Whether you’re a new mom, or your last child has finally left the nest, most of us at some point are going to be empty nest accountant moms. I know it can be hard to fathom, especially when your children are young, but there’s going to come a time when they will leave to start their own lives and empty nest syndrome might set in.
If you’re not already familiar with the term empty nest syndrome, it describes the feelings of loneliness and sadness that many parents experience when their children grow up and leave home. Some of the common emotions you may experience with empty nest syndrome include:
- Feelings of sadness, loss, or grief
- Feeling like you have a lack of purpose
- Having a sense of loneliness
- Being worried about your child’s safety or ability to look after themselves
Whether you’re in the thick of it, just starting to experience it, or it’s a long way off for you, empty nest syndrome is more common than you may think. As most moms already worry about their children even when they’re living at home, empty nest syndrome has parent’s worrying, not only about how they will cope with their children being away from home, but some also worry about how their own marital relationship with their partner might suffer now that they’re on their own again.
Not only is there confusion about what’s next for your child, your relationship with your child, your relationship with your spouse, and your relationship with yourself, but there can also be a big question about what’s next for you professionally as well. What does it look like for your accounting career, to now be an empty nester? What’s possible now, that might not have been possible before?
Maybe you put your career aspirations on hold while your children were growing up and now you want to get back into a more full-time career; or maybe you’re at the point where you’d like more flexibility and freedom, and the idea of going out on your own is appealing. There are so many things to consider both personally and professionally when you become an empty nest accountant mom.
Thankfully, the amazing thing we all have available is the gift of choice and the gift of other accountant moms who have had the same struggles that you might be experiencing. Every accountant mom you see will become, or already is, an empty nest accountant mom, and is probably trying to navigate the various questions, concerns, and thoughts about what they’d like for this next chapter of their lives.
In fact, I am now an empty nest accountant mom since both of my children moved out last year, and I can tell you from my experience that it’s incredibly helpful to learn the skill of managing your brain before, during, and after you become an empty nest accountant mom. If it wasn’t for what I’ve studied in order to become a life coach, that I help my coaching clients with each week, I would have never been able to handle this new chapter in my life in the way I have.
Hopefully I’ll be able to pass along some of what I’ve learned this past year, and whether you’ve got many years before you become an empty nest accountant mom, or you already are one, you’ll be able to move forward and make this next part of your journey what you want it to be. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be when the time arrives.
This week I’m going to discuss how to deal with an empty nest in regards to your children and how to deal with it in regards to your accounting career.
How to deal with an empty nest in regards to your children
As most moms can attest, the last thing you’re thinking about as they hand you your beautiful bundle of joy, is a time when they’re not going to be living under your roof. Even though we’re intelligent women and understand that our children are going to grow up and leave home at some point, it can still be a bit of a shock when they actually do.
Once the kids leave the house, it can be jarring. You’re so used to them being dependent on you at various stages of their lives and now they’ve left the nest that you built in order to nurture and protect them.
To some moms, it can almost feel like a death – like you’ve literally lost your child. You’ve spent years having them depend on you, knowing the who, what, and where of their lives, and now it can seem like life is unraveling.
You know that you’ll always be mom to them, but what does that role look like now? It can feel like a loss of motherhood when you’re not doing the typical mothering things.
In an article by the Better Health Channel, they shared that research suggests that some parents are more susceptible than others when it comes to suffering with empty nest syndrome. People who suffer the most tend to have things in common, including:
- They saw change as stressful, rather than challenging or refreshing.
- They found the idea of their children moving out of home a difficult and emotional experience.
- Their marriage was unstable or unsatisfactory.
- Experiences such as weaning their babies from the breast, or sending their children off to school, were emotional and painful.
- Those who rely on their roles for self-identity are more likely to feel bereft than those who have a strong sense of self-worth.
- Full-time parents were more often affected than those who also have other duties to perform (such as paid employment).
- Parents who worry that their children aren’t ready to take on adult responsibilities tend to experience more grief.
Even if you’re looking forward to being an empty nester, it can still sneak up on you and make you unsure of what your role is now in your children’s lives. Even though we typically have 18 years to prepare for our children leaving, we’re often not really prepared until it happens.
We typically have a vision of the kind of mother we want to be as they’re growing up, but how many of us put the same effort into considering the kind of woman we want to be? We’re always going to be their mother, but what do we want as a woman, and not necessarily as a mother?
For me, I raised my children to be very independent – I was a working mom their entire lives so the only way I was going to be able to balance my career and my family was to have them learn at an early age how to take care of some of their basic needs like cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. I always assumed that when they left our home to go out on their own, I wouldn’t be as affected as other moms that I knew.
To my surprise, I had a hard time at first. My daughter and son actually moved out at the same time, they got an apartment together, and only moved 45 minutes away, but when reality sunk in that they would no longer be sleeping in their bedrooms, they wouldn’t be coming home and asking what’s for dinner, and they wouldn’t be physically there for a shoulder to cry on if they or I needed it, it really hit me.
