By: The Food Coach
Many of my friends' children have left or are leaving home to start jobs or go to Uni and live in shared accommodation with friends. It's an important time for everyone, however for the young adult it's generally new, exciting and extremely liberating, while many parents, particularly mums end up feeling abandoned, worthless and redundant. After years of dedicated time steering their children through life - and years of washing, tidying, taxiing and cooking - they are left with an empty home and, seemingly, not much to do.
Empty nest syndrome is recognised but there are few places to go for support and, compounding the problem, it often coincides with other life changing events such as sick parents, menopause, retirement and sadly the loss of a partner. It can be depressing and lead to what I call "can't be bothered" syndrome.
Psychologists estimate it may take between 18 months and two years to deprogram from being a mum to a woman (or man) who enjoys and makes good use of the "me" time this situation offers. It's quite a long time if, in the process of not being bothered to take care of yourself, you allow your health to slide.
I hear this a lot from women whose families have grown up and left home:
I don't cook as much since the kid's left home.
My own mum was a great example of one of the millions of women worldwide who put her family first: When left alone she didn't value herself enough to nurture her body with nutritionally good meals. Her evening meal was often a huge bread roll with a mountain of marmalade and a glass of milk! Over time she developed Crohn's disease which I am quite sure was a result of her diet. (The doctor will argue that point yet I remain convinced).
I admit that it's harder to shop and cook for one or two people. Most recipes are developed for four. Food is packaged to feed more and many people can't be bothered shopping for themselves when there's so little to get. Compared to how they used to shop it's seems like a complete waste of time! On balance, and depending on where you go, it may be cheaper to eat out and if it's just you and hubby who've been together for yonks, it's nice to be amongst the action rather than the quiet home looking across the table at each other with nothing much to say. And while it's easy to understand why we fall into a trap of takeaway meals, quick packaged supermarket food, and the regular night out at the local "cheap and cheerful" we don't often recognise what that does to our body and minds 18 months to two years down the track.
If you've read about neuroplasticity you will understand how we can shape our mind and behaviour. This is another example of how we must shape the mind to value ourselves sufficiently to nurture ourselves as well as how we nurtured our children.
Evidently there are more people over 50 in the world right now than there are children under five. It's a fascinating statistic which has very interesting consequences on our society.
You might remember that famous speech by John F Kennedy in 1961 in which he said:
"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".
My fellow Australians, what we can do for our country is this.
Stay as healthy as you can.
Diabetes, a dietary related disease, costs Australia an estimated $14.6 billion each year. Add the cost of other dietary related diseases, such as cancer (30% of cancers are believed to be attributed to diet), heart disease, stroke etc and you can quickly understand how a sick aging population will cripple our country if we don't take responsibility for our own health. Don't think the government will be much help either - no matter who's in power. Shackled by the status quo, our political system relies on heavy funding from drug companies, food manufacturers and huge corporations whose products often contribute to the health problem: These companies also employ people and we need employment. It's rather a mess.
The situation is fascinating and frightening.
I do what I do because I want individuals to get the most from life by being as well as they can.
I hope individuals who are working to stay well can see how their contribution may help the country.