Episode 9: How Baby Boomers Deal with Empty Nesting and Find Space for Themselves

A feeling of grief or loneliness is called the ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ and this is experienced by some Baby Boomers especially women when they their children leave home for the first time, or when a partner passes away or losing something very valuable to them like that of their jobs. They feel like their sense of purpose in life is gone, while others plan on what they will do next once their children have left the house. Other Baby Boomers plan on travelling and doing something new and exciting for them in their third stage of life.

Baby Boomers have varying opinions about this topic and that is what makes this very interesting. Listen in to this week’s episode to know what our hosts and panelist have to impart in the discussion.

Transcript

Wayne Bucklar:  You’re listening to Booms Day Prepping. Our regular podcast about baby Boomers and getting ready being prepared, prepping for that next stage in life that we’re all looking towards. And today as usual, you have Drew Dwyer and myself, your regular hosts and our panel of Baby Boomers, we have Glenn Capelli, Amanda Lambros, Brian Hinselwood and Bron Williams. Good morning to you all.

Amanda Lambros:  Good morning.

Bron Williams:  Good morning.

Brian Hinselwood:  Good morning Wayne.

Wayne:  Now our topic for today, ‘Empty Nesters’ and ‘Making Space for Yourself.’ Now I have to say that this is the topic near to my heart because I qualify in that category. And I think some of our other Boomers might do so as well.

Bron:  Yes, indeed.

Wayne:  Now who would like to lead us off? Amanda, let’s start with you. Given your background in psychology, what are the implications of this?

Amanda:  So I do want to start with it’s not a clinical condition because a lot of people think empty nesting is a clinical condition – ‘It’s something psychologically wrong with me, I need to go and see somebody.’ Well it’s not a clinical condition but it is a syndrome. So it’s called the ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ and it’s a feeling of grief or loneliness that parents often feel when their children leave home for the first time. Now if you are a yo-yo child, so if you’re parents of a yo-yo child the ones who go and come back and go and come back, you can empty nest syndrome over and over again each time they leave. So usually this happens first and foremost when they’re attending college for the first time or if they’re moving overseas. I know the first time that I moved out of my parents’ house, I don’t think my parents were suffering empty nest syndrome at all because when I came back I moved out on a Friday and when I came back on Sunday to pick up some extra boxes, my room was completely redone. There was a beautiful rug, my bed was gone nowhere to be seen, there was a beautiful couch, a coffee table, a roll-top desk and I just walked in and stood there in shock and went, “Mum, what happened to my room?” And she went, “No, no, no my dear. Your room is now at your new place. This is my room.”

Wayne:  Well that prevents the yo-yo syndrome. If you could just maybe lend it out on Airbnb as well, that will guarantee it.

Amanda:  Exactly.

Brian:  Amanda, is there a syndrome for children who’ve left home unlike yourself, go back to find that your parents have redone your room?

Amanda:  It hurt my heart. Trust me, I was in shock. I think actually the word is ‘shock.’ I just felt it was one of those things like, “Oh wow! My parents have moved on so quickly.” And she said, “No, it’s been planning. Don’t worry about it. We’ve planned this and now we’ve moved forward.” So I think that’s another thing and that’s why you have yo-yo children is because sometimes the parents mention, “Oh! I’m missing you. I’m missing you. I’m missing you.” So then the children go, “Well, it’s kind of cushy living at home. Mum and dad possibly are making my food, possibly doing my laundry. I can relax. I don’t have overhead bills to pay necessarily.” And that’s where you get the yo-yo generation of these kids who constantly come back and then go away and then come back and go away.

Glenn: Amanda, I’m not sure if we were allowed to quote Woody Allen anymore in life. He seems to be in disfavor at the moment, but Woody Allen said that when he was a youngster, he was kidnapped and his parents responded immediately by renting out his room. So you rented out your room or your folks are rented out your room maybe that’s a good thing. Parents are there to help their kids to be able to fly and to be able to soar. I mean it does become interesting this constant life of ours and the ever-changing life of ours because we need the transition in some ways in our view of ourselves so if we only ever thought of ourself as Glenn, we’re not our name. When our folks came up with our name, they might have just read it in a book, one chap said to me and he named his son Aaron because he got one of those books on how to name your child and what each name means and he wasn’t much of a reader, so he didn’t get past Aaron. We’re not our name, we’re not our job and that becomes a difficulty. Sometimes, people see themselves as their job or they see themselves just as Mum or just as Dad. Now there maybe nothing more important than being mum or dad but a way to be a good mum, a good dad is to find ways to identify yourself as a human being beyond the tags and titles of mum, dad, granddad, grandma to – be the ongoing human being that you’re meant to be able to become. So I think it’s a very good service we do people when we teach them to be able to go independently and to find independence. The world has shifted and changed places, cost more and more expensive, etc. But still it is our responsibility to help human beings be the best individual they can be with the best character system they can be and maybe sometimes, parenting and grandparenting is to make those seemingly harsher decisions where you help people be able to fly and soar and come back for a day or two but not a week or two, a month or two, a year or two, or a decade or two.

