On Monday November 30,2015,The Daily Mail newspaper published an article written by medical correspondent, Ben Spencer, entitled “Empty Nest Mums are Britain’s Worst Problem Drinkers”. The findings and information revealed in this article are very disturbing and raises many questains about our modern consumer society.
According to the article, two fifths of middle -age-mothers admit to drinking as much or more than their grown up children. As much as a quarter admit to increasing their alcohol intake since their children have flown the nest!!! These findings have also supported research which suggest that empty nest mums are becoming the UK’s most problematic drinkers… Alarming as these findings are, this is not an exclusively British problem.The empty nest syndrome predominantly affects women because their roles , their identity and their sense of self are totally entwined with the whole concept and representations of motherhood. We must look at the reasons why many empty nest mothers reach for the bottle!
Is this a cry for help?
Is this just an identity crisis?
How can we change this new behaviour pattern?
As mothers, we spend most of our time taking care of the children and the home. Our sense of usefulness is associated with the children and the private domain. We teach our children the norms and values of our society, we take them to school, to after school clubs,to play dates and everything we do virtually revolve around them. We are so busy with the children that sometimes we do not even have five minutes to ourselves. Five minutes peace is usually a luxury!!! Motherhood as an identity position gives us a location in the world and presents the link between us and the community in which we live.In many cases we are almost invisible and we are nameless!!
I am Danielle’s mum or Michael’s mum….
I am sure many mothers will agree that we often neglect our relationships with our husbands/partners because we are so focused on the children… The sad fact is that most couples become a victim of the very biology that brought them together in the first place! The mother-children relationship is usually so intense and can be all consuming..
Is this good for the parents relationship?
Sometimes,since mothers are so busy with the children they do not even notice the cracks in their relationships. They do not realised that the only communication between them and their husbands/partners are about the children.The break down in the personal relationships usually go unnoticed for quite a long time. However , when the children leave home,many mothers are lost. They do not know what to do with themselves. It is at this point that the cracks in their relationships take centre stage.
The absence of children from the home often leave a big hole behind which cannot be filled. Mothers suddenly find themselves alone at home with nothing to occupy all that time. They do not know what to do with themselves… They have loss their sense identity…The changes that accompany this loss of identity can have real detrimental effects on mothers self esteem and their sense of who they are.
Husbands/partners on the other hand,do not often understand the extent of this problem for us because their identity is tied up with their work. They are in the public arena and they have their friends and colleagues and usually at 45+ years they are moving up in their careers. They are at the peak of their professional life and enjoying the sense of achievement and may even be re-negotiating their own identity with every new promotion!
As empty nest mums, how do we reconcile this identity crisis in both the private and public areas of our lives? Suddenly we are not useful.. we do not have a purpose… we are not needed…
Who am I?
What am I going to do with myself?
I cannot go back to work now…
This crisis in identity also force mothers to look at themselves and their relationships.
How can we reclaim our identity or reclaim our sense of self? We have to take control. It is also very important to remember that we are not alone! I emailed another empty nester and invited her for coffee. We finally met and discovered that we had a lot in common. She fills her days with tennis and has really inspired me to learn the game!
Instead of reaching for a bottle or a glass of alcohol, let’s think about how we can change our situation. We need to empower ourselves. We need to replace empty nest syndrome with positive socio-economic representations and images. We are educated women and we all have skills and talents which we can use in so many different ways!
The opportunities are endless!!
Start a club in your local community..
We can rebuild a career that was put on hold..
We can do the things we have always wanted to do.
Modern identities are fluid and have different elements which can be reconstructed within new cultural conditions. So motherhood is an identity which can also be re-negotiated and re-articulated. Let’s put a positive spin on the concept of empty nesting. It should be seen as a time of discovery and re-invention! Re- invent the person you are. Be the person you want to be…
We are empty nesters, but we are also so much more!!We have a lot to give and we can make a difference if we challenge ourselves. Make decisions that are going to be beneficial for your success as an individual. Do something rewarding or something that will make you proud of yourself and make those you love proud of you too.
I have involved myself in charities I really connect with. I am on the committee of Save the Children Secret Winter Gala and on the 18th November our event raised over £1,000,000.00 for vulnerable children. I am also on the Pink Ribbon Ball committee for Breast Cancer Now and we raised over £460,000.00 for the funding of research projects.
This has helped me to re- invent myself and to find a new sense of self and purpose too. I have met many new people and established many new and rewarding relationships in the public and private arena. My husband and children are really supportive.
There are millions of women like us out there who share our empty nest experience. Let us reach out to each other. Together we are stronger and we can support each other through the difficult times and enjoy the successes too!
Who knows? You may even discover a new business partner! Or just a new BFF!