Empty nest syndrome is a real condition and one that continues to grow as more and more people acclimatise to the reality of a post-pandemic landscape.
With children heading off to university after living at home throughout the Covid-crisis or off travelling to explore the world as it reopens, more and more parents will feel a sense of loss at their departure and even ‘extreme grief’ – exacerbated by months of lockdowns.
Those that care though – care. And parents are natural carers.
Here at Handsale, we’re always looking out for those with a natural disposition to care for others and we wanted to explore the correlation between parenting and caring and whether there was an interest amongst parents to potentially take on a role in the care sector to help ‘fill the gap’ at home.
Consequently, we conducted research to see if those suffering from empty nest syndrome would be willing to consider a career in care to help overcome any sense of loss, or to alleviate some of the common symptoms.
Through independent research company, 3Gem Research and Insights, we polled 2,000 UK adults aged between 45 and 55 years of age – all of whom were parents to children aged 18 and above. Split 50/50 between sexes and with respondents hailing from all regions of the UK, we posed a series of questions, exploring their understanding of the syndrome and its impact on them – before moving onto questions about their career.
Initially, the survey established how many children they had, before respondents were asked for the reasons behind their children leaving home, with the top answers being ‘moved out for independence’ (24.8%), ‘to go to university’ (16.5%), and ‘work purposes’ (4.5%) – i.e. moving away to start a new job.
When asked what age their children were when they flew the nest, respondents intimated that between 18 and 22 was the most common age to leave (24.6%), reflecting the proportion going to university, while 11.1% saw their children ‘officially’ leave home between the ages of 22 and 25 – something that likely reflects a post-university/studying outflux.
70.5% feel a sense of loss when their children leave home
Respondents were then asked if they felt a sense of loss at their children leaving home to which 70.5% said ‘yes’, with just 29.5% saying ‘no’ – a response that underlined the emotional impact of children growing up on moving on in their lives.
Conversely, participants in the study were also asked if they felt a sense of freedom upon their children having flown the nest to which 62.6% said ‘yes’, whilst the remaining 37.4% said ‘no.’ A result that indicates conflicting emotions, with some experiencing an element of loss, but one that’s tempered by greater freedom to enjoy things in life beyond parenting.
67.9% think they have extra opportunities once children have flown the nest
Looking at this further, the poll then asked, ‘Do you think you have extra opportunities in life now your children have flown the nest?’ which saw 67.9% say ‘yes’, with just 32.1% saying ‘no’.
The study then explored whether respondents would prefer their children to move back in with them – to which 42% said ‘yes’, with the remainder (58%) saying ‘no’.
From here, it sought to look at how often respondents saw their children now they’d left home, with results indicating the following:
They were then asked, ‘Would you like to see them more often?’ with almost half, 48.4%, saying ‘yes’. Of the rest, 49.2% said ‘no, it was about right’ with just 2.4% saying ‘no, I see them too much’.
In the final question of the first section of the study, respondents were asked what age they felt was the optimum age to move out, which revealed the following:
A career in care
Having established sentiment around their children leaving home, we then turned to respondents’ careers – seeking to explore whether parenting offered a natural affinity towards a role in care.
The first question looked at whether or not respondents were still working, which revealed 61.2% were still in full time employment, with a further 19.6% in part time employment. The remaining 19.6% weren’t currently working.
Of those who were working part time – 38.3% said they would be willing to work more hours now their children had left home, while the majority, 61.7% were happy with their current level of work.
Those who weren’t currently working were asked if they would consider going back into employment now their children have left home, to which 33% said that ‘yes’ they’d go back, while the remaining 67% were happy to carry on not working.
Participants who responded to say they would consider a return to work were asked if they would look at a potential new career if doing so – to which 61% said ‘yes’. 19.5% said ‘no, they’d go back to what they were familiar with’, while the remaining 19.5% weren’t sure what they’d choose to do.
The study then asked, ‘If considering something new, what would be the most important aspect to you?’ which revealed the following:
Respondents were then asked if they felt being a parent gave them a natural inclination towards caring for others, which found that 73.2% said ‘yes’, 14.4% said ‘no’, while the remaining 12.5% responded with ‘not sure’.
The poll then looked specifically at working in the care sector, asking if respondents would consider a career in care, to which 22.5% said ‘yes, I’ve cared for family before’, while a further 20.5% said ‘yes, I think it would suit me.’ Of the remainder, 39.2% said ‘no, not really’, while the rest, 17.9% said ‘no, not at all.’
The remaining questions then looked at their current qualifications and preferred approach to learning, before asking whether they’d find comfort in learning or studying (as part of a job in care) whilst their children were studying in turn (for instance, whilst they’re at university, the respondent would be getting a qualification at the same time in a new skill). This revealed that 56.3% said ‘yes’ they would be, with the remaining 43.7% responding with ‘no, not really.’
The results of the study serve to underline the impact of empty nest syndrome. With such a high proportion (70.5%) feeling a sense of loss, it’s easy to see why there’s a potential ‘emptiness’ that needs filling. A positive though is that 67.9% think they have more opportunity in life now their parenting responsibilities have been reduced.
As a care provider, employing people who have a track record of caring for others is essential – but that previous experience doesn’t necessarily have to be in a professional capacity. As outlined above, parents are natural carers, and that can easily translate into a role in care – something highlighted by the 73.2% of respondents who believed parents had a natural inclination towards caring for others.
For us at Handsale though, the fact that a large proportion of parents whose children have flown the nest (43%) would consider a career in care is an enormously positive statistic. The sector is tremendously rewarding and we hope that more and more people will embrace the opportunity to work in care – especially those looking to, if not quite ‘refill the nest’, then certainly put their maternal/paternal capabilities to a new use to help others.
Care, as a sector, is facing recruitment issues like so many others. But let’s hope that more people recognise the opportunities to apply innate skills that they may not necessarily realise they already have.
If you’d like to consider a career in care, please get in touch with us.