Bron:  I’ve experienced the Empty Nest Syndrome quite early, because I have 3 sons and there’s a gap of 4 years and then 7 years, so they’re spaced out. Well the eldest got married at the tender age of 19. And 8 months later, his younger brother, Matthew was 19, Tom lived out when he turned 16 to work at the racing stables. So I went from having 3 sons to having one at home in less than 12 months. And that was a huge thing to get used to and I think the thing that was the most difficult for me even though having raised 3 sons, part of you as a mother is, tries to prepare yourself for this day because they’re going to go. It was the fact that let you went from being my son to being someone else’s husband and setting up a family and a home on their own and they literally did within 12 months of being married, they were parents. So they had literally gone from being my kids to – one of them, my kid – being a father.

Amanda:  And that’s a lot to take on board because usually, at least some kids give you this nice little stepping stage like, “I’m just going to go away to go to school and now I might move in with someone, and now I might you know.” So you got whammed with it all at once. So how did you cope with that?

Bron:  Well I grieved a bit to be quite honest. There was this big hole in my heart, I was gonna say in my life, it was a hole in my heart because things had changed hugely and then like within two years, I’d left my marriage too. So there was a whole lot of stuff going on as well. So I just tried to be a mum and a reasonable mum and let them be men.

Brian: That’s your first mistake, Bron, ‘Let them be men.’ I have a totally different thing. When I was quite young sort of 20s, I was living in London and I was doing a lot of hitchhiking around Europe, and Asia and various places because from the UK, it’s very easy. And my parents were used to me going away. Even though I wouldn’t be at home, I was going to bring them something, heading off again next week to wherever. And I rang them one Friday night and a whole group of friends were going to the Munich Beer Fest and I thought, “Oh, I’ll drive with them.” And then I’ll just keep going and I’ll hitchhike Australia as you do. And so I rang up my mother and I said, “Oh, hi mum! I’m heading off again tomorrow.” And she said, “’That’s nice” and she said, “Where you going?”.  I said, “Australia.” She said “Oh, that’s nice.”, and she said that, “When will you be back?” And I said, “I don’t know how long it’s going to me to take to get there.” And she said, “Isn’t it next in Germany or somewhere?” And I said “No mum, that’s Austria. I’m going to Australia.” She said, “Arthur, better come and talk to him”, calling my father. I won’t tell you what he said because it’s all a bit rude really but suffice to say I hitchhiked to Australia and I kind of more or less been here ever since. Well it does sound a bit bizarre but you could do it in those days. I mean in the late 60s, early 70s, you could hitchhike. I mean I hitchhiked through Afghanistan, and Iran, Pakistan, places now that you would not go to now. I mean I wouldn’t go.

Amanda:  I think on that point what you just mentioned is really important is that you could do it in those days and you kind of knew once you left home, you left home, there was no coming back. Whereas now, what you guys are experiencing is you have children of your own who are doing this yo-yo thing. So it’s not ‘leave the house, go away and don’t come back.’ It’s ‘leave the house, but don’t worry our door’s always open for you if you need to continue coming back and sometimes even come back with your own children because you’re going through divorce or whatever it might be.’ Whereas 30 years ago, it doesn’t matter if you’re going through a divorce with your own kids, you find yourself another house.

