When children grow up and learn to become independent, parents must let go of their children and allow them to fly free. However, it is the inevitable human condition that the parents will be saddened by this change. For many parents, the moving out of their children can lead to depression and a loss in purpose. This phenomenon has been named empty nest syndrome as it happens as the children leave the metaphorical nest that is home.
As obvious as it sounds, empty nest syndrome can have a serious effect on the parent’s well-being. Common symptoms include depression, loss of purpose, anxiety, stress and a feeling of rejection. The suffering parent continues to obsess whether they brought up their child in a way to prepare them for the big world. At the same time, they feel that they are losing their identity as a “parent” – something they may have defined themselves as while they were bringing up the child. They may also feel rejected as they may believe that the child “does not need them anymore”. It has been observed that mothers are more likely to suffer empty nest syndrome (occasionally, menopause may be a confounding factor). Other factors that contribute are parents who find change difficult, have an unstable relationship with their spouse or those with an unhealthy obsession with their children or with the idea of being a parent.
Empty nest syndrome is a natural part of parenthood, but it is important to know how to prevent it from becoming too severe. The best way to cope with this syndrome is to keep in touch with the children and accept that they are young adults who are moving on with their life. Not only that, but the parents must also recognise that a new era has begun for them as well. This is important as failure to do so will lead to the identity crisis mentioned above. A good way to remedy this is through discovering hobbies and interests while maintaining healthy social networks with other people. Essentially, the parents have to “begin a new life”, just like their children. It is also worth noting that it helps if the children recognise this as well and try to keep in touch with their parents to make sure they are coping well without them.
If you ask a hundred children what their dream is, not a single one would say “I want to be successful”. But as children grow up and enter society, society advises them that dreams do not feed them. And so, children slowly lose their innocence and dreams and choose to chase success instead. Why? Because success will feed them and give them a secure future. It is uncommon to find a middle-aged person who has achieved their childhood dreams. The majority judge their dreams as unrealistic, put them away in a corner of their mind and sacrifice happiness to earn more money to feed the family. The child who wanted to become a painter who put the world on a canvas follows her parents’ advice and becomes a lawyer. The child who wanted to become an astronaut is working into the night at a bank so that he will be promoted. They devote themselves to work and strive to succeed. But when they are at their deathbed, the only thing they are left with is regrets.
In life, there is no success or failure. The only moment you will know whether you led a successful or failed life is when you are at your deathbed. No one else can judge whether you were a success or a failure. Whether you were rich, poor, famous, average, lived long or died prematurely, you were a success if you can end your life with this thought: “Yeah, I lived a happy life without regrets”.
Parents only have one duty: to bring up their children with love. The problem is that so many parents do not know this fact, or have a twisted understanding of the concept of “love”. Some never even hug their child, some abandon their child for their own lives and some even abuse their child. However, that does not mean one should obsess with their child either. Always teaching the child that “they are the best” is not love. Also, trapping a child and preventing them from leaving you is obsession, not love. Some parents tell their children that studying will lead to a happy, successful future, and compare them to other children who get better grades. This is a crucial mistake, as the children will probably live out an unhappy life with a deep wound in their heart for the rest of their lives. This is because the parents’ role is not to secure a successful future and instructing them how to get there, but to allow the child to independently plan their future, taste failure and develop their own values and philosophy, only supporting them from the side. A parent is not a leader who leads a child along a predestined path of life, but an assistant who supports a child while they pave their own path of life and walk down it. To support and respect a child’s decisions, dreams, talents and potential; to teach the wisdom and skills the child will need to follow their dreams; that is true love.
Of course, that is not to say that one should neglect and leave a child without any interventions. If a child clearly makes an objective error or misbehaves, it is a parent’s role to correct it. This kind of home education is not interference like obsessing about the child’s studies, but supportive intervention that helps the child follow their dreams and not be lost on the way. Home education is a very important form of love that imbues a child with skills such as social skills, ethics, morality, philosophy and love that will allow them to lead a happy and wholesome life.
Why is parental love so important to a child? Childhood is a critical period when the child’s brain is rapidly developing and when the child begins to form his or her personality and view of the world. Almost every mental illness (especially personality disorders) can be traced back to a childhood trauma, or at least be affected by it. For example, a child whose parents did not care for them will grow up lacking love and attachment, leading to constantly seeking love and attention from others, which may develop into dependent personality disorder. If a child has to live up to the parents’ great expectations, they will not receive sympathy and fail to develop a self identity. To fill this void, the child will continuously float from one person to another to seek this sympathy. A child with obsessive parents being led to believe that they are the best could develop narcissistic personality disorder, who becomes violent and enraged when someone points out a mistake they made. As one can see, parental love is a crucial nutrient that fosters a healthy personality in a child, helping them become a wholesome, independent “person”.
No matter how poor the parents are, a child who was raised on love is able to construct a plentiful, happy life. Then, when the child becomes a parent, they will know how to raise their own children with love as well. The best parents are those who respect the child’s decisions and allow them to be free when they set out on their pursuit of happiness. All you need is love.
