Vicki Gunvalson has had empty nest syndrome for a long time. But The Real Housewives of Orange County mom (and grandmother) is even further away from her children (now in their 30s), after her daughter Briana Culberson and her family moved to North Carolina, and her son Michael Wolfsmith bought a house in San Diego.
In order to gain some much needed mommy time, she tried to invite herself on Michael’s planned vacation with his girlfriend, an idea he’s ... not so into. (Check out the clip above and see his reaction for yourself.)
Empty nest syndrome isn't a clinical diagnosis, but it is real. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a “phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home.” Take note, grown kids, it can be extremely painful for your parents.
“You might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need your care. You might miss being a part of your children's daily lives — as well as the constant companionship,” Mayo Clinic reports. “You might also worry intensely about your children's safety and whether they'll be able to take care of themselves on their own. You might struggle with the transition if your last child leaves the nest a little earlier or later than you expected. If you have only one child or strongly identify with your role as parent, you might have a particularly difficult time adjusting to an empty nest.”
Empty nest syndrome can make some parents vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts.
However, others may experience benefits when it comes to work and family after their children leave. “When the last child leaves home, parents have a new opportunity to reconnect with each other, improve the quality of their marriage and rekindle interests for which they previously might not have had time,” Mayo Clinic reports.
How can a parent cope with empty nest syndrome?
Try to accept it.
Experts say the accepting the timing of your child leaving home is a big start. “Focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home,” MC says.
Also, keep in touch. “You can continue to be close to your children even when you live apart. Make an effort to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.”
“If you're having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest, lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Share your feelings. If you feel depressed, consult your doctor or a mental health provider.”
“Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests after your last child leaves home might help you adapt to this major life change,” MC says.
Is empty nest syndrome preventable?
All you can do is plan ahead. Try to find hobbies and work that will fulfill you long after your kids are gone. There are also empty nester meetups and happy hours to get involved in across the country.
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