Glenn Capelli: If I could share some of my thoughts about empty nesting and finding space, finding a place for you. I’d like to start with actually nesting rather than empty nesting and just get you to consider some nesting. I want you to work this out: one your age, I mean hopefully you all know your age but two, and this will take a little bit of turning the podcast or after the podcast has been in action for you to pause and give this a go. I want you to note down how many different places you have lived in your life. How many different places you have lived in your life for longer than 3 months let’s say? So for example I am 60 and I have lived in at least 14 places for over 3 months or more in a variety of places in the world. So once you’ve worked out your age and once you’ve worked out how many places you’ve lived, you then divide your places lived into your age and what you come up with is your Nomadic Score. Your Nomadic Score, how much of a Nomad you have been. The lower your score, the more Nomadic you’ve been. The higher your score, the less Nomadic you’ve been. And this becomes important when considering what kind of finding space, finding place and what kind of nesting you’ll do. And why it’s important is because my score is 4.2 so I’ve lived in a quite a few places. We did this on 3AW in Melbourne on our radio show Thinking Caps and one chap rang in and he said, ‘Well I was born in a particular place. I lived in that place with my mum and dad. When they were ready ready to move, I bought that place from my mum and dad and I still live there so I’ve lived in one place for 68 years. My Nomadic score is 68.’ And that is pretty high. In fact, that’s very high. They never have moved, they’ve never found the space but it becomes interesting because what would that chap do? If he has to move, if he has to move somewhere else because I care or aging or whatever it might be. And what does it mean for me at the age of 60 already having lived in 14 places? Do I plan on another one or two in my life? And if so, what kind of place and space would they be? The Birds wrote a song or sang a song called ‘Turn, turn turn’ based on some biblical quotation I do believe to everything there is a season and every time to every purpose. A time to be born, a time to die, to plant, to wreak, to laugh, to weep.’ And there used to be times in life where we would have definite transitions. You would have a definite transition, moving out from mum and dad. So once you moved out from mum and dad, boy you didn’t want to go back to mum and dad’s because you now had a newfound freedom. Before you moved and found the place of your own, your car used to be your bedroom as best as possible. But in today’s world, I don’t think people have to move out anymore, they can have their girlfriend, boyfriend, loved one stay over under mum and dad’s roof and that was never possible in my time. So you wanted to find a way to get out, you wanted to find a place of your own, you wanted to find a bed you could sleep in and somebody you could attract to that bed if you could. The incentive and possibility of making love with somebody was an incredible incentive and if it doesn’t exist anymore, then the lines are blurred. And what happens is people leave home and they return home, it’s a boomerang. They go, they come back and you’re never too sure once they’re gone whether your nest will be empty or not. But to me, I never liked the phrase empty nesting. I do like transitions in life and I do like helping people have strength and character to be able to transition in life. So I think we should find it a bit tougher for our youngsters who are no longer young to constantly be returning home. Sure, there may be times and situations and circumstance where you need to do that. But it shouldn’t be a rite of passage that they consider they can do no matter what, the constantly boomerang back. And we as we age, we’ve got a chance to be able to find a new place and a new space. We’re better at transitioning than what we think. I once wrote a little tune and I went something like this: “Once a month, I change my skin, and change my skin and change my skin. Once a month, I change my skin everyday at night and morning. Every 5 days, my stomach lining. Indeed every 5 days, our stomach lining shifts and changes. My liver changes every 6 weeks, our skeleton changes every 3 months. Now the 8% of the atoms of me are right now changing annually, every day and night and morning.” We’re constantly shifting and changing us in our appearance, our skeleton, we’re better at transition than what we think. So I would like you to invite you to be able to find the space and the place to transition well. For the next couple of transitions in your life until you find that place that you no longer move from, that space there in the ground or the space in the sky or the ash that we become, we constantly transition. A chap that I was working with, the CEO of a company, he said to me, ‘I know it’s impossible within 24/7 I’m there for my company.’ And he said, ‘In 24/7, I’m there for my family.’ I said, ‘Well that’s interesting James when do you find time for yourself?’ Somewhere along the way, every day, every week, every month, we need to find a little bit of a place and a space for ourselves. A place in this space where we can do solo time. So time alone in nature, time alone with nature, time doing that thing that we love to do, if we love to surf, get out into the surf. If we love to walk, get out into the walk. To do solo well can often help us duo well. And if you’ve lost your partner in life and there may be nothing sadder. If you’ve lost your partner in life and still find ways and means to pair up with buddies, pair up with old friends, pair up with sons, daughters, granddaughters and if we haven’t got them, and not only to do duo well but to do trio well and beyond trio. Find a place where you can still go and mix and meet with people and it might be University of the Third Age, it might be down the local club. But to find a place and a space where you can hear and be with other human beings voices to make sure that the sociability of your life continues. So empty nest, no – just change your nest a little, transition a little, we’re better at transitioning than what we even think we are. I’d like you to ponder all of that.

Brian:  I have to say it never occurred to me that I couldn’t go back if I wanted to. I mean life took over in the way it does and I’ve just never went back. I got to leave. I went back many times. So what about you Wayne? How did you end up leaving the confines of your home?

Wayne:  I lived in a little country town of 7,000 people and at the age of 17, pretty much the day after I got my driver’s license, I went to the Big Smoke which was 84 miles away and had a population of some tens of thousands of people, huge move. And my move was largely motivated out of disputes with my father particularly. We never kind of saw eye-to-eye on anything. This was the 1970s and his view, as many of our parents had the view, was that you should get a good job in the post office, it’ll be a job for life or a good job in the railway, and you should settle down, and marry and move to that block of land and just over there. And he at the age of 94 was buried about five blocks from where he was born and about five blocks from where he lived all his life at one address, 33 Boundary Street and and about five blocks from where he was born. So his sense of place was critically important to his view of the world. And for my brother and sister, that sense of place is still critically important to their identity. Whereas, I’ve never felt that. I’ve never felt particularly attached to a place, home is pretty much where I hang my hat. And if there’s an opportunity over there that looks interesting, I’ll go do it. So career planning for me is a bit like the lottery, you just take what comes along and something always does. But subsequently, I was married and had one child and in the fullness of time, they moved their girlfriend into our family home and then got married and lived in our family home and eventually, I left the family home. So I was the one who ran away. But I don’t identify strongly with this sense of empty nesting, I’m afraid. It’s not something that reconciles very strongly with me and maybe that’s that sense of place thing – it just has never had a great significance for me.

