The Empty Nest

Pandora, HarperCollins, London, 1995

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The Empty Nest: When Children Leave Home Cover Synopsis
'Empty nest syndrome' is a phrase used all too casually in our society. The time when children leave home is a major transitional period for all mothers - but there is no rite of passage to acknowledge this massive change, and very little recognition of the depth and range of emotions triggered in so many women.

Reflecting her own experiences as a mother, as well as those of a wide range of other women,

Shelley Bovey examines the pain and isolation many women experience - and their guilt about those feelings. In a society which places great store by the ability of parents to let their children go, many people are overwhelmed not only by the huge and unexpected sense of loss, but also by shame at their own reactions.

Shelley Bovey argues powerfully that flippant or dogmatic approaches to the empty nest syndrome are wholly inappropriate since the experience is a real and profound loss and consequently a kind of bereavement. However, once grieving is acknowledged as necessary there can be a real integration of the role of mother with new-found freedoms, so that for the first time in many women's lives they can truly have it all.

How I came to write this book
In 1990 my first child Jane had left home to live and work in America for a year. I was completely unprepared for the way I felt when this happened. It was like a bereavement. In 1992, my second daughter, Lindsay left, too. I felt I was not handling this at all well and found it very very difficult to understand my changing role. Being a mother had always been the most important thing to me and suddenly I realised that when my last child, Alex, left I would, in effect, be redundant. I had heard of 'empty nest syndrome' of course and I searched for a book on the subject but was amazed to find that there was nothing. I couldn't believe it. I knew that many women and some men suffered very badly from powerful feelings of loss when their children left so why was there nothing to read about it? I suggested to my agent that maybe I should write this book that didn't exist - she leapt at the idea and The Empty Nest was born. Fortunately I no long suffer but delight in my three adult, independent children. It takes time to adjust though and I didn't want other women to be caught out as I was. The letters I've received show that the book filled a need.

Read an extract
Read an extract here.