glad I will be able to continue to balance my time and parenting energy toward my daughter, who will need my help as we manage through this change together.

The Redefinition Stage:

In the end, no matter what life transition we process through, there is usually a moment when we redefine ourselves to some extent. I think this is just as true when our children start to enter the “adult” stages of their lives. I plan to take on some new projects, get more involved with my daughter’s musical endeavors, and maybe invest some time (and money) to start working with a personal trainer. My son will also be going through a metamorphic stage, where he redefines his relationship with us, starts to journey down his vocational path, develops adult friendships, and maybe meets his future bride (you never know). Wherever this next adventure takes me and my family, I will be grateful to my employer and happy to be a Work from Home employee.

What advice can you give parents who are entering into the Empty Nest phase? How has being a Work at Home Woman helped or hindered you through this transition? Any additional stages you’ve experienced that I’ve forgotten to mention?

Christy Schutz, is a communications professional and freelance writer focused on topics like employer/personal branding, career management, personal development, women in the workplace, and female entrepreneurs. She enjoys putting 16+ years of experience in the advertising, recruitment marketing, employee/internal communications and special events industries to good use by helping others to discover, develop and market their own distinct calling or mission. This Tampa Bay, FL-based Mom also keeps herself busy by raising 4 kids, caring for her husband & doting on her dogs Petey and Daisy!

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