Dr. Drew Dwyer:  And I love the subject of empty nesting because I basically see a lot of it. I see a lot of people who don’t know that they’re experiencing it and going through the process of teaching, or underpinning or allowing someone to know and acknowledge that they are experiencing empty nesting. It brings a great fulfillment to me as a counselor when you see the anxiety and the clinicians relaxed with them, when they realize they’re experiencing a very normal thing for many people. And from what I’ve just heard, not a normal thing for you Wayne.

Wayne:  Well I’m a very not normal person Drew, really. But no, as I was saying, sense of place has never been very important to me and consequently, the idea of the family home as being a castle and a kingdom, that’s never been terribly important to me and so that sense of empty nesting has never been important to me. My son and I are in touch and talk frequently but I don’t have that sense of grief that Bron has talked about or that syndrome that Amanda mentioned earlier.

Dr. Drew:  Many, many clients will experience different things or people experience different things. One of the things particularly pertaining to female patients that I see and clients that I talk to and sometimes you’re very right. It’s not the case of the empty nest that the house or the castle or the issue. In a lot of cases, it’s those what they call ‘Apron Strings’. It’s that maternal not paternal, it’s like maternal disconnection or final cutting of the umbilical cord. It’s that final letting go or realizing that the job is done, that the children are no longer there, they don’t need you anymore. And really it attacks in the female feeling of emotion, that the emotions of being needed, wanted and it said self-actualization process or survival and belongingness. Maslow’s Human Theory plays a multileveled emotional thing here with people. It’s either the feeling of the home, or the feeling of the child, or the feeling of need, or the nurturing, or the connection, or for a lot of women in particularly when I talk to them, they had a job and a role and a purpose. And now that job and multi-purpose has changed or seemed to be taken away from them.

Bron:  And it’s that where they then have the opportunity to make space for ourselves? Does that fill the gap?

Dr. Drew:  It’s about making that space, yeah. But I often take that step to step easy. I often work with my clients to make them understand first, they’ve got to own their new norm and the new norm for them once they worked through it is that the new norm is that the path has changed and it’s gone. Much when we talked about we had our session on ‘Renewal.’  It’s that staying that space first and the space has become like stepping stones for the client and Amanda you probably do this yourself, yes?

Amanda:  Absolutely.

Dr. Drew:  They’ve got to give the foundation to the current stepping stone. The foundation stone or the bottom run on the stairs is ‘this is where I’m at.’ It’s about acceptance and it’s about understanding and having knowledge around that acceptance that the purpose is gone not entirely but it’s changed. The reason of being and the amount of energy they put into that purpose in the past no longer is needed. And particularly with women – because men are very different I’ll talk about them in a minute – but women specifically need that purpose or justify that purpose because raising children, being a wife, being a mother, if they’ve had that opportunity, and empty nesting is specifically around that. That’s their home, their place, their being and their purpose. And once the children break that mold and move on, I often ask these women to understand to go back and to think “You actually prepared, nurtured and built this child to do that.” They haven’t just left and cut you, and sliced you and opened you up all over the dining room floor. You have actually played a major role in leading them, nurturing them and mentoring them to reach this current space where they are independent and gone in their own daily routines and existence and you now have to prepare, stay on this first step and now prepare yourself to look at the next steps – What are the next two or three steps look like?

Amanda:  Absolutely.

Brian:  Doesn’t it all come back again? I mean, I’ve just been interstates to visit one of my daughters and we stayed with my daughter and son-in-law and their two young children. And then went to stay with some friends because the two young children were drawing up the hall. So we were going and visit them everyday but when it came to bedtime, when it was always a bit traumatic and a bit over the top, we will go back to our friend’s house and have a nice glass of wine and a decent meal and a quiet evening. So doesn’t it all come back? I mean all kids eventually leave home or home leaves them, as the case may be. But then you get to be with your kids.

Dr. Drew:  I totally agree Brian. And for a man where you’re at, and your adult children and grandchildren, that’s a transition journey you’ve already taken. When empty nesting is occurring on people, it’s occurring at that first step. I tell you, here’s a personal story. We’ve just been going to the process with our daughter and I nurtured, I will say, I’m a lot like you Wayne. A military boy from a very broken home. So home is where I hang my hat and where I sign my love. And the empty nesting for me doesn’t work for me personally, I study it and understand it but I’m like you Wayne. I could find my home in Thailand, in Vietnam, in Cambodia or in Japan, in any rocker, I couldn’t care less, as long as I am happy I could hang my a hat, have a roof and food and I have someone with me to love me I’ll be fine. So that early stage is the most critical stage, it’s where the grief, Amanda often talks about grief and loss and that’s where the grief cycle begins. So the person is about step through a grief cycle. So for the Baby Boomers listening, and experience it and I’ve just done this. My daughter, we had children late of course, so I keep saying but my daughter went off and needed to go to university. She’s in school, she was leaving home and I wanted to tear her to shreds. I wanted to burn the house down and her in it because other than that, she had to leave. But pull yourself back from that emotion and I have to think I actually nurtured my daughter, not train but nurtured and educated, she was ready to go – that was the issue. The door was open and mummy had the apron strings and calling, “Not my baby, not my baby.” And I had to put my arms around my wife and and say to her, “It’s time. Let her go.” Colleagues and friends around think, “Oh my God, you kicked her out.” “No, we never kicked her out. It was time for her to leave and do what she’s been nurtured, and trained, and educated and grown up to do.” And she’s done it now three years later so well. My problems, issues and dilemmas have been my beautiful wife who just pains for connection with her daughter on a daily basis.