A few weeks after they had moved out I was taking a long drive with them upstate to go apple picking and my son said, “So, how are you? Are you doing okay with us not being home?” I was completely honest and said, “I’ll tell you the truth – I’m surprised about how hard it’s been, but I’m adjusting.” We laughed about all the things I wouldn’t miss, like dishes in the sink, so many towels used for showers, and the electric bill when 4 people were living at home.
The truth is that children can metaphorically be like a warm, comfortable blanket around us – they can become our comfort zone. So when they leave the nest, it can make us feel exposed and unsure of what our role is now, in their lives and in ours.
The best advice I can give is to be okay with it being hard – be okay with it feeling uncomfortable. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t judge yourself if you struggle, and don’t stuff your emotions. Allow yourself to feel however you feel and process any emotions you have, but also accept that the possibilities are endless for who you now get to become and how your relationship with your children can become as well.
I suggest that you consider what you’d like your relationship to be with each of your children now that they’re not conveniently living at home, share your thoughts and feelings, and negotiate a plan that works for everyone. When my son went away for college he told me I was not allowed to “blow up his phone” with text messages so we discussed a reasonable amount of communication and he drew up a fun “communication contract” that we both agreed to and signed.
Now that both my daughter and son are out of the house, I try to give them the space they need and definitely don’t make them responsible for making me feel connected or loved. Instead, my daughter recently suggested that she come over every other week to watch This Is Us with me, and we make plans to go to dinner whenever one of us thinks of it; with my son, we call each other whenever there’s something we know the other person will appreciate, and we make plans to go for breakfast in Greenwich Village whenever we can.
Our relationship has evolved, as it should. We’re rediscovering each other in new and fun ways. We’ve become really good friends. We’ve become good sounding boards. We’ve become a new and improved version of ourselves.
So let it be hard at first and then open yourself up to how you’d like it to be. The truth is that you’ll always be their mom, no matter where they live, but maybe you can grow and evolve together.
How to deal with an empty nest in regards to your accounting career
As I said before, being an empty nester can make you rethink your relationship with yourself, with your children, with your spouse, and also with your career. As working moms, we’re often so focused on raising our children, balancing our career with our family, and making it all work in a particular way, that it can be confusing when one of the ingredients in the recipe changes.
Just as you have the opportunity to reconsider your role as a mother, you also have the opportunity to reconsider your role as an accountant as well. What do you want as an accountant that might not have been possible when the kids were at home?
For a lot of moms, the idea of investing in yourself often sounds selfish. We’re so used to putting most of our energy into our family, that we forget to ask what we want.
While you’re raising your children, it can feel selfish to focus your attention on you, your wants, and your dreams. If you haven’t had a vision for your future that went beyond when your children left home, you might feel discouraged and hopeless.
For many empty nesters, it can feel like an end rather than a beginning, but thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way. You have the option to see this new chapter as the beginning of a story that you get to create and write.
My suggestion for how to deal with an empty nest in regards to your accounting career is to learn how to think about WHAT you want, rather than HOW you’re going to get there. Focusing on HOW closes you down to possibilities – focusing on WHAT opens you up to possibilities.
It’s important to understand that it can be hard for women as they get older to explore new things with curiosity. But thankfully, the things that you really want and that bring you joy will leave clues – they will show up in your interests, in the things that light you up, and in what you naturally gravitate towards.
By opening up to opportunities and possibilities, without getting caught up in the HOW, you have a much better chance at having the WHAT. Even though we tend to resist the idea of learning new things as we get older, it’s important that you catch yourself when that happens.
Let this time of being an empty nest accountant mom be a time of exploration. What do you think you want to do? Who’s already doing it? How can you speak to them about their experience? How can you find out more? What’s the next step? What lights you up? What would be amazing to do?
While you’re at it, think about how much your experience as an accountant and a mom might help younger accountant moms. That’s why I love doing all the work that goes into creating this podcast – I’ve been an accountant for over 30 years and a mom for most of that time so I have a lot to share and teach.
WHAT I wanted to do was support accountant moms who were struggling with having a career and a family, and that’s all I needed to focus on initially – allowing myself to think outside the box, explore possibilities, and not let the HOW get in my way and stop me.
You now have the freedom to think about things you may have put on the shelf while you were raising your children. You get to explore a little further on that subject that peaked your interest in the last CPE class you took; you get to reach out to that female business owner you admire and see if she’ll meet for coffee; you get to consider those options that you believed were impossible when your children were younger.
If you feel alone in this phase in your life and your career, we want you to know that you’re never alone when you’re part of a community like ours at CPA MOMS. There are other empty nest accountant moms just like you and I, and we are here to support each other as we navigate the new, exciting chapter together.
If you aren’t a member of our Facebook Community, I highly recommend you join us and share your struggles with like-minded women. We’re here for you. You can join us at www.facebook.com/groups/cpamoms.
- Whether you’re in the thick of it, just starting to experience it, or it’s a long way off for you, empty nest syndrome is more common than you may think.
- Even though we typically have 18 years to prepare for our children leaving, we’re often not really prepared until it happens.
- Just as you have the opportunity to reconsider your role as a mother, you also have the opportunity to reconsider your role as an accountant as well.