In modern ant cities, there can be found many genetic mutations as a result of millennia of division of labour. Thus, ants born with large mandibles that can cut down enemies become soldier ants, while ants born with mandibles that can grind grains become milling ants. Some ants have highly advanced salivary glands and these ants wash and disinfect young larvae.
Here are some examples of the amazing adaptability of ants through the use of mutations:
Doorkeeper ants have large, flat heads that can block strategically important entry points to guard the hive. If a worker ant wishes to enter the hive, it must knock on the broad head. If it gives the wrong password, the living door attacks and devours the worker ant.
Honeypot ants are found in some tropical ant species. These worker ants are hung upside down on the ceiling and are filled with honey until their abdomens swell up to 20 times the normal size. When another ant comes and strokes the honeypot ant, it releases a few drops of honey it is storing.
However, out of all of these mutations that produce “specialists”, the most noticeable is the mutation that produced specialists of love.
Worker ants are born without the ability to reproduce. This is to prevent these busy worker ants from being distracted from sexual impulses. Reproduction is left to certain ants that do nothing other than reproduce. These ants are the male and female ants – essentially the princes and princesses of the ant kingdom. These ants are born only to make love and have special anatomical features that make the mating process easier. Wings that allow them to fly, antennae that allow the communication of abstract emotions and eyes that can sense infrared light are all examples of this.
How about human beings? We too have “specialists”, but they are not based on features we are born with. Instead, they are a result of the education and upbringing we receive as we grow up – an acquired specialisation rather than a natural one. Then again, it is not as if we are all born equal. Some people are born with a more muscular body that is helpful for labour-intensive work, while others are born with more intelligent brains that are better for jobs that require much thinking. However, our societies have a strange style of oppressing these natural talents and only push study on them. No matter how good a child is at the arts, music or sports, their abilities are ignored and the children are forced to conform into a pre-set path. If a child is introverted and prefer working quietly indoors, they are told off and told to become more extroverted. Ultimately, human societies prefer producing all-round individuals rather than specialists in a certain trade.
But what if we did what ants did and recognise a child’s natural talents and nurture it? The Jewish people have followed a system of education that focusses on helping a child develop their own skill instead of forcing something on them. Considering that 18 of the 40 richest people in USA are Jewish, it could be suggested that this is a very effective form of educating children.
Then why do so many parents want their children to become doctors, lawyers and CEOs? The reason is capitalism. Given the characteristics of the jobs, they are comparatively better paid and more stable than workers and artists. Ergo, parents push children towards such professions “for the sake of their future”. Even though many other professions are required for the smooth functioning of society. If so, could we not equalise the pay of all jobs? Unfortunately, this was tried in communist states but tragically failed as the incentive to study and go into such professions disappeared as the pay was “not worth it”. In fact, the major reason for the downfall of communism was human greed. As ants work for the good of the society rather than the individual, they have the luxury of doing the job they were literally born for and still be well-nourished.
Then what if we paid salaries not equally, but fairly? For example, instead of giving everyone the same pay, we pay people according to the amount of work they do, regardless of the profession. If we distributed the unnecessarily high amounts of wealth of politicians and upper class have to fund the wages of technicians and artists, the income gap between jobs would disappear and children would receive the same reward for whatever profession they chose (given it helps society). If this was implemented, then everyone would be able to bring out their strongest trade and significantly boost productivity. Furthermore, the tragedy of having to give up something you want to do for the sake of money would disappear. If we can find a way to overcome human greed and make equitable distribution of wealth possible, human societies would be able to kill two birds with one stone – progress and happiness.
Contemporary artists say to the public: “Art should make people think and feel some kind of emotion. Therefore, we make provocative art to invoke the negative emotions too.” To them, I say: “Life is ugly enough to give you those emotions every day – what’s wrong with just looking at paintings that bring out some positive emotions?”
Parents say to their children: “Why can’t you get good grades like others? Why don’t you listen? Why can’t you do anything right?” To them, I say: “We will all be insulted plenty throughout life, do you have to criticise us even more? Can’t you give us even a few words of encouragement, something society will never give?”
Religious people say to atheists: “How can you understand true happiness without God, faith or the belief that there is heaven after death?” To them, I say: “Knowing that I will return to nothing after a short but content life rather than going to hell for even the smallest thing simply makes me ecstatic.”
Pessimists say to optimists: “What’s so great about life? Unless you are a fool, there is nothing worth being happy about.” To them, I say: “And that is why I try to think more happy thoughts and be nice to others. Otherwise I would never make it through this rotten world. People all have enough going on in their lives – why bother making it more difficult when you can make it a little better at no added cost? The time we have is short, so what’s the point of only thinking negative, depressing thoughts? I would rather laugh like a fool, admire the little beauty left in the world and make other people’s lives a little happier before I go.”
Everything in the world depends on your perception, so why not think positively and live happily? No matter what, we can only live a certain time, no more, no less. The key to happiness is to enjoy appropriately, learn as much as possible and to love infinitely.