Wayne:  I’d like to take the conversation a little different direction and nod to some of our country colleagues who are farmers and cattle grazers because they kind of have the reverse problem and my family, my extended family is like this, where the children in fact never leave. They live on the farm and they work on the farm and they raise their families on the farm. And the problem is getting mum and dad to leave.

Dr. Drew:  Is that the dynasty issue, do you think Wayne? Is that a dynasty issue?

Wayne:  Well I think there is a dynasty issue there and as many more agricultural farms have been turned into foreign owned and corporate owned ventures, it’s not as big as it used to be. But back a little while ago, it was not unusual to go onto a farm and the farmer in charge with the checkbook in hand would be in his 70s and then the 50 year old son would be chomping at the bit waiting for him to hand out the checkbook so that he could implement the stuff he learned at agricultural college 30 years ago. And then their 25 year old saying, “What about me? It’s my turn.” But they all routinely live together, maybe not in the same house but certainly in a cluster of housing and they are very tightly knit independent family groups who probably together everyday, see each other every day. And then the issue becomes not the children leaving but the parents leaving. A parent is typically retired to the Coast and the empty nest syndrome is something the children experience about their parents going.

Dr. Drew:  True. I’d like to ask them Wayne, I’d like to direct that to Amanda only because she lives over at Sand Grove, the country and of course, a lot more rural type people so close to Perth.

Amanda:  I would say we actually had the opposite effect within our family. We’re a family of farmers and our problem is getting 80 year old dad off the farm to actually say, “No Dad, seriously you’re getting old. We don’t want you to have a farming accident at 80 years old. We want you closer to a city, closer to a hospital, closer to us, whatever it might be.” So that process just to get Dad off the farm was almost 8 years it took to finally get Dad off the farm. We did it. It was 8 years of kind of trying to explain why this is beneficial. And honestly, when the farm finally sold, it was taking the money from the farm so that they could be comfortable in a house, in the city closer to amenities. They’re getting old to the point that they’re really not driving as much and when they are driving, they really can’t see and looking out at different times of night.

Dr. Drew:  Amanda, this all sits different – for me, everybody and our listeners who are listening – this is why what Amanda is talking about now is important why even today in a modern society, I mean I wish 8 years or 10 years ago Amanda that we had the same understanding of the evidence around this. But I always send a strong message to our Boomer listeners and our cohort a bit. Now, plan, plan, plan, you have to plan these things and put them into action so that when you reach those milestones, you understand, I have to actually move onto the next step of my plan because that’s what the plan was and the transition will become easier.

Amanda:  And I’m sure like most family, our farming families in Australia and even overseas is that what you find is that all the money goes back into the farm. The farm is your life, your passion, your drive. So when you go, “Yep, I do want to step away and I do want to get a house or like a little town house or a retirement space in city.” They actually don’t have the money for it, so they have to wait for the farm to sell in order to take the money and actually do something with it because they really heavily reinvest into the farm.

Dr. Drew:  Now I’d like to hear from some of our listeners at some point and Wayne if we could push this issue out into our social media that would be great to have them call in to us right now and talk to us, anyone who experience this in that country cohort of people. But I’d like to hear more on this because it’s like a reverse of the empty nesting as Wayne said and it’s also not just a reverse, it’s also like another dimension of transition.

Wayne:  Yes. And it is one of those areas that we don’t see a lot of media coverage of is ageing in, I guess the word is not marginal communities but the non-mainstream communities – the rural communities, the gay communities, the homeless communities. We don’t hear a lot about those people and it would be nice to cover some of that stuff.

Amanda:  Absolutely.

Dr. Drew: Yes.

Wayne:  So one of the things we’re going to talk about today was how you go about making space for yourself?

Amanda:  And I think that’s actually really important and it kind of bounces off the story that I said initially when I moved out and all of a sudden, my parents made space for themselves. My mum said, once I got past the shock and had the opportunity to talk to my mum about it. She said she always wanted a sitting room and she said this was a really great opportunity for it to be her sitting room, decorated the way she wanted that felt serene to her. And I think that’s really important that she found that space for herself and designed it in a way that made her feel comfortable while I was gone.

