I am Shaili Kanwar, a 49-year-old housewife. My husband Sachin is the marketing head of a leading cloth multinational. He is very hard working, honest and sincere in his work. Due to his work, he is unable to give much time to me. We are married since 26 years and in the earlier part of our life, we had to struggle quite a lot. I have done my graduation in home science. I used to work earlier, but since the last 20 years, I have stopped working – primarily to take care of our children and secondarily because our financial position improved and did not require me to work any longer. I have two children – Rohit aged 24 and Shalini aged 22 years. Rohit is in the U.S.A. pursuing his masters while Shalini has recently gotten married and has gone to Bangalore to settle there. I am feeling the void in my life right now. A week back, my friend Tara came down from London for a visit. Her family is also like me, two sons who are right now in Australia doing further studies, while her husband works in an accountancy firm. While we were talking, I realized the emptiness in my life. She has plenty of activities to do, she has lots of social work, and she can take part in local society meetings and generally have a full day. I feel that I have very little to do in my life now. I worked hard all the day to keep the house in order, but I have not really worked towards any substantial goal in my life. The intensity of my life has gone down with the two children going away. I try to engage myself in household work but it does not interest me sufficiently. I watch television the entire day and I have even gotten bored with it. I need someone to talk to and some activity in which I can immerse myself and set a goal for my life. I am tempted to ask my son to come back even when I know that he may settle down abroad. I am often calling up my daughter but there is always a limitation as she is in another city. I used to get angry on my husband for not giving me enough time, but I also realize that he is working as usual only, on the contrary, he is spending more time with me, but I am unable to face an empty nest. Please advise on how I should tackle this problem.
Yes, Shaili, you are facing the empty nest syndrome. This is often the lament of many middle-aged women in our country. Today, you face isolation, perhaps, because you failed to sow the seeds for the future life. It is very important to understand that the anticipation and visualization of old age has to start in early adult life. The preparation of that state has to be made right from the early 20’s and 30’s of life. Your dependent child has been replaced by the independent adult who lives away from home, is self-supporting, and is significantly involved with others sexually and emotionally. The change in your social environment has to be matched by an intrapsychic change and a shifting balance in your time allocation. Firstly, you must accept that some of the changes are irreversible and abandon your hopes for the united family of the four of you. It now includes new members like your son-in-law, your prospective daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Their inevitable progression through their life is bound to happen. You must accept that your position in their lives is not primary now and may be lost forever. Their partners will also exercise some control in the involvement with your children. Therefore, they may not need you for every fork and spoon in their lives. Secondly, you must accept that with your aging body, physical decline and limitations of motivation, you may not be inclined to pursue homemaking as a full-time career. It is time to move on instead of hanging on to your house. Trying to do the same activities time and again will not be pleasing because they are neither required at the same level of effort, nor are you going to get any appreciation for it. It may only become a burden. The best efforts are to channelize your activities into new forays of life. Religion is often a good source of calm and to be able to discover your inner self. You may be able to accept your individuality in religion and the finiteness of your life. Religion may also help you leave your dependencies on your family for your pleasures and help you with a goal of your life. Expanding your social circle is another method of interaction with other people. You could become the member of a social club. You would be able to interact with people of various ages and this may help you accept not only your age and its tasks; it would help you develop interest in young adults and fill the void of your children. Thirdly, you could develop the relationship with your husband; both of you together can plan for your future. Yearly vacations, meeting relatives and going over the troubled and golden periods of your lives would help you accept the coming period of old age. You run the danger of turning into a nagging mother for your children and an irritating wife for your husband if you are not able to successfully traverse this midlife crisis. You may go through a period of psychic dislocation temporarily as you throw out the less important areas of your life and spend time in high priority desires. However, you may reap the benefits if you able to become accommodating and accept that your place in the sun is now being transferred and you have to be content with being one of the numerous stars in the universe.