Dr. Drew:  To add to that too Wayne and Amanda, we should make sure our listeners who are taking notes from us and listening to what we do put on this panel’s table. And that is to first make space, you’ve got to know what that space looks like as Amanda said, “Mum says, I always wanted this.” Well chase that dream. Dreams are goals with timelines and as you get older, the time runs out I’m afraid and that’s the reality. If you take a look at the ability, the emotional ability and the strength and the capacity to reach any goal, it’s less and limited. So once you realized what that space looks like, my advice to anyone in their retirement, empty nesting and transition space, go after that space, taste it and test it and have a great big lick of that ice cream to see whether or not you like it.

Amanda: Yes.

Brian:  I’m starting to feel a little bit out of this only because I’ve never had a problem with creating a space for myself wherever I am. I’ve always just felt, “Well, maybe this is where I’m supposed to be.” So I’ve never had a problem with my mother turning my bedroom into a lounge or whatever, which I don’t think she did mainly because my bedroom was upstairs and it was very, very small. The best thing she could have done was to turn it into an ironing room or something like that. So I never had that sort of problem and listening to all of your talk, I’m so thinking, “Oh gosh, maybe I’m really selfish.” I don’t think I am but that’s what I’m thinking.

Dr. Drew:  I think Brian in the short time of knowing and listening to you, I mean I hope you understand, you’re a highly intellectual being and you’re a thespian. So you have an extreme talent that sits in another part of your brain, that’s a part of your brain that gets used the most. And there’s a passion and intuition you have with that. So I’m not surprised you don’t feel that because I gather you are able to find and make space in creation.

Brian:  Yes, thank you Drew. I feel better now. We can carry on.

Dr. Drew:  You’re welcome.

Wayne:  I just wanted to clarify a little of the idea that space is not necessarily about physical space.

Bron: Yes.

Amanda: Emotion is a space as well.

Wayne:  Just because we had been talking about bedrooms, maybe there’s a picture that this was all about the physical space but I suspect the emotional space and capacity is probably much more important.

Dr. Drew:  Okay. Well, in my book Ageing in the New Age we discussed this particular subject, I briefly discussed it. I am currently writing another whole book on it but it’s about that space being exactly that emotionally intelligent, physical, conceptual space and like I said for Brian. For Brian, I’ve mentioned being a thespian, it’s a very creative space or a thinking space for acting, for art and for other things that the right side of his brain would be interested in. For some people, it’s that physical thing that “I’m going to take up a new task or job.”

Amanda:  Well I was going to say that it kind of goes back to what Bron was saying when you were talking about like space and having that mental space and capacity to do it, Bron went from having three sons living in her house to all of a sudden two of them gone, one becoming a father himself in a very small space of time. And then so getting herself into that mental like, “Okay, I’ve got to find a way to actually cope with this and manage this new normal and how am I gonna do that?” And then getting hit again with another one which the second son moved out and then getting hit with like a divorce. It’s this constant adjustment for a new normal in your own space.

Brian:  Yes. I think as Drew said earlier, as both Bron and Amanda have alluded to, I think it’s probably much harder for a mother, for the female of the marriage, because I think most men and I’m sure of Wayne and Drew will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think most men just accept that that’s a natural part of life. People move on, people move out, people move up. And so I think it must be much harder for mothers. This little person that you’ve given birth to growing up and flying a coop as they say.

Wayne:  And we’ve been talking about there being a grief, a feeling of grieving in this and I guess that’s easy to accept and recognize that it happens. But my question is having recognized that it’s grief, how do you then make it better? What do you do about it? How do you make the space? And how do you deal with the grief if you’re suffering the Empty Nest Syndrome?

Dr. Drew:  Please understand that the grief cycle of event and they don’t normally step in 1, 2, 3, step 1, step 2, step 3. So as person takes to a grief cycle, it’s important for person to understand what a grief cycle looks like and to understand what the stages of grief and loss are so that when they are experiencing them, they can understand, “Wow, I’m actually in this time.” Whether it will be denial or acceptance, or however they step through that cycle, it’s important anyone to understand to create this space and to make the most of the new space and understand where you are in the stage of the grieving.

Bron:  I don’t think it’s also about just sitting with whatever you’re feeling and knowing that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. My parents’ generation were of that much more stoic generation that did not really acknowledge emotions. So anything they felt, they almost denied for most things. But I think Baby Boomers where we got this understanding that our emotions are okay. But sometimes the more uncomfortable ones like grief, and anger and loss, we would like to push them aside but it’s actually really important that we acknowledge that this is part of who we are as human beings, that the fact that I’m feeling grief because my children have left home – well hey, that actually tells me that I love my children. I love my children. I’ve done this whole parenting thing well and intimately and therefore the grief is natural.

Dr. Drew:  Sometimes within counseling sessions too Bron, I experienced clients who through a transitional counseling and opening up doorways, closing windows and then going through elevator processes that we do as counselors, Amanda fully understands where I’m at and opening new spaces, experiencing them. We actually start to connect with trauma and many people particularly women by the way, deal or are not dealing with the change in new space because growing, nurturing and running a family was their tool to block out the trauma in their lives whether it be experiences as a child themselves, or a battered wife or whatever trauma they had. And then when their children have moved on, gone, they find themselves in a space. Yes it’s grief and loss, but it’s also a denial space where they realize they probably are now going to have to face the trauma that they’ve been ignoring or putting the energy into something else.

Bron:  I totally agree, that has been my experience.

Brian:  The other thing is surely that in a lot of relationships, a man has a career and therefore has interest outside the house. If the mother has been a stay-at-home mother with the children and seen them through school and puberty and all those other horrible things that we all go through. When the children leave, suddenly there must be a feeling of, “Okay, well what do I do now?” Now I know nowadays, there are much better careers and years, not that many years ago but my mother for example was a just stayed-at-home mother even though she worked as well. So when my sister and I left home it was like, “I’ve got all this time, I have no career or no anything.”

Dr. Drew:  You’re right. Brian, no one is going to jump on you because most Boomer women did live that existence of that culture. So it’s quite commonly known to them that housewives or a housewife, it is the more innate woman from the X Generation that broke that bit of mold. However, when we look at it, I know we’re talking, there seems to be a lot of negative talk around it, but it’s reality talk, it’s truth talk. And we also have to understand that and particularly in my space and I hope Amanda and Bron are the same when they guide and counsel people, we’ve got to get people to focus on the positive of the new norm and to create a positive in the new space. For me, it’s about finding purpose.

Bron:  I totally agree Drew and I think that comes back to that whole thing about finding your own space, that was certainly my experience because from the age of 50 when I left my husband, I’ve done an honours degree. I’ve worked with refugees, I’ve got a tattoo, I’ve done a bungee jump. It’s like all the things that were part of the risk-taking, free-spirited person that I’ve always been were actually had room. I certainly had to deal with the trauma than I had been not quite ignoring but certainly raising children was a good mask for what was not happening well in the marriage. And of course, once you’ve only got one child at home to deal with, all of that really starts to bubble up and you do have to deal with it. So I totally understand that. But it’s about finding what is true to you whether you, like me, go through a divorce as well as the empty nest or whether you handle the empty nest really well and you’re in a great relationship. I think there’s still that thing of, “Who am I now that I’m just back to being me with my partner?”

Dr. Drew:  It’s about having meaning, finding meaning and having purpose and I do say and unfortunately I have to drop out but I just want to say I’m relieved that the panel within the last few minutes of conversation and I’d like Amanda because I know she spends more time in this space than me – But for people to find space means for me and I do and I direct and leads a lot of my clients now on to other counselors – find a health professional, a life coach, a trained qualified person because it’s important that the Baby Boomers now understand, there’s a new life ahead, I have a new age ahead and we’re young enough, and everyone is powerful enough and strong enough to recreate space, to make the most of this new space that’s being created around us. And unfortunately for a lot of people, they’re gonna have to accept, do it with the support of health professional guidance.

Amanda:  Absolutely. I think that’s one of the most important things is that there seems to be this taboo like, “I can’t have a therapist.” In other countries, it’s very the norm like, “Oh this is my therapist and that’s why I go and see once a week, once a fortnight, once a month.”  Unfortunately in Australia, at least still it’s seen as a taboo so it’s, “I don’t necessarily want to go and see someone or I don’t want to be seen as the person who goes to see someone.” But if my car breaks down, I’m not a mechanic by trade. I am gonna bring my car in to get fixed by someone who is trained in the area and knows what they’re doing to get me back on the road. And that’s how I see mental health professionals, is that if you have the ability to go and see somebody who’s trained in the area and who has the skills to be able to help, guide you back to where you need to be or to develop and grow and flourish into the person that you could be, absolutely go and seek that.

Bron:  It’s about investing in yourself at this point in life.

Amanda:  Absolutely. And Bron, you’re spot on there is that we invest in our kids all the time, we invest in our relationship, we invest in our partner but really re-focusing on ourselves and going, “How can I invest on in myself?” and personal development is brilliant.

Glenn: So there’s a situation in life, I mean I’m commenting on empty nesting or nesting. There are some of us who don’t have children, who don’t have grandchildren so there is that way in life where we haven’t had somebody move out and nobody’s going to be moving back in. But I still think the issue with all things is how we learn to transition and transition well. And if we remain in a partnership, the way to bring freshness, and newness, and excitement and energy to that and it might just mean sometimes that we get our Nomadic Score to become even lower and we make a transition, a change to somewhere else. A new place, a new relationship, a new suburb, a new town and whether a couple or a trio to find a way to keep life exciting and keep life growing with that new adventure that we take on.

Bron:  And it’s ongoing.

Amanda:  Yes. Don’t let it just stop because you hit 50 and go “Oh I hit 50, I’m going to let that stop now.” So you need to kind of go beyond that.

Wayne:  Amanda, I agree with you that there’s kind of this reluctance or stigma in Australia around having a mental health professional. And certainly in the business world in America, in the UK and Canada, you’re much more likely to find the staff psychologist than you are in an Australian firm. For Baby Boomers, I don’t think it’s because of money. I don’t think it’s a money choice of, “Do I invest in this or that?”, because for most Baby Boomers, money is a lesser concern at the stage of our lives. What do you think inhibits people and the second part of my question, how do you make a good choice of a therapist? Because I’m one of those people, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, I have been cynical about therapists in my life and my journey to find something that worked was long. What’s your advice for people on how do you go about finding a good one?

Amanda:  Well I think don’t go in with really high expectations because expectations are sometimes a planned disappointment. So I think don’t go in with really high expectations, understand that you might actually have to shop around a bit because the best relationship you can have, like the best outcomes you can have is based on the relationship you’re gonna have with your therapist or your mental health professional. So if you go in and they’re loud and brazen and that just doesn’t work for you, don’t keep going in and paying them to see them, you’re wasting your time. You’re wasting your money and you’re wasting their time. They’re happy that they are getting paid but it’s just not a fit. So you really have to kind of do your due diligence, find someone you feel comfortable working with, ask around, look to see if they have reviews, find out if anyone else has used them, go for someone who has some experience. It’s really worthwhile and also which I think is a mistake that a lot of people do is that they need to find people within their area of expertise. So like my area of expertise is relationships, and grief and loss. I don’t do anything else. I don’t see kids. I don’t see people for anxiety or depression, that’s not my area. So if people come in to see me and they say, “Oh, I’m here because I have major anxiety.” I will specifically refer them on to a therapist that I know who’s brilliant in anxiety. So don’t go to someone who is a generalist, who thinks they can do it all because they can’t. You have to be good at an area and own that area and that’s the therapist you should see.

Brian:  Amanda, just picking on what Wayne said, I myself have been known to be a critique of therapists as in general. Do you expect people to come in and they already have end goal in mind? Like somebody comes in who says, “I’m not in your case, I’m depressed. But I’m going through this situation.” How do you collectively or jointly rather end up at an endpoint? I mean how do you know when you’ve got to the end?

Amanda:  Well I have to say even though I answered no, people know why they’re there. They just don’t typically have the clarity that they need to see that endpoint. So through really good discussion, and question, asking and answering, it’s kind of like you tone it down. You go, “Okay, that was the big picture but what do you really want?” And you have some counselor especially like me, I say, “I’m not into wasting time or your money. So if you were coming in and you wanted to get something out of this, what is it that you want to get out of this?” And I think it’s good to already have that in your mind when you’re going in because if you have to see everyone or if you have to see your therapist once a week for the rest of your life, find a new therapist. They’re not doing their job and you’re not engaging in the treatment plan the way you’re meant to.

Bron:  That’s right. I say to my clients that I’m not a guru. I don’t have all your answers. I don’t have a magic ball. But what I do feel like to offer is the ability to help people find the answers that I believe they already have. They just need someone else to point them in the right directions, to ask the questions that will then raise up the answers.

Amanda:  And I think that the other important thing to understand is that mental health providers are not there to tell you what to do. And I think Wayne, to get back to your point, I think that’s the limitation. A lot of people think, “I’m gonna go in and see this person and they’re gonna tell me where I went wrong and what I have to do.” And that is not the job of your therapist and if they are that type of therapist, run. Get out the door, don’t pay your bill, just run because that’s not their job. They’re not there to tell you what to do. They’re there as a sounding board for you to bounce the ideas you already have inside of you off and to make them clearer.

Brian:  Is it also important as far as the client is concerned that they’re actually talking to an anonymous person as opposed of talking to their husband, wife, best mate whatever? Is it easier for people to talk to an anonymous person?

Amanda:  I think it is Brian because the therapist or the anonymous person isn’t providing judgment, or criticism or comparison because that’s not what we do. Whereas, if you go to a friend like your best friend, or a brother or a sister, they’ll provide you with personal opinion. They’ll provide you with possibly some criticism and definitely some comparison. And all of those don’t allow you to be true to yourself of what you’re thinking.

Wayne:  Now time is running away on us, but I have enjoyed your answers Amanda and clarifying some of those things. And we might see if we can explore that with some other professionals in the future because I have much the same questions about how do you pick a good lawyer and who do you get to advise you on the various things that are coming for Baby Boomers in a professional sense? So for this episode, thank you for being with us and you’ve been listening to Booms Day Prepping and our panelists have been Glenn Capelli, Bron Williams, Amanda Lambros and Brian Hinselwood. Drew Dwyer and myself have been hosting. My name is Wayne Bucklar. If you’ve enjoyed the episode, please click the ‘Like’ button. Let’s be honest, even if you thought it was an awful episode and you haven’t enjoyed it at all, we’d still like you to click the ‘Like’ button, the ‘Subscribe’ button. Well mainly because I have a very big ego problem and I need people to like me and it helps with our spreading the word because the more people who like us, the more people will see us on social media. You can find on boomsdayprepping.com all our episodes. You can also find photos and biographies of our panelists and you can find transcripts of our episodes. This is Booms Day Prepping, my name is Wayne Bucklar. Thank you for being with us.

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